I love baseball as much as every great American, maybe even more so. But the All-Star break has so many issues. The timing, a fraudulent voting system, a meaningless game, and an outdated showcase that the best players don’t even want to be in; the “Midsummer Classic” could be Major League Baseball’s downfall.
Timing of the Break
So, first and foremost, the timing of the All-Star break is counterproductive to baseball. You’re over a week into NBA Free Agency, when most of the big names have already signed. NFL Training Camp hasn’t started yet and the biggest sporting “event” in the world is the start of the Tour de France and Wimbledon. What I’m saying is, your finally at a point where baseball has all the headlines and you’re going to go on a four-day break? Seriously!?!?!
When guys like Aaron Judge or Cody Bellinger can finally get the real publicity they deserve; or when teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks or Milwaukee Brewers can get national attention, you’re just going to say “Nah, we’ll see you in a week.” It doesn’t help the stock of a sport that already struggles to grab the attention of millennials.
Just move the break up one week so it’s during the 4th of July when everyone is too busy drinking and grilling (check out these recipes for your holiday needs, by the way) to pay attention to anything anyway. You may even get lucky and have the All-Star Game on Independence Day.
Players Balk on HR Derby
This may be the biggest draw of the All-Star Break: the Home Run Derby on Monday night. Everyone wants to see how far, and how many, dingers a guy can hit. Or is that batting practice? I’m confused. Nope, it’s both. Go watch any “slugger” in BP and he’s always trying to put one out. This is just televised and features the eight best sluggers of the year.
Oh…wait. No, it doesn’t.
If the Derby really included the top eight home run hitters of the 2017 season, the field would look like this:
#1 Aaron Judge (30 HRs – NYY) vs. #8 Giancarlo Stanton (24 HRs – MIA)
#2 George Springer (27 HRs – HOU) vs. #7 Logan Morrison (24 HRs – TB)
#3 Joey Votto (26 HRs – CIN) vs. #6 Khris Davis (24 HRs – OAK)
#4 Mike Moustakas (25 HRs – KC) vs. #5 Cody Bellinger (24 HRs – LAD)
Instead, only Judge, Stanton, Moustakas and Bellinger will be swinging for the fences on Monday night. Why? Any number of reasons but it boils down to two. The first, these guys don’t want to because they fear taking close to 100 “home run hacks” will hurt their swing after the All-Star break (Pfft!). Come on guys, you’re Major League hitters. Don’t try and blame a glorified BP for you struggling down the stretch. Maybe it’s cause you play 162 games, plus spring training and maybe playoffs. Nothing wrong with that.
MLB Struggles At Marketing Talent
The second and more ridiculous reason is that MLB would rather see teammates Gary Sanchez (13 HR) and Judge, along with Stanton and Justin Bour (19 HR) do battle. Those guys are (respectively) tied for 75th and 21st in long-balls this year.
While some of the more marquee names like Bryce Harper and others have opted out; you really couldn’t get Khris Davis? Or maybe MLB didn’t want Baltimore Orioles fans confused as to why a guy with 14 dingers (still more than Sanchez) is taking part. The Derby, especially this year, gives MLB a chance to market some of its smaller teams (and their players) to a national audience. Maybe this is why some people believe there is no “face of baseball”.
I’m not really sure how to fix this. It’s not like you can force players to participate, but maybe incentivize them with more than just a car? Maybe give X amount of dollars to their favorite charity? Who knows, I’m probably just bored with it. Oh no, that’s the Slam Dunk Contest.
One other thing: how the hell is Stanton eighth in the league in homers but the #1 seed? Cause he’s the defending champ and it’s in his ballpark? Whatever.
What Does It Even Mean?
This game used to mean something to players. It used to be one of only two times you faced the other league (outside of the World Series). But with interleague play and free agency allowing guys to be seen at almost every ballpark in their career, the players don’t have much to play for.
“But what about home-field advantage in the World Series?”
Shutup. Where the most important games of the year are going to be played should not be decided in July. Nor should they be decided by guys who may not even play in those games. Think about it, last year the Chicago Cubs won 103 games, nine more than the Cleveland Indians. However, Game 7 was played at Progressive Field because four months earlier a group of “All-Stars” (which included only two Indians) beat a group that included just five Cubs in an exhibition game.
Sure the Cubs won anyway, but that game should have been played at Wrigley. Don’t argue with me.
(Edit: And yes, I know the game deciding home field in the World Series was taken out in the latest collective bargaining agreement; but, once again, what does it even mean?)
Fraudulent All-Star Voting
Ok, this is my biggest pet peeve. While I understand that any All-Star event in this day and age is for the fans, giving them full power is stupid. It turns what should be an honor into a glorified vote for Homecoming King. Why on Earth was Mike Trout voted as an All-Star game starter when he hasn’t played since late May? In fact, a total of seven different players voted by the fans had to be replaced this year.
Now, I’m not saying the fans don’t know what they are doing. More often than not, they get it close to right. It’s also a rigged system because the larger media market teams get more players in. This leaves some of the better players on the bench. Fortunately, the fans only decide the starters and the respective managers usually fill the rosters with guys who earned their spot on the field.
The fans should absolutely have a say, just not 100% of it. In my opinion, an All-Star selection should be something meaningful that Hall of Fame voters can use when considering a player. Instead, they probably just go “Oh, if Twitter didn’t exist he’d only have gone to two instead of seven.”
I personally think the voting should be a mixture of fans, managers, team PR Directors, and media members. Fans can have 40% of the say so they still have input, but the folks who actually know the game can keep them in check.
Don’t Charge The Mound
Look, I love baseball. I’ll happily watch two subpar teams like Rays vs. Angels over Game of Thrones or anything else. I’ve been to Fan Fest, which really is the coolest part of the whole week, when it was in New York City in 2013. In fact, I even attended the Future’s Game and Celebrity Softball Game ( the best on-field event of the week, hands down). There are just too many issues for me to make the All-Star break “must watch” TV.
If you’d rather hear the passion I have for this, or for more “hot takes” on sports, check out my Press Row podcast!