Major Leagues: How to make all-star game relevant again
By David Moulton
Scripps Howard News
Major League Baseball needs to stop making the All-Star Game ěcount.î The gimmick was put in place a few years ago to try and halt sagging ratings and interest in the game. In turn, ratings and interest have gone down to record-low levels and participation from the players has as well.
Larry Bowa was recently a guest on our radio show and he suggested to go back to when they just alternated years as to which league had home-field advantage in the World Series. My suggestion has always been the team with the better record gets home-field advantage. Making the game ěcountî has failed. MLB would be smart to move on.
Now if MLB wants to change the All-Star Game, make the game more interesting. How? By having the better players play more.
In recent years, rosters have been expanded. So we see less of the great players and more of the good ones. Instead, limit the rosters. The fans vote in the starters, and the managers make sure one guy from every team is represented (which from a marketing standpoint is needed). After that, very few spots are left, and they would be filled in with the best of the remaining best.
The game has evolved badly.
In 1967, the National League beat the American League 2-1 in 15 innings. Yet five AL All-Stars did not play, including three pitchers (they only used five). Hall of Famer Jim ěCatfishî Hunter threw five innings of relief and took the loss.
In 1984, the National League beat the American League 3-1. The NL used only five pitchers. Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith and Dale Murphy played the entire game at second, short and center field, respectively. Six NL players had three at-bats or more. Only 22 of the 29 NL All-Stars played in the game.
Tuesday night, the NL won 5-1. Only one player from either team (immortal NL second baseman Rickie Weeks) played the entire game. The National League used 10 pitchers and all 21 position players who were healthy enough to play. Prince Fielder hit the game-winning home run in the fourth inning off the illustrious C.J. Wilson. In 1984, if someone like Prince Fielder were coming up in the fourth inning he would have had to hit that three-run homer off one Jack Morris. You know, a legitimate All-Star pitcher. Not a journeyman lefty who has been pretty good lately.
To further the cause, play the game on Wednesday so every pitcher can pitch. The American League had Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia and James Shields ó only three of the four best pitchers in the league so far this year ó unavailable to them.
Finally, unless you are on the disabled list, if you are picked for the All-Star Game, then you must attend.
Ultimately you can dress this sucker up as much as you want. But once MLB decided to institute interleague play, the All-Star Game lost its major selling point, that this was the only time all year that the two leagues faced each other before the World Series. Throw in that every game is now televised, and there is no mystery associated with the ěother league.î
There is no way they can make it what it was. But MLB can make it better.
They could make it an All-Star Game again.