2012 MLB All-Star Game: 4 Ways to Improve Baseball's Mid-Summer Classic
Don't waste your hot air debating whether or not they deserved to be there. Even though the Mid-Summer Classic is the best All-Star game in professional sports, the game itself still has so many flaws that some call it a ridiculous joke.
Take this moment to applaud when the MLB All-Star Game actually gets it right.
OK, that moment is over. Now is when that hot air comes in (it certainly did in Kansas City). It's time to pick apart all the ways the MLB All-Star Game gets it wrong and detail how to make it right, too.
Select the Best Players Regardless of Team
There will always be All-Star "snubs" no matter how the selection process is set up. Eliminating the rule requiring the participation of at least one player from every team would at least minimize the problem.
This isn’t youth soccer. Not everyone needs a trophy. If a team isn't good enough to field an All-Star worthy player, then a representative from that team shouldn't be forced into playing a game that affects home-field advantage in the World Series. Give that spot to a player that might actually get to enjoy winning that reward.
This year's poster child for this argument is Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley. The youngster is having a fine season, but Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, James McDonald, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong all deserved that spot even more.
If baseball wants the MLB All-Star Game to matter, then each league better be allowed to field its best possible team. A tie is probably the most appropriate outcome in this current participation trophy set up, and even Bud Selig knows that a tie is a no-win situation.
Don't Let Fans Decide the Starters
Fans deserve their say on the MLB All-Star roster. Filling out an All-Star ballot at the ballpark is a wonderful tradition that needs to stay. All-Star games thrive on fan interaction.
But let's not get carried away. The MLB All-Star starting lineups should not be left to fans and their hometown bias. The competitiveness of the game should not be compromised for fan interaction.
If Derek Jeter still collects the most votes when he is 50 just because he played for the New York Yankees and is a recognizable name to the average baseball fan, then let him play. If that's who the people want to see, then let them see him.
Starting positions, however, need to be reserved for players that earn the reward. Again, if baseball wants the MLB All-Star Game to matter, then both leagues better be able to field their best possible lineups.
Nothing against San Francisco, but all three Giants starting for the National League were backed up by better players.
Yadier Molina didn't attend the All-Star Game due to a death in his family, but his MVP-worthy season should have earned him the chance to start over Buster Posey. Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez both deserved to start over Melky Cabrera, as did Ryan Braun had Matt Kemp been healthy enough to play. David Wright coming off the bench at third for Pablo Sandoval was laughable.
All of these Giants, of course, backed up their selections with great performances Tuesday night—performances that were far better than those produced by their backups. Had the starting lineup been a managerial decision, those performances would have validated that decision.
But that is not how the starting lineup is determined. When judging the lineup before the game without the benefit of hindsight, it was clear that the best players were not rewarded with starting positions. Cabrera's MVP trophy doesn't change that.
Let the fans vote. Announce the winners. Put them on the team.
Let the managers fill out their starting lineup.
Manage the Game Like It Matters
Speaking of the managers, letting them fill out their own starting lineups is just the start of what needs to change on their end.
It all goes back to this issue of making the MLB All-Star Game matter. If it matters, the game needs to be played and managed accordingly. Again, this is not youth soccer. Everyone does not need to play.
If any significant spoil goes to the victor, real fans want the best players deciding the outcome regardless of what city they are from.
Seeing your favorite player wander the outfield for an inning and take a few hacks for a single at-bat isn't all it's cracked up to be. Playing an extra game at home in October is much more exciting—just ask the St. Louis Cardinals.
The most compelling All-Star game possible is one that is played and managed like a playoff. Watching the same best players compete for an entire game is much more intriguing than watching a parade of players shuffle through a revolving door at every position. It also makes much more baseball sense from a competitive standpoint.
Pitchers need to be limited to preserve them for their real teams. That's fine. Throwing a fresh elite arm every inning or two is pretty fun to watch anyway and doesn't allow batters to adjust.
But position players can all play a full game if needed. Yes, there is concern for injury and fatigue. The bench shouldn't be completely ignored. It should probably be used much more than it is during the regular season.
The concept that every single All-Star needs to play at least one inning, however, just doesn't make sense from a manager's, player's, commissioner's or fan's perspective—unless, of course, you like ties.
Make It Matter for Something Else
Awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the MLB All-Star Game winner makes the Mid-Summer Classic better, but the payoff is not worth compromising the Fall Classic.
If the Yankees make it to the World Series this year after winning over 100 regular season games, they shouldn't give up home field advantage to the second National League Wild Card team that squeaked into the postseason with a win total in the 80s. Doing so just because a pitcher on the Tigers gave up five runs in the middle of July makes even less sense.
Every coach at every level of every sport in America knows that competition makes practice more valuable. That's why so many drills pit players head-to-head and/or come with rewards and punishments hanging in the balance.
MLB's mid-summer exhibition is no different. It's better when the outcome comes with consequences. Baseball just needs to use a reward that doesn't affect its championship.
Money seems to make most players tick. Try giving out financial bonuses to the winners.
If Bud Selig can't part with his home-field advantage idea, then he should try implementing that during regular season interleague play instead of the postseason. Hosting the next All-Star game could work, too, but probably isn't a big enough incentive to the players.
There's always that silly notion of pride. Setting up and managing the game like a real competition instead of a glorified carnival would allow the players to treat it as such.
Every professional athlete needs to be insanely competitive to reach that level. It wouldn't take much to get them treating a baseball game seriously.
They just need to see that everyone else takes it seriously, too.