NOTE: This column was originally published on May 31 at Ballpark Banter.
For years now, Major League Baseball has pushed its All-Star Game—the Midsummer Classic—as the ultimate showcase of the game’s best players. While that is not exactly a preposterous statement, it is at best a fallacious one.
If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t have the bevy of “Most Snubbed” debates every time balloting rolls around that we do.
We quickly realize that the most popular players are getting their names punched while some of the best (at least in that given year) players are being left at home.
I’m not criticizing the All-Star Game, necessarily, but it is time to be honest about what it is and what it represents. It’s a showcase of the biggest names, the most marketable faces, and is a cash cow of marvelous proportions.
The event is more about publicizing and growing the game than awarding the most deserving players of the year.
Fine. I’m cool with that because the stars need to be ambassadors of the game and all of that. I get it. If baseball is going to truly put on an event for the fans, the main attractions need to be there.
There’s nothing worse than going to Disneyland and learning that Space Mountain and Splash Mountain are under construction. The All-Star Game works on the same principle.
But with word on the streets of Hollywood that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez currently sits fourth among National League outfielders in All-Star votes, the reactions in the living rooms of America shouldn’t be so negligent.
With Ramirez missing 50 games in the first half because of his steroid suspension, is there any excuse out there that can be made for voting him into the All-Star Game?
I say no, but as my in-box continues to flood daily with “Vote For Manny!!!!” threads, it is apparent that there is a group of fans out there with an agenda.
Except what’s the agenda? It just seems like nothing but a stupid idea to me.
Voting Ramirez into the All-Star Game won’t be some slap in the face for Commissioner Bud Selig. It will only push the commish closer and closer to withdrawing the majority vote from the fans.
Voting Ramirez into the All-Star Game won’t prove that baseball has lost all control. It will only proclaim that there is a large assortment of fans who care nothing about the integrity of the sport, which is as disgusting as any steroid abusing player.
A major shortcoming is that we use the All-Star Game as a tool of evaluation when it comes time to flash the high-beams on a player’s career.
If the All-Star Game is as trivial as it has proven to be, how can that be part of any Hall Of Fame case made for any player pre-induction?
It can’t be, but it still is.
We act like making five All-Star Games is an incredible achievement—and in many ways, it certainly is—but who really cares when we know that the largest fan bases (directly related to cities with larger populations) will vote 20 times per day for their hometown boy?
We as fans have made it clear that we are incapable of selecting ballplayers to the All-Star Game based on merit, so therefore it is time that MLB makes some changes with its summer festival.
First off, do away with the rule that requires every team to send a representative. I’m sorry, but if you are a team that doesn’t have one player who is worthy of earning an All-Star selection at his position, maybe you should get better players?
In all likelihood, every club has at least one player who is worthy of playing in the game, so this shouldn’t be a common predicament.
But if you are getting boat-raced in your division, can’t put enough exciting talent on the field to sell tickets, and can’t produce a product entertaining enough to create any sort of buzz throughout your community, I don’t want to hear it.
The Virgin Islands awaits all 25 members of your team for a few days. The sunscreen is on us.
For the actual festivities, the All-Star Game needs to be a two-day event, and I’m not counting the celebrity softball game as part of this.
The celebrity softball game is like a stale, oversized hot dog bun that splits in half at first bite, leaving you with too much bread, too little hot dog, and mustard on your lap. It’s utterly useless, if not painfully annoying.
The Home Run Derby needs to be shortened and be part of an entire skills contest. The NHL and NBA both have skills contests in their All-Star festivities, and they work wonderfully.
The Derby would be like the dunk contest, the encore lurking at the end of a great show.
The skills contest would be where fans are encouraged to play favorites and vote for whomever they wish to see compete.
The events of the skills contest could even be left up for the fans to vote on, if they wish.
Want to see the best outfield arms in one big throw-off? We can make that happen.
Want to see the best hands in the middle of the infield make Web Gem after Web Gem? We can make that happen.
How about a contest where the players, representing specific sections of the crowd, attempt to land bunts on designated areas of the infield grass, all worth a certain prize for their sections? We can make that happen.
If you have an idea, and it is remotely fathomable, pass it along, and Major League Baseball can consider it for fan voting for the skills contest.
That’s that. The actual game itself needs to be reserved for the players who deserve to be in it, whether that is superstar Derek Jeter or rookie Adam Jones. If we want the All-Star Game to mean anything, it just has to be that way.
We can still allow the fans to vote for the All-Star Game—thus giving them the opportunity to actually get it right—but have a MLB administered panel in place to make any necessary corrections.
For instance, if voting ended this week and Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was voted the starting second baseman for the American League over Toronto’s Aaron Hill, the panel would step in and correct that popularity-induced misfire.
If not, trash the game—since it’s irrelevant—save the exhibition inning on the pitchers’ arms (you know, the one where his organization could care less if he performs well as long as he makes it out of the game healthy and intact for the second half), and come up with something else that involves the players and is fun for the fans.
Like a Wiffle ball game, where everybody plays, but position players have to pitch (since no team is letting their ace sling a Wiffle ball around).
I know, that’s a crazy, if not absurd, idea, but so is cheating a guy who has had a great first half out of playing in the real game because he spent seven years in the minors, isn’t endorsed by Nike, and plays on the Pirates, and therefore not many people have heard of him.
Whatever it is, we need to do something or else the All-Star Game is soon going to take on the life of the Pro Bowl.
Yeah, there are cemeteries livelier than that.