A recent report out of Major League Baseball indicates that the sport's All-Star Game will undergo minor changes beginning in 2010. These changes include:
- Employing the DH rule in every baseball stadium, including National League parks.
- Expanding each roster to 34 players, to include one more position player for each team.
- Prohibiting any starting pitcher to play in the game who had pitched for their team the previous Sunday.
- Allowing for position a player to re-enter the game to replace an injured player (previously, this rule only applied for an injured catcher).
I see the reasoning behind these moves, but are these changes the right move for Major League Baseball? Moreover, are they the right moves for Major League Baseball?
I like the idea of using the DH no matter where the game is being played. There aren't many people who look forward to watching Felix Hernandez bat in the All-Star Game.
Fans want to watch the true hitters hit and the true pitchers pitch. This rule won't really come into effect until 2011, as this year's Classic will be played in Angels Stadium, an American League ballpark.
The problem lies with not allowing a starting pitcher who pitched in their team's game on Sunday to play in the All-Star Game. The reasoning behind this is to help avoid an injury and/or ineffectiveness.
But this move could cause headaches for the pitcher's actual manager, and their All-Star manager.
Assume for example that Tim Lincecum is selected to the All-Star Game (which is almost a guarantee). Should his day in the rotation come up on the Sunday before the Classic, manager Bruce Bochy will have to decide whether to start Lincecum, which will prohibit him from pitching in the All-Star Game, or have somebody start out of place (or call up a pitcher from Triple-A) so he can participate.
Either way, it's a decision he should not have to make.
The overlying issue here is the whole motto, "This Time it Counts", referring to home-field advantage in the World Series being awarded to the winning league of the All-Star Game.
This innovation was a direct result to the 2002 All-Star Game ending in a tie, after both teams ran out of players.
But do players representing the Royals or the Pirates really care about home field advantage in the World Series? Probably not.
Although players and managers claim they don't approach the game any differently than they did in the old format, they have to feel the pressure from the powers-that-be to provide viewers with the most drama possible.
Managers are faced with the ever-challenging decision, whether or not to put a pitcher in the game that pitched two days before, in order to protect a lead or keep his team in the game.
In the past, it would have been no big deal if a pitcher did not appear in the game because he had started on Sunday before.
But now the game "counts", the Lincecums of the world "have" to appear in the game to better his team's chances of winning, regardless of when they last played.
Well, starting in 2010, All-Star managers won't be faced with this decision. Instead, they could potentially be short one pitcher if someone is forced to start on Sunday.
In short, the only change that needs to occur for the MLB All-Star Game is to make it not count again. Bring the days of exhibition, fun and glory back to the Classic.
The fan base is back in the All-Star Game. There's no reason to provide false drama and false hopes from something that was meant to be all about fun.