2011 MLB All-Star Game: 5 Tweaks to Improve the Quality of the All-Star Break
The 82nd edition of the Midsummer Classic is nearly upon us.
There is a whole lot of excitement that awaits fans when we hear the "Back, Back, Back" calls from Chris Berman in the Home Run Derby, see if the National League can get back-to-back All-Star game victories for the first time since 1996 and watch the future of MLB in the Futures Game.
All this encompasses what can be called the best week in baseball, right up there with Opening Week and maybe the World Series.
The MLB All-Star Break rivals the NBA's version of the All-Star break with their Rookies and Sophomores game (akin to the Futures Game) and the Slam Dunk contest (akin to the Home Run Derby), but baseball still has room for improvement in making this week a bigger event, capitalizing on where the All-Star game is held and utilizing the off time that can help front offices focus better when it comes down to other things.
Here are five tweaks MLB should look into to improve the All-Star break.
Moving the MLB Amateur Draft to the All-Star Break
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We have the Futures Game during the All-Star break, so why not incorporate the MLB Draft and make it a prime-time event after the game to have it front and center for everyone to enjoy?
Currently, the MLB Draft is held in early June, but it's during baseball games, and front offices take their attention away from the field to temporarily focus on drafting their future—the majority of whom won't make it to the big leagues.
At least moving the draft to the All-Star break would bring a better TV audience. Plus, you get more time to evaluate top college players who have yet to reach the final round of the College World Series in the current draft time.
Having it during the All-Star break can open the door in making the draft more prominent, although it will never be as big as the NBA's or NFL's version of the event.
Solution: Futures Game on Monday (early afternoon) and MLB First Year Player Draft on Monday (early evening).
Adding a Skills Challenge to the All-Star Break
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In baseball, it's obvious every player needs a certain skill to play the game, and indicators of an overall package of the basic skills are the five tools (hence the term "five-tool player").
Those tools are the abilities to hit for average and power, ability to throw accurately/strongly, ability to field and ability to be a base-stealer.
Because ability to hit for average is pretty much showcased in the All-Star game, and the ability to hit for power is showcased predominately in the Home Run Derby, that leaves the other three categories up for use.
Why not showcase the speed for Jose Reyes? While he has 15 triples this season, does that mean he is the fastest player in all of baseball?
Only a skills challenge can determine that; maybe have four of five players run around every base to home and take their times.
Who has the best throwing arm in baseball? Maybe put a bull's eye at home plate (in place of a catcher), and have the outfield throw and hit the center of the target.
Who can cover the most ground and be a good defender around the diamond? Perhaps have a mechanical machine pitch baseballs to a fielder, and have him move around fielding baseballs and throwing to a certain base accurately.
Solution: Skills Challenge before Home Run Derby on Tuesday; having the All-Star break on Wednesday takes the Sunday pitch rule out of the equation and allows the big names to still pitch on what would be their bullpen day.
Have a Midseason Edition of Winter Meetings (Summer Meetings)
The annual gathering of general managers in the offseason is called the Winter Meetings; here, we reach the peak of the Hot Stove season, so why not have a summer edition when baseball is on break?
The trade deadline in baseball is the biggest one out of all major sports in the United States because of all the rumors and quantity of trades.
It would help to have at least a day to stir up talks and officially begin the inevitable trade rumors that roll around in July. For many teams, maybe they'll put teams on notice that they are sellers—or leaning in that direction—and then check back with them by the deadline.
Solution: Summer Meetings day after All-Star game (Thursday).
Place All-Star Break During Fourth of July Week in Select Years
Common tradition is that you have baseball on Fourth of July, and taking this opportunity away from fans who want to see their team and fireworks on that day might cause some outrage, but why not have the All-Star break fall on the same week as Independence Day in select years?
Specifically, only have the All-Star break on the week of Independence Day if it falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday (based on my other proposals).
That way we either experience the Home Run Derby with fireworks after every home run or an All-Star game where fireworks become meaningful to an extent.
It wouldn't happen every year,—maybe every four or five years at a time—but it would mimic the NFL's version of Thanksgiving and NBA's Christmas in a whole new way, with the best players all in one game and one stage.
Have Captains Pick One Player from Each Division for the Derby
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We just saw a change with the selection of hitters for the Home Run Derby; Prince Fielder and David Ortiz will make the selections (three from each league).
However, this needs to be tweaked, as having captains allows for substantial bias; both Fielder and Ortiz picked their teammates and/or friends for their teams.
Solution: Have each captain pick one player from each division in their league. As a result, Ortiz could have picked Jose Bautista, Paul Konerko or Miguel Cabrera, and Josh Hamilton. Fielder could have picked Mike Stanton, Rickie Weeks (his teammate) and Matt Kemp or Justin Upton.