You may have heard that The 2011 MLB All-Star Game, just like the versions from 2003-2010, counts this time.
I, along with most people, view this game as an exhibition. A chance to showcase the best (or, at least, most popular) players in the game. In a rational world, an exhibition wouldn't determine home field advantage for the world series. We don't live in a rational world, though.
You'll remember that in 2002, with commissioner Bud Selig situated comfortably in the stands, the game ended in a tie because each league's manager exhausted their pitching options.
Unaware that the days of Pete Rose crashing into a catcher, when players and fans cared about the exhibition, had long gone away, Selig decided to take action to assure us that we'd never see such a debacle again.
Instead of expending hundreds of words on why we should get rid of that element, because it quite frankly isn't going away, I figured I'd toss out some ideas to at least make making this one count a little more tolerable.
Currently, every team in baseball gets at least one representative for the All-Star Game, even if that representative is Steve Rogers.
I'm not sure why MLB insists on this. Often times, the obligatory choice is a pitcher and so an actual deserving position player is snubbed because the managers need more arms. It's understandable from the manager's perspective, but a silly result from forcing the inclusion of a player from every team.
If the intention is to make the game meaningful, and World Series home field advantage is on the line, let's have the best possible players on the team.
There are 34 players on each roster currently, instead of the 25 a normal baseball team has.
I understand the need to have more players available in case of extra innings, but that need has been created because managers attempt to get as many players into the game as possible.
Therefore, I'd propose that roster sizes be reduced to 25 with a seven-player emergency list. These seven players would still be considered All-Stars, but would only be allowed to be used in the event of an injury or extra innings.
With a 25 man roster you could have a starter and backup at every offensive position and still have room for seven pitchers. If four of those pitchers can go two innings and the other three go one inning each, you're covered for eleven innings.
The manager could opt to only have 14 or 15 position players and add more pitchers. Either way, this reduces the spring-training looking box scores and makes this a game you're trying to win, not squeeze in as many players as possible.
Raise your hand if you've ever voted for a player because you like them, or they play for your favorite team, not because they were worthy.
There should be a lot of hands in the air right now.
The All-Star voting is quite honestly a popularity contest. I'm totally fine with that if this were merely a meaningless popularity contest. Considering what's on the line, though, I don't find that acceptable.
I really don't have a fool-proof fix for this, though. While fans seemingly can't be trusted to pick worthy players for the game, the managers prove on an almost yearly basis with their Gold Glove Award votes that they aren't either.
Basically, everyone on the planet votes for Derek Jeter, regardless of the event or award, whether he deserves it or not.
Perhaps some sort of weighted system could be use. Let fans voices be heard, but let their vote count as one point. Let the players and managers pool their votes together for another point. Finally, allow the media to chime in for another point.
The All-Star break currently spans a Monday through Wednesday, with half of baseball resuming action on a Thursday.
What if the entire league waited until Friday to get things started back up, and the All-Star Game was held on Wednesday instead of Tuesday?
Starters who pitch on Sunday would no longer have to be kept out from being used. No pitcher in the game would have less than two full days of rest, and those pitching on Sunday would be on their throw day.
If you want the best players in the game you don't keep out guys like Felix Hernandez as will happen with the King starting this Sunday.
All of these ideas may be nice and I'm sure there are other great ones out there.
Really, though, the best way to make the All-Star Game better is to just ditch the whole supposed importance of the contest.
An All-Star game can be fun an interesting. Just look at the NHL, who thought outside the box and named captains who drafted players. I have no idea if something like that would work in baseball, but it's fresh and different. It got people who don't follow hockey to click into Web sites and tune in to see what it was all about.
Just forget it, Bud. We don't look at the game as important. It's not ran as something that's important by managers. There is little drama. Don't make something that really is important like the World Series hinder on something that isn't like the All-Star Game.
This game can be interesting without being important.