MLB All-Star Game 2011: 4 Changes to Improve the All-Star Experience
After watching managers run out of pitchers and the 2002 All-Star Game end in a tie, Bud Selig apparently felt embarrassed.
Or maybe he was feeling the effects of the bratwurst he had wolfed down watching the events unfold in his "home ballpark" in Milwaukee.
Bud Selig definitely lost his mind that night—or whatever was left of it heading into the game.
From his questionable decision to increase roster sizes to the idiotic decision to have home-field advantage in the World Series decided by the results of what is supposed to be an exhibition game, Bud Selig has continued to show levels of ineptitude that even this writer did not think were possible.
Across town in New York, the NHL, under the equally questionable watch of Gary Bettman, has put together what many consider to be the best weekend of events in all of sports, culminating in their All-Star game.
Laugh at the NHL if you must, but if you have not taken notice of what they have put together to showcase their sport, you, my friend, are missing out.
The following are four things Major League Baseball could—and should—change to make this event more memorable and entertaining, some which are taken from their crosstown neighbors.
It's Supposed to Be Fun
It is time to abandon this rule that an All-Star game—one that is at its core an exhibition game—has any impact on "real" baseball.
Remove the World Series implications from the game.
In place of that, have each team select a worthy charity, or the league can designate a charity for each team.
The winning team's charity receives one amount, the losing team's charity receives a lesser amount.
My only rule: Once a charity is selected, they must sit out a year before they can be selected again.
This way, the game still "counts"—two worthwhile charities get some publicity while there is no ability for people to scream that MLB is playing "favorites" amongst charity organizations.
Rather than simply collecting another paycheck, the players can feel as though they are actually a part of something bigger than themselves and their teams for once.
Every year, we hear that the MLB All-Star Game is nothing more than a popularity contest: that players get in based on name recognition and not recognition of the seasons they are having.
I can't argue with that premise.
However, taking the voting out of fans' hands completely is unacceptable.
Allowing the fans to vote for the starters? I'm OK with that as well—just not how it is done now.
My proposal: two rounds of fan voting and a change in how the game is organized.
No longer is it American League versus National League.
Instead, the MLB gives fans 10-to-15 players to choose from in each league.
The leading vote-getter in each league becomes team captain.
These captains partake in a "fantasy draft," with each captain alternating selections until a full roster has been comprised.
First overall pick? Determined by a coin flip, with the coin to be flipped by a fan from a random drawing.
One player from each team must be selected before a second player from the same team can be selected. Once each team is represented, players can be selected from any team.
Once the rosters are finalized, the fans vote again, this time on who the starters are on each team, including which pitchers should start the game.
Showcase the Skills
I love the idea behind the Home Run Derby.
I refuse to watch it, however, because I cannot stand Chis Berman. I find him increasingly annoying each time he shows up on my television, forcing me to contort my body in ways it should not in a fruitless effort to grab the remote and change the channel before he has a chance to say anything.
As we learned from Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, "Chicks Dig the Long Ball."
But there is more to baseball than hitting home runs.
I propose that the Home Run Derby be made to be part of an all-encompassing skills competition, each individual competition of which having multiple rounds before declaring a winner.
Home Run Derby: Remains the same, no real changes needed. Congratulations to the 2011 champion, Robinson Cano.
Strongest OF Arm: Outfielders all start from a designated spot in a corner of the OF, trying to reach on the fly a target placed somewhere on the field.
Fastest Baserunner: Who is the quickest man in the game? Reyes? Bourn? Gardner?
Hardest Pitch: Who can bring the most heat?
Precision Pitching: Pitchers have a set number of pitches with which to destroy targets around home plate—most targets destroyed by using the fewest pitches is the name of the game, very similar to the NHL Shooting Accuracy competition.
Of course, all these "wins" come with cash prizes... which are promptly donated to charities of the winning players' choices.
Make the Players Pay
Regardless of whether a player has a legitimate injury, a newly-created "injury," yearns to spend time with family, etc., if a player is named an All-Star, he should attend.
Not necessarily play.
Before you get ahead of yourselves, this is not a knee-jerk reaction to Derek Jeter's choosing to miss tonight's game—I happen to be fine with his decision, because it's his decision to make.
But the decision should come with some consequence, so here is the change:
If a player is selected to the All-Star Game and chooses not to attend, whether it be due to injury or otherwise, that player is suspended for the first regular season game following the All-Star game, or in the case of a pitcher, suspended for one start following the All-Star game.
A notable exception would be if a player has a legitimate medical issue, such as A-Rod, who just had knee surgery yesterday—those players would be exempt from punishment.
Many of these ideas are taken from the NHL and how they present their game on All-Star weekend.
Not one of these ideas is something that anyone—whether it be the fans, the MLB, or the MLB Player's Association—could really gripe about all that much.
These could all easily be implemented and included in the next collective bargaining agreement.
They would make the All-Star game itself the centerpiece, but also give people other things to get excited about.
Reminding people why the game is supposed to be "America's pastime" and how exciting it can be is worthwhile and something I would think all parties involved would jump at the chance to do.