Arguably the best All-Star game out of the four major professional sports in the United States, there are a few things that can be tweaked or added to All-Star weekend to improve it.
Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to increase viewership and add some drama to the All-Star Game, so he made the game count for home field advantage in the World Series. There are still other changes that can be made to the entire event that could heighten the excitement for the weekend and incorporate more players.
The home-run derby is one of the most anticipated events during the season, and players like Bobby Abreu and Josh Hamilton have not disappointed in recent years. However, it has not been good enough.
The other big event in the schedule of festivities is the celebrity softball game, which usually airs on ESPN "The OCHO" at around 2:00 AM ET.
Similar to the NBA and NHL All-Star game breaks, MLB needs to add some more events and tweak some of its current ones. Here are five changes that MLB can make to really help out the All-Star week!
5. End Mandatory Representation
Currently, every team has to send at least one player to the All-Star Game. It has been criticized for many years, and it is high time that MLB gets rid of this ridiculous rule.
The guy who goes to the Fall Classic representing the last place team usually knows that it wasn't because he deserves to be there. There have been many great players with all-star-like performances who have been left off the team because the space had to be given to someone else.
It is a nice thing that MLB is doing, especially for those few Royals fans that watch the introductions just to root for the one guy who went to say that someone from the Royals was there. However, it's time for the rule to be dumped.
It would just make the game better if the game was really played by the best of the best, and not by the best of the worst that had to be chosen.
4. Add Games With Fans
The All-Star game does currently include a fan-zone type event where fans get closer to the game. However, it would be a lot more interesting for fans to be more interactive with the game.
It would be interesting to see if fans could participate in an event where they had to do a "Pros vs. Joes" type competition. A contest would be held to let five to 10 fans win the chance to play in this event.
One of the games would have fans pitching to players to see if they could strike anyone out. Another game would let fans hit against an All-Star pitcher. A third game could have fans race a player down the first-base line or even try to steal on a left handed pitcher.
There are so many ways in which MLB could make money off of this and also incorporate more fans. It would also be the first league that would institute something like this and could really get people excited to see average people trying to compete with MLB All-Stars.
3. Keep Highlighting Hall of Famers
One of the most memorable baseball moments in the last decade has to be when the All-Stars gathered around Ted Williams in Fenway Park. The pre-game ceremonies in 2008 were no different, when MLB honored Hall of Famers at Yankee Stadium during the Midsummer Classic. Some would argue that the pre-game ceremony was more memorable than the actual game.
There are many Hall of Famers that did not have the chance to be honored at last year's game. For that very reason, MLB could make it more of a tradition to highlight different Hall of Famers every summer.
They could even make it so that the home city/team would be the one that would be highlighted. For example, if the All-Star game is being played in Oakland, then MLB would find former Athletics players in the Hall of Fame to honor and highlight.
It would help preserve the history of the game, show the younger generation some of the great players of the past, and make up for the lack of that mandatory representation rule.
2. Replace the Softball Game with a real Old Timers Game
Some fans may find this to be a little redundant, especially after the honoring of the Hall of Famers. However, it would bring some more excitement than the current softball game.
The New York Yankees have an Old Timers Day every season in which they honor dozens of former players. The MLB could bring this same concept to the All-Star festivities and let fans watch their favorite players of the past.
Currently, nobody really cares about the celebrity softball game. It is probably the least cared about event during the entire three-day span. The MLB would do well to get rid of it and replace it with an Old Timers game.
Old Timers/Legends could include anyone that used to play and no longer plays in the major leagues anymore. Some of the names could include Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, Sammy Sosa, Bernie Williams, Mo Vaughn, and many more.
Obvious hall-of-famers would also be included, which would only make it more exciting to see Randy Johnson pitching to Reggie Jackson or Barry Bonds going up against Goose Gossage.
At any rate, it would be more exciting than seeing Jimmy Kimmel or Chris Rock running around the bases.
1. More Skills Competitions
There is no question that the home run derby draws a sizable television audience, and by now...everyone is now used to Chris Berman's voice yelling "Back, Back, Back." However, MLB would really help the entire event if they added other skills competition.
The NBA and NHL both have events that have players compete against each other to see who is the best at certain skills. With so many acclaimed five-tool players in the MLB, the All-Star game should institute a set of events which test to see who really is the best.
One of the events would match the fastest guys up against each other. Which player has the fastest time from third base to home plate? Which player can make it around the bases in the quickest time? Fans would be able to see who really is the fastest player in the MLB.
Another event would test arm strength of outfielders. The players would have to throw from different spots in the outfield and try to hit a target at home. They could test to see who can continuously and accurately hit the target on the fly. Move back to the warning track and hit them a sacrifice fly...can they throw out the runner at home plate?
A third such event would institute situational hitting. Can these players get the job done in the clutch? With two outs and a man on third, can they get a hit against a right-handed closer? Can the hitter get a sacrifice bunt or get down the suicide squeeze?
The last event could match the fastest pitchers against each other. What pitcher can consistently throw over 100 MPH? Which pitcher can get the most hits against another pitcher? Who has the best pick-off move?
One all-around competition would then pit the best against the best. Can the guy with the strongest and most accurate arm throw out the fastest player at the plate? Can the best clutch hitter drive in the fastest player from first base with two outs, down by one run, against the fastest pitcher?
There are many ways to involve all different aspects of being a professional player outside of just hitting home runs.
Baseball fans are going to watch the All-Star Game no matter what, but that doesn't mean that the MLB can't change a few things to make it better. It would incorporate many more players and give the league the advantage of making a lot more money!