MLB All-Star Game: Why "This Time It Counts" Needs To GoJuly 4, 2011
Let's imagine a completely hypothetical situation. Florida Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez comes to the plate in the ninth inning of a one run game with the bases loaded and the chance to give his team homefield advantage in the World Series. Surely, you think, this must be a late September game, in the middle of a pennant race. Sadly, you would be mistaken.
It is actually the All Star game.
After the debacle which was the 2002 All-Star game ended in a tie, deciding which league would get home-field advantage in the World Series would be based on the result of the All-Star game seemed like a good idea.
Making the game "count," as Fox Sports constantly reminded its viewers, would drum up interest in the Midsummer Classic, MLB executives believed.
Well, eight years after the game started counting, fans still couldn't care less. Ratings for last year's game in Anaheim were the lowest in history, as fewer than 10 million fans tuned in. With "This Time It Counts" obviously not working, it is high time commissioner Bud Selig admitted defeat and returned the All-Star game to what it always had been before: a pure exhibition game.
The All-Star game is billed as a reward for players. It is meant to honor the best players in the game. All players are honored, not simply the ones on a contending team. That means a Baltimore Oriole or a Houston Astro could potentially impact the postseason fate of the New York Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies. That is simply not fair.
Last year, in a key play, Marlon Byrd threw out David Ortiz at second base in the ninth inning. Neither player played in the postseason, yet this play had a huge impact on the World Series, as the San Francisco Giants benefited from home-field advantage.
The best players are not on the field when the game matters most. The starters barely play three innings before retreating to the dugout to clown around with their teammates. With starters usually getting only two at-bats, the best hitters are often not in the game when a late inning rally is needed.
Not to mention, the best players do not always even play in the game. Pitchers who start the Sunday before the All-Star game are not even eligible to pitch in the game. This year, two such pitchers are Cole Hamels and CC Sabathia.
The fact that fans play an important role in electing the All-Star game starters makes awarding home-field advantage even more dubious. Fans should be given the chance to select the players they want to see, but that doesn't mean they will always make the right picks.
There is plenty of room for sentimental picks—Cal Ripken's 19 consecutive selections are a prime example—and these picks allow fans one last chance to honor their favorite stars. However, if something as important as home-field advantage in the World Series is going to be decided with a 37-year-old shortstop, Derek Jeter, (who is obviously in decline and has not played in nearly a month,) the selection process should be changed.
I have watched every All-Star game for as long as I can remember, whether it "counted" or not, and was rewarded with some very memorable moments. Who could forget the tribute to Ted Williams at Fenway Park, Randy Johnson's dominance, which prompted Larry Walker to turn around and switch hit or Ripken's memorable send-off in Seattle?
True baseball fans were watching and witnessed all these events. True baseball fans are still watching the All-Star game faithfully each year. These are the fans the MLB should be focused on.
Nothing against Gaby Sanchez, but a player from a last place team should not be a deciding factor in where Game 7 of the World Series takes place. Imagine if the Philadelphia Phillies or the Yankees lose homefield advantage in the World Series because a player like Gaby Sanchez or Aaron Crow of the Royals fails to come through in the clutch?
Making the All-Star game "count" was a knee-jerk reaction to the fluky tie in 2002. It is time to end this experiment and return the All-Star game to what every All-Star game should be: an exhibition game that brings together the best players in the game for one memorable night every summer.