MLB Needs to Decide What the All-Star Game Is
The 2012 All-Star Rosters were announced today, and the Mets will have two representatives. R.A. Dickey and David Wright will join manager Terry Collins (who was selected to Tony LaRussa’s coaching staff) in Kansas City.
The big news for Mets fans is the fact that Pablo Sandoval of the Giants beat out Wright in the fan voting by 1.6 million votes. Wright had been leading in the voting up until the last couple of days.
But fan voting is an important part of the All-Star Game. After all, the fans should vote for the players they want to see, since it is an exhibition game held for the fans.
Wait…is it? I thought “it counted this time.”
In 2002, the All-Star Game finished in a 7-7 tie in the 11th inning, when each manager simply ran out of players. Because that’s what you did in an All-Star Game: get as many players in the game as possible. Why? So the fans of each team could see their men compete in the Summer Classic, that’s why. Admit it, it was a thrill to see Lee Mazzilli play in the 1979 All-Star game. He even tied the game with a home run, and drove in the eventual game-winning run with a bases-loaded walk. He somehow didn’t win the MVP, mostly because a more popular player (Dave Parker) from a winning team (the Pirates) threw a guy out at home.
In response to the 7-7 tie in 2002, Commissioner Bud Selig chose the only logical course of action to prevent a tie in future ASGs. He decided that the winner of the game would determine home field advantage for the World Series.
That does NOTHING to prevent a tie in the All-Star game. On top of that, the game is still managed as if it is a harmless exhibition. Every player still gets in the game, so if it goes to extra innings, guess what? Each team could still run out of players, and it can still end in a tie.
If the ASG determines home field advantage for the World Series, shouldn’t it be managed like a regular-season game? Shouldn’t your starting pitcher go more than 2 innings? Shouldn’t Albert Pujols (or fill in your superstar of choice) stay in for the entire game instead of being replaced by the guy with the .600 OPS from Kansas City, who made the ASG just because every team needed to be represented?
Major League Baseball needs to figure out what its All-Star Game is. If it determines home field advantage for the World Series, it should not be voted on by the fans. Teams should be selected by the manager of the AL and NL. And it should be managed like a regular season, or even playoff game. But it never will be because no team wants to watch their ace pitcher throw 100 pitches in an ASG, whether it counts or not. MLB isn’t paying the salary of these players, each team is. And each team has a right to protect its investment.
So, it should go back to being a straight exhibition. It’s still the best All-Star showcase in professional sports. Unlike the NBA or NHL, players still have to play every aspect of the game – defense, pitching, hitting. In the heat of the moment, every pitcher wants an strikeout, every hitter wants a hit, and every fielder wants an out. In the NBA and NHL, defense can be all but completely absent during their All-Star Games. And the NFL? The Pro Bowl has been so atrocious that they’re even considering eliminating the game.
As an exhibition, fans should continue to vote for the starters, right or wrong. Let’s admit it, part of the fun of the All-Star Game is arguing about who made it and who didn’t.
And as for ties, how about this: pick 5-8 extra players per league, mostly pitchers. Call them “Second Team All Stars” and leave them on the bench until they are needed in extra innings. If they play 16 innings, run out of players, and the game is still tied, let it finish in a tie. Because it’s just an exhibition game. It’s a showcase of the current talent in baseball, and for the game itself. Besides, how often have ASGs ended in a tie? Twice: 1961 and 2002. You have to like those odds.