Get ready, New York Mets fans because the All-Star Game is set to be played Tuesday at the new Shea Stadium. (It’s still hard for me to call that tribute to the Dodgers “CitiField”). There’s only one problem: despite how the media and the Mets organization has tried to market it, the game has completely lost its luster. This is not news and there are many obvious reasons why, but here are a few major problems associated with the event itself in today’s baseball landscape:
1) Let’s start off with the most obvious: despite playing for “home field advantage” in the World Series, the game means absolutely nothing. Besides, the whole home field advantage is a complete gimmick anyway and demeans the entire regular season. Simply put, if you want to play the game for home field advantage, then you have to take the vote away from the fans. When fans have the option to vote several times per day each day for each player, it becomes a complete popularity contest where the best players aren’t necessarily starting the game in a genuine attempt to win. And besides, I don’t know about you, but my lifelong dream is never to meet a single individual that has the time for, or cares enough about, spending countless hours voting over and over again for someone they don’t know and can contribute nothing to their lives bottom lines in the real world.
And if the object of the game is to actually win, there’s no sense in adding ridiculous requirements such as “every team has to have a representative in the game”, or “every player has to play” and other such nonsense. Let’s select the best players and have them play enough to actually try to win. Now that makes sense.
Yes, you’re getting a popularity game – otherwise known as an “exhibition game”, which is exactly what the All-Star game has become: an exhibition! Let’s just call it so and stop with all the crap about it meaning something. Get Beyonce to sing the national anthem, have someone from American Idol do the 7th inning stretch and everyone’s happy – except real baseball fans who long for the days when baseball was baseball.
2) The next point isn’t so obvious but it’s completely true: the players in general don’t want to play the game in the first place! Oh, they’re happy they are selected to the squad (mostly because their incentive bonuses kick in for doing so), and they say all the right things about being “honored”, but what quickly happens is they develop mysterious “injuries” that allow them not to play. Translation: “I want a 3-day vacation to spend with my family and friends”. Many major league teams are complicit with this excuse, especially for pitchers, so they don’t “burn themselves out” or “lose a start” or “aggravate a sore muscle” or something similarly ridiculous. Then it’s the job of whoever is managing the team to figure out how to use each player for the least amount of time so no one gets hurt or tired. How pathetic is that? And the object is to win the game?
And another point: do the players on the squad from the Cubs, Astros, or even the Mets really care about “home field advantage”? That’s right – no one in the media wants to bring it up, but truth be told, the players don’t care if they win or lose. They’re just happy to be honored to play and collect their contract bonuses for doing so.
3) Ready for this? Interleague play has completely ruined the All-Star game and long-term traditional baseball events such as the World Series as well. Real baseball fans don’t like and don’t want interleague play. Its contrived nature screams “we need to do something different to get people interested in baseball again and we’re out of good ideas”. Who cares about watching the American League play the National league? We see it every day! Every day! That’s right – there’s an interleague game scheduled all the time!!! Why in the world would I want to watch a special game that means nothing when I can watch interleague play that actually means something in the standings? Because they’re “All Stars”? (which is obviously not true since the fans control the vote)
Short term baseball fans love interleague play, because they’re just that: short term. They’re just looking for the gimmick. Knowledgeable baseball fans hate it. That’s the rule. Show me someone who likes interleague play and I’ll show you someone who knows NOTHING about baseball history. How special would the 2000 World Series have been with the Mets and the Yankees if they never played each other 6 times in the regular season that year?
First the PED scandal was the cancer of baseball, now it’s called interleague play and no one realizes it – and like cancer, it gnaws at you little by little until the end result is the death of excitement over games such as the All-Star Game and the World Series.
4) Lastly, free agency has killed the uniqueness of the All Star game as well. Years ago, when players stayed on the same team for long periods of time, it was exciting to see an American League star go up against the best in the National League. Players took pride in their organization and felt a certain loyalty to their team and their league. Old-time baseball is full of stories of players who would never even dream play for “the enemy” or whatever the “other league” was to them. Now players bounce around from the American League to the National League and back all the team – sometimes even in the same year!
You can’t possibly tell me the players have that killer instinct and desire to win for “their league” when they’ll go anywhere for the almighty dollar at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, this is problem that cannot be fixed and insures you will NEVER get an All-Star Game where players are “giving it their all” and leaving 100% on the field, which is exactly what you need to really have a meaningful game.
Here’s the good news: baseball can’t be killed. It’s way too great of a sport. No matter how many stupid decisions that MLB makes or whatever incompetent person is in charge, baseball will always thrive. Whether the All-Star Game is irrelevant makes no difference – fans will continue to go the games and watch. Personally, I hate what the All-Star Game has become, but being a baseball fan, I’ll still watch it if I have nothing else to do.
The talking heads and “sports experts” on ESPN and similar networks keep harping on interest in baseball dwindling, but that’s just not the case in reality. All around the country, stadiums get filled and people watch and go to games, despite how those in charge have tried to kill it. So with that in mind, here are a few suggestions to maybe help make the All-Star Game a little more interesting:
1) Take away this whole “home field advantage” nonsense and tell the fans like it is. Market the game as an exhibition game and fans won’t feel like they’re being lied to and taken for stupid consumers (which we are because we love baseball so much!)
2) Take the vote away from the fans and create an “All Star Selection Committee” similar to the way they do it with the NCAA March Madness team selection for their Bracketology. That seems to work pretty nicely, don’t you think? You just can’t have stupid people with no lives voting for something they have no idea about. A committee that knows baseball and can objectively evaluate the best baseball players in a given year can no doubt help in creating a legitimate game.
3) And my #1 controversial but best idea for creating an All-Star Game that truly means something: only pay the players on the winning team! It’s that simple. You have a 2 million dollar bonus clause in your contract for making the All-Star Game? – Sorry, you only get it if your team wins. You get voted to the team but can’t play due to a sore pinky? You better hope your teammates perform. You won’t believe the amount of mysterious injuries that magically disappear when real money is on the line.
Even though most players make obscene amounts of money, only paying the players on the winning team is the best surefire way of insuring that everyone on the field plays to win the game, from the players down to the managers and coaches. You’ll see starting pitchers pitch more. You’ll see less smiles from the players and more intensity. You’ll see a Pete Rose bowl over a Ray Fosse at the plate just because he wants to win.
Now that’s a game I’d love to be at, regardless of where it’s played. No one goes to CitiField this year because the Mets are so bad and no one wants to line the Wilpon’s pockets with money. Yet the All-Star Game will probably be packed with people who just want to say they were at an All-Star Game once in their lives. They won’t know who the players are – save for David Wright and Matt Harvey – and a high percentage of them probably won’t even remember what happened at the last All-Star game or where it was held because the game has lost all its luster for the above reasons and many more.
It’s un-fixable at this point. That’s the sad part of baseball and the direction the media and “experts” have taken it. But long live baseball! Be it dead or alive!