I would first like to thank the esteemed staff of “Below the Belt Sports” for allowing me to write for their blog. As a 35-year-old joining a cast of college students, hopefully I can provide something different and positive in a “Danny DeVito” joining the “Always Sunny” cast sort of way. Don’t worry, Danny. I promise not to compare myself to you again.
Anyway, this is a sports blog, so let’s talk about sports. I wish the MLB All-Star Game were more exciting. I feel that way, and you feel that way; but guess what? I am always going to watch it, and so are you if you are a baseball fan. Yes, I tend to watch the opening ceremonies, introduction of players, and first few innings before losing interest amidst a revolving door of lineup changes. However, it’s still the only good TV on a Tuesday night in July, and it’s still the best All-Star Game of the major sports. This year, we even got the added bonus of a clean-shaven Joe Buck. Honestly nothing is sadder than his attempts at growing facial hair.
Writers and reporters are always trying to come up with ways to improve the All-Star Game. However, the only good one I have heard is infeasible. This would be to have the starting position players play the whole game and use pinch-hitters only when strategically necessary. This change would also have pitchers tossing more than just one inning. From an excitement standpoint, I love this idea. However, the modern MLB player is never going to commit to going to the All-Star Game to sit the pine for nine innings, and I don’t blame him. The season is a grind, and four days of rest sure beats flying across the country to watch an exhibition.
Yes, people who remember baseball in the 1960s (No, I am not one of these people) remember a day when league pride was huge and the All-Star managers heeded Herm Edwards by following one mantra, “You play to win the game.” (even if managers would have needed a Delorean and flux capacitor to know the quote) I am sure the All-Star Game was more exciting when the two leagues were going all-out to win and when future Hall-of-Famers played nine innings. However, the other main reasons for the dip in All-Star Game excitement are good things for baseball. Free agency, Interleague play, and vastly increased media coverage for regular-season games are the main reasons why players and fans alike get less excitement and interest from the All-Star Game than in the olden days. In the 1960s, it was novel to see Hank Aaron face Jim Palmer. Actually, as fans, it was novel to see Hank Aaron, period. There were so few televised games, especially out-of-market games. Now, we live in an era where players can change teams, can face each other in Interleague play (I am a purist who does not like Interleague play, but I’m in the minority there. It’s not the hill I’m going to die on.), and can be seen 162 games a year in any market….unless your name is “Robinson Cano”. Until last night, I thought that he had retired after 2013, and I had also assumed that the Mariners had closed up shop after the 2001 ALCS. Anyway, Cano aside, I am glad that MLB has seen the afore-mentioned positive developments over the years. That said, if the cost of these positive changes to the sport is a weaker All-Star Game, big deal.
The truth is that I have watched the past 28 All-Star Games, after last night. All of those games have been during the era of massive amounts of substitutions. They have all been in the era of free agency, and 21 have been in the era of Interleague play. Yes, I am more likely to lose focus on the All-Star Game than on a Mets game. Sure, the games themselves are not always that compelling, but there are still great moments – Cal Ripken Jr.’s homerun in his last All-Star game, Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a homerun in that same 2001 game, Ichiro legging out an inside-the-park homerun in San Francisco, Dan Uggla striking out AND making three errors all in extra innings at Yankee Stadium, and The Artist Formerly Known as Matt Harvey electrifying Citi Field in 2013. I love the NFL and NHL every bit as much as I love MLB, but no moments from their All-Star Games have any staying power. I might space out at times during an MLB All-Star Game, but there are plenty of years where I don’t even try to watch the Pro Bowl or NHL All-Star Game. I will add that I am not a huge NBA guy, so I cannot speak for moments in the NBA All-Star Game. However, at least the NBA has the benefit of being able to have the top guys on the court at the end of an All-Star Game.
Anyway, I wish the MLB All-Star Game were more exciting, but let’s stop trying to improve it. It is what it is. Thank goodness World Series homefield advantage no longer rides on it. I would have preferred to give homefield advantage to the team from the league with a better record in Interleague play (to re-establish a modicum of league pride), but I am perfectly fine of giving it to the team with the better record (as is done in the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final).
Sure, the MLB All-Star Game is not what it once was, but let’s just enjoy it for what it is now.