Regner: MLB All-Star Game needs a boost

The 2014 MLB All-Star Game takes place Tuesday (8 p.m. on FOX) at Target Field in Minnesota.

Jeff Curry/Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball’s All-Star Game is in trouble.

Television viewership for the Midsummer Classic has been in a free fall for decades.

SI.com reports that 28.2 million people tuned into the game in 1985. By 1997, the TV audience was down to 16.7 million, and it shrunk to 12.3 million in 2005.

Last season, only 11 million watched the Amerian League shut out the National League, 3-0.

There are many factors as to why television viewership for the game is down. Among others, viewers have a lot more choices on the TV dial than they once did, and baseball’s exposure is much more comprehensive than it was when the Game of the Week was the sport’s only weekly national telecast.

A baseball game is on almost every day of the season today, and many teams have their entire season televised in their home market.

It’s not that the interest in baseball has totally dropped off; it’s that people don’t seem to care much about the All-Star Game like they used too.

Giving home-field advantage for the World Series to the winning league is a gimmick that hasn’t increased viewership, and that should end immediately.

The All-Star Game showcases baseball’s best from both leagues, but it’s still an exhibition game. It has no place in deciding home field for the World Series.

If MLB really wants to try drum up more interest and viewership for the game, they should end interleague play.

What once made the All-Star Game truly exceptional was, it was the only time stars from each league would face one another until the World Series.

There was something special about seeing Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, and Tom Seaver, step onto the diamond at Tiger Stadium for the 1971 Midsummer Classic.

I was a young kid, but I remember the exuberance I felt watching the NL All-Stars playing on the Tigers’ home field.

But it goes beyond the 1971 All-Star game. I watched because it was the NL versus AL and happened once a year. It was appointment viewing.

Interleague play has taken away from the distinctiveness of the All-Star Game. Teams from the NL and AL meet up all the time, which has made the All-Star Game a bore.

It’s still a competitive game and far better to watch than what their counterparts from the NFL, NBA and NHL have to offer. But something’s missing.

The only way for the All-Star Game to pick up interest and regain some of its viewers from an ever-shrinking audience is to abandon interleague play.

Our social-media-obsessed society must be enticed with something they can’t get on a daily basis.

A once-a-year game between the stars of the NL and AL — the only time many of these players will go up against each other — is a concept that just might work.

It’s certainly worth a try.