Deciding what the All-Star Game really means
Bt Shaun Ranft
And then there were five.
Let me begin by saying that when the American League All-Star Game voting update had as many as eight Kansas City Royals starting two weeks ago, I didn’t have a single issue with it. In fact it was more amusing/bordering on ridiculous than anything else and in addition, manager Ned Yost was 100 percent right in saying “If you don’t like it, vote.” After all, isn’t that the point?
As unfortunate as this might be for him, people listened. As of Monday’s update just five Royals remain as starters: catcher Salvador Perez, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and second baseman Omar Infante. The inclusion of Infante is otherworldly crazy, but Houston’s Jose Altuve is now very close to catching him as well. Meanwhile two of his more deserving teammates — Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas — have fallen out of their respective starting places.
None of this matters though, or at least it shouldn’t. When you open an event up to fan voting, this is precisely the risk you run. It’s a popularity contest. It’s an all-star game for crying out loud; isn’t it supposed to be fun? Well yes, but no. Since that pesky tie game in Milwaukee back in 2002, baseball has attached meaning to its midsummer exhibition game. As we have known since, whichever league wins this glorified exhibition face-off earns home-field advantage for the World Series. It’s been more than a decade since this change was implemented and the thought of it has failed to become any less ridiculous over time.
This break in the regular season is supposed to be a period of rest and relaxation for the players, a fun-filled midseason event for not only the fans but the players and their families as well. The game itself was never the only attraction, but now it feels more like a job than anything else. Here’s the thing, and it has nothing to do with Royals dominating the vote this year but with fan voting altogether: if MLB wants this game to mean something, the league or all 30 managers need to pick the players. That said, this should not be how it’s done. This event should be all about the fans, which is why their voting should remain going forward.
Craig Calcaterra suggests making the process ridiculous:
Make the All-Star Game ridiculous, MLB. Unleash the marketing people and the innovators and allow the fans to vote 100 times for all I care. I’m guessing most people won’t care and many people will probably enjoy it even more. But to make the game ridiculous while still retaining that home field thing is senseless. And at this point it’d be easier to get rid of the home field thing than it would be to restore some basis of credibility to the All-Star voting.
I’ll take it one step further and say this: how about an unlimited number of votes per person? Really, who cares? I highly doubt you’d see something like this Royals situation every year and even if you did, so what? It shouldn’t matter, but because MLB feels the need to make this game more meaningful than it is and needs to be, it’s unlikely something like this ever comes to fruition.
The All-Star Game only matters because MLB decided it should. Is what happened at Miller Park back in 2002 silly? Absolutely. Is the fact that multiple players had showered and left the clubhouse before the game concluded ridiculous? Yes. But because of this, should the league that wins what is supposed to be a fun exhibition game be rewarded with home-field advantage in baseball’s signature event? Goodness no. Like in more sensible sports, on this issue at least, the team with the best overall record should receive that distinct advantage. Period. After all, they’ve earned it.
Do you think this gimmick has worked, MLB? Because ratings have noticeably slipped since 2002, particularly in the last few seasons. People don’t care as much as you’d like them to, which means it might be time to make this event more fun for everyone again. If that means half of one team starting against a league full of mostly superstars, so be it. At the end of the day, this game is about the fans anyway.
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