All-Star Game: Fair or Foul? (Poll Included)

Image copyright, MLB

Image copyright, MLB

I am not a big fan of the All-Star Game. I am even less of a fan of the All-Star Game winning team getting rewarded with home field advantage in the World Series. MLB needs to sit down and make adjustments to the game and what it does or does not mean for the sport itself.

Before the tie in the 2002 All-Star Game, MLB used an every other year format for home field advantage in the World Series. One year it would be NL then next it would be the AL. After the game ended in a tie in 2002 MLB decided it would implement a new twist to the ASG: the winning league would receive home field advantage in the World Series to make the managers and players care more about the ASG. This was where their home field advantage mistake took a catastrophic turn. The original system for awarding home field (switching every other year) mocked the validity of a teams solid year to get to the playoffs. Teams get to the playoffs by having the best record in their division. Throughout the playoffs the team in each match-up with the better record receives home field advantage for the series. When the MLB added the first Wild Card in 1994, that spot would go to the team in each league that had the best record but did not win their division. There never was a time where MLB awarded playoff entrance on a coin flip, so what sense does it make to give home field advantage to any team other than the one with the best record?

Bud Selig (MLB commissioner) and MLB need to abandon the prize at stake for the All-Star Game. It was implemented to make both sides want to win, play harder for the fans, put on a good show, and increase the ASG television ratings. The problem is that not one ASG since 2002 has met the same number of television viewers that it had in 2002, so the fans have not been fooled by the notion. If you go back through the ratings of years prior to 2002, the games viewership was already in decline. In 2012, the NFL Pro Bowl had higher ratings and there is nothing at stake other than having the fans get to see all the leagues best players play one game together. Perhaps the 2002 incident was not the problem it has been made out to be. Could it be that Bud Selig was upset that the tie happened in the year the ASG was in his home town of Milwaukee rather than he wanted the players to care more? I find it to be a plausible situation.

There is no indication that the implementation of home field advantage has actually made players play harder or want to win the game any more than before. Last summer at the All-Star Game Justin Verlander started the game for the American League. The results were horrific. In the one inning he pitched he allowed 5 runs on 4 hits. The stat alone does not say he was not trying to get hitters out, however, his quotes after the game did. After the game Verlander said, “Fans don’t want to see me throw 90 (mph) and hit the corners…they like to see the 100-mph fastball so I gave them that.” That is not a quote from a guy who cared and tried to get outs, that is a guy who just wanted to throw hard to get attention. Mike Napoli was also quoted saying, “If we’re fortunate enough to get to the World Series, we’ll worry about it then.” Another player hinting that they will not play aggressively in the All-Star Game even to win home field advantage.

To complicate the situation even further, MLB requires every team to have a player represented in the All-Star Game. If the game is to matter to the players and the managers, how does this rule even apply? How is this fair to fans of teams that have should have multiple representatives due to strong play during the first half? What if a player that is deserving of the All-Star nod is bumped out by an average player who is required to be there? So many of the All-Star Game rules do not work with what is at stake.

MLB has to be proactive and change the goal of the All-Star Game. The game was designed for the fans to see the best players play one game against each other. To make it more than that is changing what this game is really about. This game has held some of the greatest moments in baseball history from Babe Ruth hitting the first home run in the first ASG in 1933, to Stan Musial hitting a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of the 1955 game, all the way to 1999 when Pedro Martinez struck out 5 batters in two innings. The All-Star game does have meaning and history. It is time to let the moments of each game captivate the fans and not be overshadowed by who gets automatic home field advantage.

Tyler Moore- MLB Contributor- Title Town Sports

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