The All-Star game bothers me. Mostly because I have zero interest. Why is that? I loved it when I was 13., and maybe that is the answer. I've matured, the game hasn't. It appealed to my youthful desire to see a super team, but the jaded cynicism of having seen a few true super teams (mostly in other sports; we get to watch another one in Golden State now) limp to less than mind-blowingly epic results has dampened my enthusiasm for the exercise. The All-Star game is like watching a couple of sixth-grades say "Wouldn't it be cool to play chess with ALL the pieces as queens?!"
Furthermore, the whole fan-vote thing bothers me. For a first, and perhaps only introduction to civics, one fan=thirty votes is not just silly, the fact that you can so unethically vote even more times using fake identities sets a lousy precedent. I know, it's all for fun…but is it? This is a multi-billion dollar industry. I'm not an economics professor, but surely there is a direct economic advantage to winning the WS vs. losing it, possibly because home field advantage was decided by a bored pre-teen on summer vacation in Naperville clicking "All Cubs" a half-a-hundred times, under such dorky user names as "Pikachu367" and "PoelDameron."
(Actually, when the Cubs lose in game 7, I hope the fan who tipped the balance to put Addison Russell in the starting lineup is outed and cursed for the next hundred years. Although I wouldn't be surprised it Jeff Luhnow's Supercomputers are somehow envolved. And speaking of 'bots, I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals have a couple of Fem-Bots waiting to show the young Cubbies around San Diego, with maybe a little side-trip to Tijuana also in the cards.)
Make it One Fan, One Vote
How? Register with a physical address. Get a code in the mail. Limit five per address or whatever. Yeah, I know there are still going to be people who find ways around this. Good. If we are going to encourage unethical behavior, at least make it challenging. We don't want to fall behind the rest of the world in the hacking department. I voted once this year, carefully considering the merits of each player. I didn't vote again, because I didn't care enough, and also because I didn't think my measly one or two votes would make a difference when there are mobilized groups of fans voting hundreds of times.
But How About Taking Voting To Another Level?
I know they have to get the ballots down to the print shop by April 21st, otherwise Old Man Leeland will be pissed about having to pay Bartleby overtime. Wait, no they don't. This is 2017. How about a national voting day on, oh, I don't know, THE FOURTH OF JULY, where everybody gets to exercise the one vote--assuming you were proactive enough to 'register' and get your code in the mail. On that day, you get a sortable spreadsheet with every player at every qualified position of the type you find ON EVERY FANTASY BASEBALL WEBSITE or Fangraphs or BP or whatever. You know, make an informed decision, not just vote for the name or the uniform.
But Wait, There's More
Speaking of Fantasy Baseball, why not make it a weighted auction? You've got 100 votes for 25 players. Allocate them how you want, but you have to vote at least once for every position. If you want to throw 90 votes at Addison Russell, by all means, go for it. Or, even better, make it totally like an auction draft. Have players valued statistically, only the best players cost the least. In that scenario, spending $90 on Addison Russell means you've only got $10 left, which means you have to vote for the most deserving players. There is no way you have enough money left to vote for your favorite back-up catcher who has spent most of the year on injured reserve.
[Intermission--The Home-Run Derby]
Let's have every pizza chain in America sponsor a player. For every home run that player hits in the derby, you get 10 cents off the price of a large pizza, cumulatively, at that restaurant, offer only valid during the All-Star game. The overall winner also entitles you to a free two-liter soda from that change. That way, if Miguel Cabrera wins, Domino's loses. Suck it Detroit!
There are a lot of other possibilities along these lines…I'm sure you can think of some better than this.
On To The Game Itself
I don't know about you, but watching a series of the best pitchers in the game mow down hitters who have often never hit against them is not compelling baseball to me. The only drama in the game is to find out which one of these elite pitchers has a bad game, gives up a run with two strikes and two outs, and becomes the goat. Which is a little like my one and only trip to San Diego, at age twenty. We took the aforementioned trip across the border to Tijuana. We were out at two after drinking to many pitchers of Dos Equis, ate some bad goat, and got the runs. But I digest…er, digress.
Establish a rule that you can't pull your starter as long as they have a chance to have a Quality Start. If you do, the next pitcher has to go at least three innings (barring some little league runs scored mercy rule). Furthermore, for every inning after six that the starter completes, that team receives bonus runs--1 in the seventh, 2, in the eighth, etc. If it is going to be about great pitching, I'd love to see Clayton Kershaw pitch a complete game six-hitter against the best hitters on the planet a lot more than watch 9 different guys pitch a two-hitter.
Or take it further--every team gets one starter and one emergency starter drawn from a pool of AAA non-prospect pitchers. Starter in trouble? Get ready for four innings of Scott Diamond! Hellfire, lets just make it like the NBA All-Star game and have the whole pitching staff be AAAA guys. Make the game itself a Home Run Derby. In all seriousness, like the Pro Bowl, the injury concern and dollars involved are pretty severe. Look what happened to Trevor May when he got off his regular Starting Pitching regime and went to relief. You want your hundred million dollar baby pitching a high-effort inning on maybe not even his regular day? The smart teams set there rotations up so that their most prized and possibly fragile pitchers (see Strasburg, Stephen) can't pitch in the game at all.
in this scenario, you could probably put all the actual All-Star pitchers in a padded, climate-controlled room, where they could have an MLB-The Show tourney where they are only allowed to pitch as themselves, against the actual All-Star teams.
Fixing the "Every Team Must Be Represented Clause,"
How about a double-header or round robin tournament. The voted in All-Stars versus the All-Stars from the undeserving teams. That would essentially be the AL all-stars VS. the Minnesota Twins this year, and the NL All-Stars vs. the Braves and Padres. How fun would that be? A team, admittedly flawed, versus a collection of parts? Might be compelling, might be Harlem Globetrotters fun. Who knows. I'd watch it.
And speaking of that, how about the Fan's All-Stars vs. the Writer's All-Stars? Not sure how you'd manage the cross-over, but it would be fun to find out, paraphrasing Jack Handey, if the so-called experts really are experts.
Make the Game Be Broadcast For Free
Maybe it still is. I'm operating under the assumption that is will be on cable somewhere, but maybe it is on Fox. Sorry, I'm pretty jaded. The day the Super Bowl is no longer on broadcast TV is the day I have watched my last football game. Sports can be a force for democratization, but increasingly it seems they are merely a source of capitalization. If you want to broaden the appeal of the sport, don't make it only available to rich suburban kids. Going to an actual MLB game, aside from the fact I live 500 miles from the nearest stadium, would be an egregious misuse of precious budgetary dollars that could be better spent on things like food and electricity; at least in my household. And the same goes for cable. I spend $5 a month on baseball, and look at a few ads for stuff I d don't buy on some baseball related websites. I'm not sure what fraction of the $5 is going to end up contributing to the Padres blowing past their International Bonus pool, but I'm proud to say I'm not going to contribute even another nickel of a nickel of a nickel in order to buy the game on MLB-TV. If it is on Fox, I might eventually buy a new Chevrolet Camaro like the one the MVP wins, if and when I ever buy a new car. And if I do, I will pronounce it like they do in this classic SNL skit. (When this skit came out, I still liked the All-Star game. The skit is still funny, but the All-Star game is lame. Also, it mentions "San Diego," so, its relevant.)