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The Ideal All-Star Game

July 11, 2011 2 comments

By: Deacon Blues

We’ve all heard the arguments. Does it count or is it an exhibition? If it’s an exhibition, why does it determine World Series home field advantage? If it counts, why make a pitching change two innings in? Why do the unwashed masses get such a strong say in the rosters? Does the National League have to pick an Astro?

I think we can all agree that the All-Star game shouldn’t determine home field advantage for the World Series. The last thing the Red Sox or Phillies want to see is a cast-in middle reliever throwing in the seventh with the tying run on third; his success or failure can perhaps hold their ultimate 2011 fate in the balance. Besides that, is there anyone who chooses to tune in to the game only because “it counts”? I doubt it. It’s an exhibition game, and that’s OK. Enjoy it for what it is.

The biggest problem with the 2002 tie game fiasco isn’t the “This Time It Counts” mantra, as bad as that is; it’s the complicated system that has been implemented to fill the rosters. The fans select the starting position players. The previous year’s World Series managers select half the bench players. Player voting select the other half of bench players. Nation League designated hitter is determined by dividing homeruns by opposing pitchers’ ERA plus the average game-time temperature. 78th man is selected by the fans — again. Replacement players are chosen by lots with consideration to Vegas odds, and on and on it goes. This complicated, algebraic system has become completely ridiculous.

What baseball needs to do is make it simple; they need to get back to their roots, if putting it that way makes it more palatable to the baseball purists out there. The All-Star game is meant to be a fun game for the fans. That’s it. It doesn’t need to be anything more than that, and frankly, it can’t be anything more that in any meaningful way.

The first step towards that end is to ditch the postseason implications. Make sure that everybody knows it’s an exhibition game so there are no complaints when it’s played like one. When Jered Weaver gets pulled after two innings and 22 pitches, it’s okay, because, hey, it’s the All-Star game, and everybody making an appearance is more important that winning the game.

The next step is to hold fan voting for every position, including the various pitching roles. After all the results have been tabulated, the top vote getters would be the starters at their respective positions, as is currently the case. Now here’s where the wrinkle comes in: the runners-up fill the remaining spots on the roster. If the fans voted for those players, those are the players they want to see, which means that is what MLB should want to give them. Do the fans want Derek Jeter? Give it to them. Do they want Willie Bloomquist? Go for it. Heck, do they want Carrot Top? I say they should make an effort to give the people what they want.

One complicating factor is the idea that every team needs to be represented. This tradition should absolutely continue, because each fan should get to see his team represented. This system would wind up leaving some teams without an All-Star, but that’s easy to overcome. The top vote getter for each of those teams – regardless of position – gets on the team. (Most likely that guy is the best player on the team, and probably deserves to be there anyway.) Sure, this might make the rosters unbalanced, but that’s not a problem. Remember: It’s an exhibition game.

Every single player on the All-Star rosters should be determined by fan voting, even if that means some deserving players have to stay home. It is true that the fans could get it wrong sometimes, even grievously, but that happens as it is. At least this way those poor choices have people cheering for them. After all, it should be a popularity contest.

Deacon Blues grew up in Moscow, Idaho, and still resides there with his lovely wife and four savages. By day he is an economist and database expert, but he doubles as a T-ball coach, lacrosse official, suffering Mariners fan, and reader of children’s books. He also makes a mean morning meal and is ever on the lookout for the perfect breakfast burrito recipe. He can be followed on Twitter at @deaconblues42. 

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