For years, Major League Baseball tried to tell us that the All-Star Game mattered. Now we’re back to agreeing that the All-Star Game means nothing, which brings us to the next logical conclusion.
Let’s just get rid of it entirely.
Unlikely? Of course it’s unlikely, largely because commissioner Rob Manfred has acknowledged that the All-Star Game is a moneymaker for MLB. But the game itself is utterly worthless, as we all know, particularly after the 2016 All-Star Game produced the lowest television ratings in history.
Let’s say that again: last year’s All-Star Game was the least-viewed game in history, drawing 5.4 rating. (That number was 25.6 exactly 50 years ago and still in the 20s during the 1980s.) The simple truth is that the viewers for the home run derby now nearly match those of the game itself, and any parent can tell you that your kids are far more interested in who can hit the most homers than in any contrived competition between the American League and National League.
So you know what?
Let’s scrap the game entirely. The pitchers could all use the break anyway. And let’s just make the derby the highlight of a skills weekend that people (specifically kids) would find far more entertaining, anyway.
For example: who has the strongest outfield arm — or the most accurate one? Who turns the best double play? Can someone devise a competition that demonstrates bat control? Who’s the fastest right-handed batter from home to first? The fastest lefty? Which catcher has the quickest release?
The possibilities are considerable. And there are people far more creative than I am who could devise competitions that will keep viewers engaged — again, particularly the younger ones — and simultaneously keep the players safe, which is an obvious concern for the teams.
And we’ll say it again: NO PITCHING SKILLS. Let the guys who do most of the work get a real rest at midseason so they can recharge for the stretch run.
And since award shows have become all the rage in sports, institute a video component to All-Star Weekend, allowing fans both at the ballpark and at home to vote for the best (and worst?) plays of the first half. Video can be shown simultaneously on the stadium scoreboard and on television. Keep the clips short. Make it fast-moving. And vote in real time — with a time limit — via cell phone.
Heck, if baseball really wants to push it, the game could give awards for the fastest (and slowest?) workers on the mound. Nice work, Chris Sale. Thanks for getting us all home (or to bed) at a reasonable hour.
Best bat flip? Worst blooper? Best umpire argument?
Again, you get the idea.
Heck, I’ll even allow for this: if you’re a hardcore traditionalist and still want to play the All-Star Game, then make it six innings. (Again, fewer pitchers.) Or better yet, use the game for experimentation. Let’s try out the pitch clock for the whole country to see. Let’s play the final three innings by starting with a man on second base so as to get a feel for possible extra-inning solutions. Better yet, let’s load the bases as an extra-inning experiment so as to eliminate sacrifice bunts, intentional walks and other conservative decisions in the later innings.
Again, there’s a way for fans to be involved in this. Which change to the game which you most like to see? Well, let’s vote. The winning selection gets tested in this year’s All-Star Game.
And lest anyone think this is purely a baseball issue, I’d do the same in the NBA, NHL and NFL.
At the All-Star Game or Pro Bowl, the worst part of the festivities always seems to be the game itself.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.