How To Fix the All-Star Game and Interleague Play In One Easy Lesson
Forty years ago, baseball’s all-star game used to mean something. Â I mean: Â really mean something. The only other time the best of the American League met the best of the National was in the World Series, and with free agency still around the corner, many great players stayed glued to their teams, meaning the excitement of seeing Willie Mays take his licks against Jim Palmer was a rare, genuine treat.
Today’s contest has become more and more like the Academy Awards. Â Nomination snubs draw fire each and every year, and two days after the event we can barely recall who won. Â Other than being a revenue-generating machine for Fox, the game is an embarrassing farce that is simultaneously bloated and watered down. Â If it “means something” now because the winner gets home field advantage in the World Series, why is the NL manager forced to pick a player from the Washington Nationals? Â (Thank God for Adam Dunn.) Â If it “means something,” why is the public entrusted with choosing the starting regulars when the majority of fans cannot differentiate between a deserving OPS leader and a popular PED user? Â If the game “means something,” why does the Fox coverage frequently cut away to boring player and manager interviews in the middle of an inning?
After the tie-game debacle of 2002, Selig/Fox came up with their new home field advantage plan, but it was a misguided, rushed solution. Â Judging from the looming roster problems during last year’s extra-inning marathon at Yankee Stadium, MLB still has no clue how to handle their blessed Event.
Fear not, though, because there is a ridiculously easy fix, one that will also solve the yearly quagmire of complaints about interleague play. Â If the All-Star Game is reverted back to the exhibition game it always was, fans voting in the wrong starters wouldn’t be as critical. Â Players with all-star clauses in their contracts can play and have fun, while all-stars who feel like sitting the three days out can do so without “letting their league down.”Â And the broadcasters can interview the Philly Phanatic between pitches for all I care.
The big change would be deciding World Series home advantage, which would go to the league that wins the most interleague games that season. Â This would make every Kansas City/Pittsburgh matchup truly mean something, not just the regional rivalries. Â Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the NL had a slim one-game margin in the interleague standings the last week of June and it came down to a riveting Halladay vs. Peavy pitcher’s duel at Petco?
Interleague attendance has been darn good of late, but it seems to me that this plan would put it off the charts. Â Â It would be a short burst of pennant race within the six other ones, and as far as I’m concerned, you can never have enough of those.
Basically, the focus needs to be shifted. Â The games that truly mean something should be the weeks of interleague ones, not the hyped-up, three-hour “meat parade,” as George C. Scott once fondly called the Oscars. Â And Bud? Â Next time the managers run out of players with the score tied in the 15th inning, I got four words for you: Â Mini Home Run Derby.
You can find more of Jeff Polman’s work at http://1924andyouarethere.blogspot.com/ where he’s conducting a fascinating replay of the 1924 season.