March 18, 2019

Is it still the Mid-Summer Classic?

July 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Baseball is the Great American Pastime. It is a game we grew up with and many of us love, especially those who are on this site. As I write this, it is the All-Star break and the game is tonight. Yet I can’t help but feel that the game I love has lost something with a new generation. Maybe it is passion, or maybe it is interest, or maybe it is just that our society has become so fast-paced that the game of baseball is seen as slow and boring. But something is missing when the game’s best players are gathering for a game filled with great pitching and great hitting and the story is barely covered in my local newspaper and sports report on TV.
Soccer or Football depending on what part of the world you are from has done a better job marketing the world cup than baseball has done with the mid-Summer classic. Granted almost every country plays soccer and not every country plays baseball, but shouldn’t there be a bit more buzz about this game if the sport is going to continue to thrive in America? We’ve already lost it as an Olympic sport and if we are not careful, we will soon find our sport on the “B List” with hockey and track!
Why has the All-Star game lost the luster that I remember so vividly from my youth? I’m no expert, but I can’t help but think of a few reasons that have made this game less that it used to be for baseball fans across our nation. The All-Star game once was the showcase for players from both leagues and teams you never or rarely got to see. Now with the nightly updates from ESPN and MLBTV, fans of the game get to see the best plays, the best pitching performances, and the best blasts each night regardless of where we live. Almost every team has a local or regional TV deal, so fans can watch the games and catch more teams than in years past when the Saturday game of the week was the only live baseball game broadcast on TV.
I know that many will respond to my next thought and that is that Inter-league play is hurting the All-Star game. We have seen the best of the NL face the best of the AL and not too long ago. We haven’t seen all the match-ups but we’ve seen enough so that we have our own ideas about which league has the better pitching or hitting. Once upon a time the only time you could see an AL slugger face a NL hurler was the All-Star game or the World Series, so you couldn’t wait to see what would happen each July. Now those match ups are too frequently just another top play or segment on Baseball tonight. I’m not making an argument that Inter-league play is bad or good for the game as a whole, that would be for another day and someone much smarter than me to take on as an article. But, I can’t help but feel that some of the magic is lost when we are so familiar with the players on the other side of the roster.
I also believe that something that is good for the players is also bad for this game. Free Agency has made the players richer over the years and more in control of their own ability to make a living. However, the way that most players trade teams and even leagues makes this game less appealing for a similar reason as Inter-league play. We don’t really have players that we love because they have been a part of our favorite team for years or that we hate because they are a rival player. We know that in a few years, our team may have the chance to sign that player or that the player we love will leave us for a higher bidder when his contract expires. So we are not as personally connected when that player makes the All-Star roster as fans were prior to the Free Agent Era. It was a matter of pride if your team had the most All-Stars on it and it didn’t necessarily come from the big market teams or the teams that spent the most money as it seems to be now.
The final reason I will mention, I’m sure many of you will have others to add, is that the players themselves don’t seem to relish this honor like it once was. Players find reasons not to go, not to play, or don’t really want to put in the effort like the players of old seemed to do. I can’t imagine any of the players tonight running over a catcher to score a run like Pete Rose did. They wouldn’t want to get hurt and ruin their teams chances of finishing wherever they are going to finish because that doesn’t just apply to teams in the hunt for the playoffs. Pitchers who pitched on Sunday will be recognized but not participate, although many of them would be throwing some today if this were a regular week. One inning shouldn’t hurt a Major League Pitcher regardless of their rest day, should it? Guys find injuries that don’t keep them out of the lineup on a day-to-day basis that they can’t play through even though they have been voted into the lineup for the All-Star game. Certainly that doesn’t ring true for every player, but it seems that more and more are taking this route each year.
Major League Baseball has it’s work cut out for itself to make this game relevant again. All the hype and the gimmicks in the world won’t make casual fans tune into to watch this game, not when the highlights will be available in edited versions on other networks immediately after the first pitch. I’m certainly not smart enough to figure it out or I wouldn’t be writing this but would be on the staff of MLB, but I know that I for one want to see the game return to its rightful status as the gem of the summer. After all, there’s not much else happening in the world of sports today, so the game should have center stage without much trouble. Let’s hope we have an epic game tonight that will renew the interest in the American Pastime for a new generation to embrace.

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