As a kid, the all star game was the game I absolutely could not miss. Before the ability to watch any team on any night, the only chance I had to watch the American League teams was to watch spring training or watch the All Star game. I didn’t have cable growing up, so I couldn’t watch the White Sox to see AL teams that way. I remember one particular summer when my mom told me that the annual physical we needed for summer camp was on the same night as the All Star game. I was incredibly disappointing as it meant that much to me.
I’m not quite sure when my feelings on the game changed. It certainly wasn’t as a result of the “It counts” concept. Somewhere along the line, my love for the game waned. As a result, I’ve had some time to consider the things that MLB could do to better promote the game and make the three days of festivities a little more enjoyable.
Showcase the Future’s Game -The most simple change would be to have no Sunday night game that week. This would accomplish two things. First, it would allow players to be done for the day that afternoon, which would then allow them to get on a plane to their family and be home in the evening as opposed to the four teams that played after 7pm EDT on Sunday that would then not get home till very early that morning. Give the guys a break and let them have a little more time with their families, including the umpires who are on a constant road trip all year long. Play the games during the day and let the guys get home.
In addition to letting the players get some extra rest, playing the Sunday games during the day, it allows Major League Baseball to showcase the Futures Game. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, it’s the opportunity to watch some of the brightest stars in the minors. It’s a chance to see the top prospects from various levels showcase their talents on the big stage. Why not feature that? Why not make that the Sunday night game of the week and do it up right? Bring in the ESPN Baseball tonight team to call the game. Have guys like Keith Law, Jim Callis, etc on the sidelines bringing analysis on these guys to give the viewer a little insight on them. If these are the guys that will continue to carry the torch for the game, seize the opportunity to showcase them without making their game compete with the end of regular season games and the start of the Sunday night game.
Change the Home Run Derby – Tonight is the Home Run derby. Growing up, I never saw it. Again, since I didn’t have cable, there was no way to watch. Sometimes I would have a friend record it for me and I’d watch a couple of days later, but without the same hype. These days the derby has seemingly worn out it’s welcome and has now become very long and somewhat boring to watch. Because it’s unlikely that some of the biggest stars will compete (i.e. A-Rod, Pujols, etc), it’s important to shake it up a little more than just a bunch of guys competing against each other. Last year we saw a captain from the NL and one from the AL select their roster and do a semi-competition between leagues. I’d like to see it be a little different and I have two formats I’d like to suggest. Either, in my opinion, would make the event more fun to watch.
Format # 1 – This is my favorite of the two because it’s a radical idea that would without a doubt get me to watch. Why not open up the competition to a host of various baseball demographics? At the beginning of the year, players who were interested in competing would be put into the pool. At the All Star break, the 6 players with the highest HR total would qualify. The four remaining spots would be filled with the top minor league slugger, a former player (imagine watching Jose Canseco try his hand one more time), a celebrity / star from another sport, and a fan. Before you throw out the fan concept, it would be as a result of a qualification process that would take place at various events across the US. There are plenty of guys who can’t play pro baseball because they can’t hit anything other than a fastball, but can rake when they get that chance. Think Doc Raker, but with legit power and not delusional make-believe power.
Format # 2 – This format would feature eight players with league representation not factored in. They would be seeded 1-8 based on the home run total for the season and then battle in a single elimination tournament. In round 1, the first seed would battle the last seed with the format being a three inning “game”. Each inning is made up of three outs. Each guy would hit in his half of the inning with the higher seeded player being the “home” team.
If neither of these formats float your boat, then my simple suggestion would be to simply place a rule on how many pitches a player is allowed to take in a row before swinging. One of the biggest reasons the derby is so boring is for the simple reason that it takes too long. Limiting the number of pitches a player can see would help that. It would make selecting your pitcher a very important task.
Add a Skills Competition – The NBA and the NHL both have adopted this concept and for both it’s fairly cool to watch. There are a lot of guys with one or two tools that don’t get noticed because they’re not stars. They have talents, but not the complete package. Showcase their abilities to the fans in various skill events. Some suggestions would be:
- Speed competition – A simple 40 yard dash to show the speedsters who is the fastest.
- Outfield are accuracy – The players can have targets from the OF that they need to hit with precision.
- Bunting skills – In most instances, I hate the bunt, but it has it’s place.
Do things to make it fun for the fans and give players a chance to show off their talents.
The Big Game – As for the All Star game itself, there actually aren’t many changes I would make. We’re long past the time when players will take the game as serious as Pete Rose did when he basically ended Ray Fosse’s career. With that in mind, what can you really do to make the game anything more than an exhibition. About the only thing is what Bud has already done. He’s made the game “count”. Regardless of what your thoughts are on that, that’s about the only thing you can do to cause the players to even remotely take the game seriously. Because of that, what can you really do. My suggestion would be to mic more players to get more of an insight into their personalities on the field. The more mics, the more quality soundbites we get.
That’s it. Those are my changes. Now it’s your turn. Will you be watching? What part of the three days is your favorite and which is your least favorite? What changes would you make? Let’s talk about it.