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Let’s Make the All Star Game Better

Featured — By Scott Ham on July 6, 2010 8:20 am

A buddy of mine texted me yesterday. He’s a Tampa Bay Rays fan (yes they actually exist outside of Florida) and the All-Star rosters were already setting him off.

His text:

If Rivera is an All-Star, then Soriano deserves to be one too.

Probably. There’s lots of guys that deserve to be All-Stars and Rafael Soriano is one of them. I’m not sure ARod deserves to be one, but whatever. Girardi has his own internal politics to deal with and I’m sure ARod will be happier for ten more minutes for having received the recognition.

The greater question I had for my Rays friend was why a man who is in his late thirties cares about such things? I remember looking forward to the All-Star game when I was a kid. I wanted to see guys from my team get into a contest with the greatest players in the game and do well.

A single? Fantastic.

A double? Oh boy!

A home run? This ten year old ain’t sleeping tonight!

That’s the thing, though. I was ten. Pre-teen. Didn’t even have a learner’s permit to drive a car, never mind the ability to put the world in some logical perspective.

There is barely an election in politics these days that doesn’t come with some kind of controversy, shocking considering we’ve been electing people biannually for the last two hundred and thirty years. Do you really expect Major League Baseball to get something as convoluted at the All-Star Game one hundred percent correct?

Doubtful. Becoming an All Star is a notch below receiving a Gold Glove, an award that is supposed to award the greatest defenders in the game but more often than not picks the perceived All Star at each position.

Sure, it seems useful to look back over a player’s career and see they made the All Star game ten times. They must have been the best player at their position for those ten years. Amazing.

We all know that’s not true, though. See ARod and Derek Jeter this year. See Cal Ripken Jr. the last few years of his career. Being an All Star isn’t a judge of anything except who made the All Star game that year.

Unless you’re ten years old and still believe in the power of the higher authority, what value does the All Star game have? Is deciding the home field advantage for the World Series enough to make people actually care?

Maybe, although the good people of Kansas City probably don’t use that as motivation. The All Star game should be what it is: an exhibition game where people can just enjoy baseball for what it is.

Instead of trying to make the game more meaningful, maybe baseball should use the All Star game to make the game more fun. Take away the home field advantage nonsense and loosen things up a bit.

One of the better moments of recent All Star games was when Randy Johnson intentionally threw behind a nervous John Kruk. Why? Because the players showed personality, a trait we rarely see in the game unless it’s wrapped in fist pump show boating that rubs some people the wrong way.

Bring the the players personality into the game. Mount a microphone at home plate and the mound. Let the players talk to each other, taunt a bit. Let the pitcher warn the batter that the heat is coming and build some anticipation. Take the seriousness out of the game and let the fans get a look at the people who play the game.

And one side benefit to taking the seriousness out? The game will go quicker because batters won’t step out and pitchers won’t march around the mound for five minutes before delivering.

The All Star game could also be a place for MLB to try out some things like instant replay. They could road test some ideas, whether they be rules to speed up the game or new tech like instant replay to put them in practice and see how these things work. It’s only one game but it will certainly receive some media scrutiny and may make some extra people want to watch.

Will any of this make the All Star game better? Maybe. Maybe not. But it would make it more watchable and probably more fun which makes perfect sense for an exhibition game.

Tags: Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter, John Kruk, Rafael Soriano, Randy Johnson

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