With the home team hosting the All-Star Game this season, I expected to experience a Renaissance of sorts. You see, the All-Star Game and its surrounding Festivities have not really captivated me for years. Sure, I saw the Ted Williams tribute a few years ago. I watched them close old Yankee Stadium down last season.
I find myself unable to “get caught up in” the game. Yeah, now it counts, great. What has that changed? A few less players skip the game each year after being voted in by the folks who pay their salaries?
Clearly the home-field advantage in the World Series for the winning league being a stake has made somewhat of a difference, but why should a game otherwise treated as an exhibition by MLB have so much on the line? Particularly when the game, as played under current A-S protocol doesn’t resemble anything any normal manager or team would do with so much on the line?
Let’s assume that the “it counts” thing isn’t going away anytime soon. A few simple tweaks could make this game a heck of a lot more interesting.
- Reduce roster sizes to match that of all regular season MLB rosters, 25. I know in today’s format the expanded rosters are necessary, but I’m getting to that. There is no reason why these teams need so many players, other than to keep up with the “everyone’s a winner generation.” If everyone makes the roster and gets a trophy, then everyone is happy, right?
- No more taking one player per team. Sorry Pittsburgh and Washington. If you don’t have a player that is either voted in, or that the manager thinks will help the team win, tough luck. This will help to reduce the roster sizes.
- Have a starting pitcher ready to go five innings. The game, while counting for a lot, isn’t managed that way because players and pitchers must be protected. Wouldn’t you think Joe Torre would be willing to let one of his top starting pitchers go a few more innings if it meant his team could possibly have home-field advantage in the World Series? Maybe it’s too much of a long shot, but I bet he’d go for it.
- The players need to suck it up, just like bench guys on their own teams, and realize they will not play if they are not the best option. Take it as your compliment and recognition to be named to the team, but you might not play. Since the stakes have been raised, your league needs to win.
Radical? Sure. Unreasonable? I don’t think so. The outcome is very important, whether folks want to admit it or not. Strangely, it’s only at the time of the All-Star Game itself or during the World Series that National League fans are reminded how badly they’ve been beaten around by the Junior Circuit in this game. Home field advantage for the NL, for a change, would be welcome.
Ok, with that out of the way, let’s work on the Home Run Derby.
- Home runs do not carry over from round one to round two. You’re getting the same amount of swings, just reset. Or make round two fingers worth more. As the pressure increases (along with fatigue), make it more worth the hitters while to summon one last blast.
- Start calling balls and strikes. For each pitch you watch sail by that was in the zone, but not in your wheelhouse, you get to take one less pitch in that “out”. Three strikes takes away one of your ten outs.
- Perhaps don’t even use “outs” as they are in the current system. Give each player 20 pitches. Each home run hit is plus one. Each ball hit that doesn’t clear the fence in fair territory is minus one. Reduce field in the current manner and by the end, the most homers in sixty pitches wins.
- Make it into a team event, almost like a best-ball or scramble setup in golf. Three rounds for each league, so many pitches/hitters per round, and a manager or coach gets to choose who hits when. Then “MAKE IT COUNT” by awarding home field advantage for the All-Star Game itself to the winning league. After all, the host city is just happy to have the game, right? Either NL or AL could be “home” for game purposes without upsetting the grand scheme of things.
Mix and match any or all of the above to make your favorite All-Star Extravaganza.
What would you suggest to improve the Break? Would you leave it alone? Hit the comments below with your ideas.