It happens every year. It starts in May, picks up steam toward the end of June, and reaches its pinnacle in July. Criticism of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game has become as synonymous with America’s pastime as ceremonial first pitches and peanuts & Cracker Jacks. We’ve all heard the yearly gripes…
There are flaws in the fan voting process. There are too many All-Star snubs. An exhibition game shouldn’t determine home field advantage in the World Series.
The more we hear fellow fans point out the imperfections, or read columns from baseball scribes who object to the current format, the easier it is to overlook the reasons why this format is actually good for the game.
1. Fan involvement is important.
There’s no better way to keep up fan interest than allowing fans to select the players they want to see on the field. It’s something MLB must take seriously, as a league that has seen interest from younger fans decline over the last several years. There’s a reason baseball has moved away from paper ballots in favor of online All-Star voting, and expanded voting to mobile devices. They’re trying to appeal to a younger demographic. That’s a good thing for anyone who hopes to see the game maintain its popularity in the next generation.
2. It’s more competitive because it counts.
There’s no denying the game has been more competitive since it began determining World Series home field advantage in 2003, compared to the decade earlier. Seven out of the first 10 All-Star games that counted were decided by two runs or less. There also hasn’t been a blowout of 5+ runs in the last decade, outside of the National League’s 8-0 rout in Kansas City in 2012. Compare that to the last 10 All-Star games that did not count, four of which were blowouts of five runs or more.
3. It’s the most watchable All-Star Game.
MLB’s All-Star Game is the most entertaining of the four major U.S. sports because it’s played like a regular season game. The NBA All-Star Game and NFL Pro Bowl are completely void of defense. The NHL’s 3-on-3 format is clever but not reflective of how the game is played. The core elements of baseball still exist in MLB’s All-Star Game. Pitchers are still trying to throw strikes, fielders are still trying to record outs and hitters are still trying to score runs. Ask Johnny Cueto how he feels about his All-Star Game loss this year, which could force the Giants to open the World Series on the road, and you’ll find out how much this game means particularly to players on contending teams.
The MLB All-Star Game isn’t perfect. Fan voting is good, though there’s a clear need for a more reasonable maximum number of votes per fan. Sometimes players from non-contending teams will make plays that decide the game and home field advantage. There will always be All-Star snubs (Brandon Crawford not making the team made me so upset that…I had to tweet about it).
The league will surely make adjustments in the coming years to fix some of the above. But the game doesn’t need a complete overhaul as so many people suggest. At the end of the day, a competitive All-Star Game and fan involvement is a good thing for the sport.