This is typically one of the quietest weeks in all of sports. The bulk of NBA free agency is done, the NFL is still a few weeks away, and the hockey offseason has one interesting day before shutting down for a few months.
Baseball’s All-Star week feels empty for big sports fans like myself who don’t want to go too long without something to watch. For someone like me who would rather watch an old game than get Netflix or go see a movie, this week can be downright boring.
The sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be. This should be baseball’s showcase week, the time when it makes us stop talking about any other sport and get us excited about the next couple of months when it has a stranglehold on the sports landscape.
The first problem with this week is the backwards scheduling. The first half ends Sunday, and the Home Run Derby is Monday. There’s very little time to get people excited for the week’s events. Monday should be a rest/travel day, with the typical media obligations with the players hyping up the rest of the week’s events. Tuesday should be the Home Run Derby, once we’ve had a day to talk about it, with the game itself Wednesday. This schedule allows for the lineups, matchups and snubs to be fully discussed as opposed to the cursory discussion it gets which sometimes gets lost behind the games themselves. This weekend, for example, I was much more plugged into the Red Sox-Yankees series than I was the All-Star rosters.
This new setup lets the players ease into the game, giving them the break they wanted which caused the All-Star break to be extended to four days in the first place while allowing more time for the fans to get involved. This would leaveThursday as the only truly down day, but by then we’re just 24 hours from the start of the second half.
The biggest fixes which could make this week better are to the All-Star Game itself. The first problem comes in picking the teams. It has become too confusing. The fans pick the starters, the players get a vote, and the managers and league get to pick some players of their own. The process should be simpler and more transparent, so fans can know exactly who snubbed who.
Secondly, technology has made the voting process a joke. The people of Kansas City, apparently with nothing else to do, tried to rig the voting so the entire American League starting lineup was comprised of Royals. They failed, thankfully, once others got wind of it and voted in bulk for better players, but the saga showed flaws in the system. I’d suggest a combination of new and old. We’ll never go back to the days where you had to pop the bubble of your player in the cards you got at the park and then put them back into the box, but I don’t want it to become a matter of who can work their computer the best. So I propose putting a code of some sort on the ballot you get at the park which you can use for a website vote. This requires fans to go to games to vote, as it used to be, without having to poke holes in the cards. It also prevents someone from voting dozens of times and skewing the vote, helping ensure the best players are picked and not the Royals.
Finally, we have to decide what we want the All-Star Game to be. I used to argue this intensely with a friend of mine who believes the All-Star Game should be a reward for the guys having the best years. I want it to be the All-STAR Game. This is baseball’s showcase, and should be reserved for the players we want to see. Interleague play and cable have made seeing stars feel less special, but rarely seen matchups can still draw fans. Which means we need the stars who can make those matchups happen. J.D. Martinez, for example, is a terrific player who has 25 homers. How many people, however, would have had to look him up to know that? Who would you rather see, Martinez or Alex Rodrgiuez? A-Rod is a special case for a lot of reasons, but he’s the kind of star which makes this game special. He needs to be there. David Ortiz is having a bad year. I don’t care, him versus Kershaw is an event. J.D. Martinez is a good player, not a star, and the biggest names need to be on the field.
This is especially true of the pitching staffs. In a way I’m glad some lesser-known relievers are getting their due, but I’d rather see more big-name starters and closers in there against the biggest-name hitters. As an aside, getting the game itself pushed back to Wednesday would allow for more pitchers to actually appear in the game. As it is now, we won’t see Max Scherzer and might not see Chris Sale. Push the game back, and make the pitchers all big-name starters except for a couple of star closers. No one pays to see set up men. This also applies to the starting pitchers. Dallas Keuchel is a good pitcher who has numbers worthy of starting the game. He shouldn’t. Chris Sale, David Price, Felix Hernandez, these are the names you want facing the best of the best, not a lesser-known pitcher having a good year.
The easiest way to lessen the number of big names left off the rosters is to get rid of the rule which says every team has to have an All-Star. The Red Sox stink this year, and they shouldn’t have Brock Holt on the team just because his teammates are having bad years. Pick the stars or leave the Red Sox out all together, don’t feel obligated to send a utility infielder to the All-Star Game.
If all these changes were made, the All-Star Game would be worth talking about and we’d have plenty of time to do so. As it is, the vent is rushed and poorly executed, making what could be a great week become the worst week in a sports fan’s year.