Baseball All-Star Game Needs Competition, Not Commotion (Special from the IBWAA)
By Dan Schlossberg (Special from the IBWAA)
July 18, 2022
This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in July 2022.
Before it descended into commercial chaos, the All-Star Game used to be a big deal — a true competition between players and leagues who met only in the Midsummer Classic and World Series.
But inter-league play and an unquenchable thirst for dollars destroyed all that, with fans entrusted to vote for starting lineups and watch a home run competition that can’t hold a candle to the old one-on-one Home Run Derby, a black-and-white, interview-laced series ironically filmed at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.
The 92nd All-Star Game is back in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers get to host for the first time in 46 years, but is accompanied by a Futures Game, celebrity softball game, red-carpet show, All-Star car caravan, and Play Ball, a centralized way of selling merchandised overpriced because it contains the All-Star logo.
If baseball truly cares about its fans, it would schedule the All-Star Game for a Sunday afternoon when its newest fans — ticket buyers of the future — can see the entire thing from start to finish. The current night game starts too late, lasts too long, and ends after most of the potential viewing audience is counting sheep.
The bigwigs in network television should realize that two-thirds of the U.S. population lives east of the Mississippi River. That means a game that runs long after 11 p.m. EDT is a game that loses its audience in increments in various time zones.
Things like inter-league play also killed interest in the All-Star Game. The leagues used to take pride in winning the game but that was before MLB merged the umpiring staffs, added inter-league games in 1997, and turned a once-competitive game into the equivalent of a spring training exhibition.
The situation will worsen next season when there will be even more inter-league games under a new schedule that is completely balanced, with every team playing every other team. Divisional and league alignments won’t matter much and that’s just wrong — bad for baseball and bad for baseball history.
On the plus side, the All-Star Game gives fans a chance to see the game’s best players in action at the same time. Getting rid of the rule that mandates representation by each of the 30 clubs would help, of course.
Unless he becomes an injury replacement, former MVP Freddie Freeman — now in his first season with the Dodgers — won’t represent his team on its home turf. But fellow first baseman C.J. Cron will because the last-place Colorado Rockies need to stake a claim to the game.
Also absent are former strikeout champion Zack Wheeler [Phillies] and fellow pitcher Kyle Wright [Braves], at last look the leading winner in the National League.
Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, a former All-Star who didn’t make the team this year, has been out-performed this year by AL All-Star Andres Gimenez, the key man moved by the Mets to the Indians in the Lindor trade.
Sensational Seattle rookie Julio Rodriguez, a no-brainer All-Star, should be fun to watch after reaching 15 homers and 20 steals in 81 games, faster than any previous player in the history of baseball.
And ex-Dodger Corey Seager, now with the Texas Rangers, will be replacing George Springer on the roster, making him the only All-Star among the 16 players who signed nine-figure contracts during the off-season.
Covid-19 killed the 2020 All-Star Game, along with most of the season that summer, and curtailed some of the best festivities, including the lavish media brunches where writers, baseball heroes, and even uniformed mascots mingled over bagels and coffee before their daily schedules started in earnest.
I’m glad I got to go to a few before they disappeared into the dustbin of history.
I’m also glad I got to try Dodger dogs the last time I went to Chavez Ravine; not only has the ballpark concessionaire ordered peanut vendor Roger Owen to stop tossing bags to buyers but they’re now dealing with a possible All-Star Game strike.
As we said during the 99-day lockout, the only strikes in baseball should be between the white lines.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch and author of co-author of 40 baseball books. He’s been making the rounds of libraries, civic clubs, and anywhere else that wants a baseball historian to speak.