For most of my father’s life, few television events were ever considered must-see.
He regularly worked long hours, and he had four kids, so for something to classify as a make-sure-the-calendar-is-clear event, it had to be special to him.
Few things were nearer and dearer to his heart than the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Growing up in an age without SportsCenter and MLBTV, he cherished the rare opportunity to watch the sport’s best all in one place, duking it out for league supremacy. It was the thrill of a lifetime, a bucket-list item crossed off, when his work sent him to the 2006 game in Pittsburgh.
As much as I missed watching the game with him that year, it was one of the few times I can remember being able to aptly describe him as giddy.
Needless to say, my father’s adoration of the game was passed on to me, which is why it pains me deeply to see it in the state it’s currently in.
Let’s face it: The MLB All-Star Game is a disaster.
That’s not breaking news. It has been for quite some time now.
It began in 2003, when Major League Baseball tainted the Mid-Summer Classic by “making it count,” inexplicably awarding the winner of the contest home field advantage in the World Series.
I understood the league’s instinct to make the game “mean” something. Players in today’s era have a lot to lose, putting their bodies on the line in a glorified exhibition game.
For some, it became a question of why risk it when the game has no bearing on anything but one night of television?
It used to mean more, or so my father told me, when players such as Ted Williams and Pete Rose played for the glory of the game. But in today’s dollar-driven league, those players are part of a bygone era. And that’s why the MLB did what it did 12 years ago.
Was it well-intentioned? Sure. But as we all well know, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
First, in a game that now determines which league is awarded a very real advantage on the sport’s biggest stage, fans are being counted on to aptly select the starters. With all due respect to the fans, this is a job for which we are radically under-qualified.
For most of us, Major League Baseball is not something we’re paid to play/watch/comment on. And even if you are a rabid fan, how many of us are staying up to watch those 10:05 p.m. starts on the west coast?
Probably not a lot. In an ideal world, we’d leave the job of selecting the best professionals to the professionals.
Second, if the game counts, why must each team be represented by at least one player, as per the current rules. If the game is going to decide something as critical as World Series Game 1 locale, then shouldn’t the best players, regardless of team, fill out the roster?
And finally, these teams are not managed like the coach is trying to win. If they were, Ned Yost would never take Mike Trout out of the game, but I can assure you that won’t be the case tonight.
I could go on, but I won’t. The reality is you’ve probably heard this all before.
What you haven’t heard is my cure for what’s been plaguing the game: make the stats from the game optional.
OK. Admittedly, that’s confusing, so let me explain. It’s actually pretty simple.
If, for instance, Todd Frazier goes 2-for-2 with a home run and three RBIs, then the Cincinnati Reds third baseman can choose to add those stats to his already impressive 2015 résumé.
But if he goes 0-for-2 with a couple of punchouts, then he can opt to strike those stats from his record.
This is the only way I can think of to make the current exhibition/real game hybrid monstrosity work.
With my rule implemented, the MLB can keep its flawed fan-voting system and regulations in place because the game doesn’t mean too much.
Meanwhile, players have the motivation and opportunity to bolster their numbers, and therefore the opportunity to sign bigger contracts. Fans get to keep voting while watching an all-star game be played in a way that would make Rose and Williams proud.
I know my solution isn’t perfect. Truthfully, if I were in charge, I would make wholesale changes to the game, but that doesn’t seem realistic. This does.
Unfortunately though, no one asked me, and today’s contest will serve as the latest in a series of black marks to America’s treasured pastime.
So, all you St. Louis fans with World Series aspirations better hope Jonathan Papelbon is at his best. If the closer for the worst team in baseball comes in and gives up a home run to Red Sox utility man Brock Holt, the Cards could be on the road come late October.
What a ridiculous sentence.
Jim Ayello is a sports writer for the Daily Reporter. Send comments to [email protected].