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July 9, 2014

Skewed Left

What the CBA Says About the All-Star Game

by Zachary Levine

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We’re six days from the All-Star Game, an event that despite Major League Baseball’s best marketing efforts, you might think is kind of meaningless. We’re five days away from the Home Run Derby, an event that even when put next to the All-Star Game takes on the air of a sideshow, and rarely in a good way.

That is, until you’ve taken a look at MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, which focuses far more than anybody should on the break from actual baseball.

When we first took an educational field trip through the leagues’ guiding document, it was to point out all the teams that had their own little exceptions to the rules by which everybody else was governed. With the All-Star Game approaching and holding a significant place in the body and attachments of the CBA, part two of this occasional series will focus on what the CBA can answer for us about the All-Star Game.

There are plenty of things it tells you that you definitely weren’t wondering. Like what kind of cool stuff do the All-Stars get? This was actually collectively bargained. From Article VII Section E:

  • Six complimentary tickets to the game and the Home Run Derby
  • First-class air transportation for himself and two guests
  • First-class hotel accommodations for himself and two guests (up to two rooms, if necessary) for a maximum of three days
  • Three days of meal money at regular rates
  • $1,000 cash
  • Merchandise made available by Major League Baseball’s business partners
  • A gift from the player’s league
  • A gift/memento for the players in their fifth, 10th, or 15th appearance

Like the rest of the CBA, the sections pertaining to the All-Star Game are an amusing mix of the very specific and the incredibly vague. That’s the theme even as the document answers some of our actual questions (or what might be our actual questions by the end of the event.)

Q: Who replaces the next players to go down?
This was debated some on Twitter the other day when Koji Uehara’s name was being floated by American League manager John Farrell as a potential replacement for Masahiro Tanaka, who will be ineligible as a Sunday starter. Since Tanaka was voted in by the players, why would it be Farrell’s call? Article XV (Miscellaneous), Section O. (All-Star Game), Subsection 4 (Election and Selection Process), Sub-subsection? f explains why.

In the event a player who is a player selection does not participate in the All-Star Game… the priority of substitution shall be the player balloting, except that the manager will make the selection if: (i) the top five starting pitchers in the player balloting, the top three relief pitchers in the player balloting or the top three position players at the position in the player balloting, whichever is applicable, already have been named to the team, are unable to participate in the game or, if a Sunday Pitcher is next in the balloting, he elects not to play in the All-Star Game; or (ii) the Office of the Commissioner and the Player Association accept the recommendation of the manager to deviate from the player balloting. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the substitution rules, in no event shall a player be named as a replacement in the All-Star Game if, at the time he would be selected as a replacement, he is unable to play in the All-Star Game (or, in the case of a Sunday Pitcher, if he elects not to play in the All-Star Game).

In the event that a player who is a fan or manager selection is unable to play in the All-Star Game, the manager shall select the replacement, but the starter at that position shall be a player selection.

First of all, periods are your friends. Second of all, this explains why Tanaka’s replacement would be up to Farrell. The first five pitchers on the AL ballot were all named to the team.

So the manager is free to do whatever he wants, including name his own closer, who probably should have been there in the first place anyway.

Q: Can we be sure there won’t be another tie?
The “this time it counts” era of All-Star “competition” was invited in by the tie game in 2002, when MLB scrapped the proceedings after 11 innings when both teams ran out of pitchers. Now the rosters have expanded, up to 34 with no unavailable Sunday starting pitchers, and the prize is home field in the World Series.

But how strong are the guards against tie games? According to how the CBA mandates that things run, they’re going to be covered up to 15 innings. Also from Article XV, Section O:

On the day before the All-Star Game, each manager must meet with the Commissioner or his designee to explain his plan for reserve pitching should the game extend into extra innings. The plan should contemplate up to six (6) extra innings and should designate a starting pitcher who is eligible for extra-innings work. On the day before the All-Star Game, the Office of the Commissioner shall provide the Players Association with a written description of each manager’s plan. In managing the All-Star Game, the manager shall adhere to the extra innings plan presented to the Commissioner or his designee.

I wish I’d known about this when we still had Jim Leyland to kick around, because this space would have been reserved every week for an appeal to get this meeting on television, especially if the cameras could guarantee Bud himself and not a “designee.”

So what does 15 innings give us?

In the last 10 years, one out of every 527 games has gone beyond 15 innings. Since All-Star Game scoring isn’t really out of line with regular-season baseball scoring, it’s fairly safe to say that 526 out of 527 times, we’ll be okay with the 13 pitchers on each side and the stated plan.

Q: How do they pick the Home Run Derby guys?
And should Robinson Cano have picked Billy Butler when the game was in Kansas City in 2012 and Cano was famously booed for the omission?

Actually, maybe he should have. MLB did hash out qualifications for the Home Run Derby, and the Players Association agreed to it in an attachment to the CBA. They’re pretty loose qualifications, but there are factors for the captains to take into account when picking the teams.

The Office of the Commissioner and the Players Association will conduct a joint call with each captain to discuss the factors that the captain should consider when selecting his teammates, including current season home run leaders; prior success in the Home Run Derby; the location of the game; whether the player has been, or is likely to be, selected as an All-Star; the player’s home run totals in prior seasons; recent milestone achievements by the player; and the player’s popularity. A captain may not select more than one player from his current Club.

The pick of Brian Dozier for the American League team certainly misses out on the Home Run Derby legacy part and the previous seasons’ home run totals part (career high of 18) and probably the popularity part (if considered separately from the home market). But it checks the home stadium box and saves Jose Bautista his own fierce Midwestern booing.

Q: What’s with those weird interviews you’re going to see on the broadcasts?
We’ve legislated this too. Take it away, XV,O,8:

The Office of the Commissioner shall arrange, as part of the presentation of each year’s Home Run Derby, at least one minute or longer for a Player interview during the actual broadcast of the Derby, the focus of which interview shall be on (Players) Trust activities. The Player interviewed will also be offered the opportunity to continue the discussion during a brief period of the competition. Players Association personnel will be available for consultation with the broadcaster prior to the interview.

The Office of the Commissioner shall arrange, as part of the presentation of the All-Star Game, a meaningful promotion of the Players Trust during the national broadcast of the All-Star Game through the broadcast of a promotional highlight of Players Trust activities. Players Association personnel will be available for consultation with the broadcaster prior to the promotion.

So in case this stuff ever feels scripted…

Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Zachary's other articles. You can contact Zachary by clicking here

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