July 16, 2012
Out of Left Field
Not Fixing the All-Star Game
Every year around this time, we get deluged with people arguing that 1) The All-Star Game has all sorts of problems and needs to be fixed and, hoo boy, I happen to have the prescription to fix everything right here, or 2) The All-Star Game is awful/past its prime/straight up smelly and should be junked.
I’m not here to argue any of that. Instead I’m here to say this: It’s time to stop trying to fix the All-Star Game. Not because a better All-Star Game isn’t desirable, but because it isn’t achievable.
The All-Star Game is, and has always been, an exhibition. Exhibitions are excuses to show off (in a good way) (usually) and, going back to 1933, that’s exactly what the All-Star Game has been. It still is, and there is nothing particularly wrong with that.
By adding home-field advantage in the World Series as a prize, baseball is trying to bring back a time when winning the All-Star Game mattered. Back when players were paid the same amount as a retail clerk, the checks they received as participants made a difference to their financial well-being, and the winning team making more than the losing team was the incentive that led to players actively trying to win. And, as we probably all agree, when winning matters, the quality and intensity of play rises, and that makes the event fun and exciting to watch.
Things are different now. Players make enough that the checks they receive from winning the All-Star Game don’t matter. There is no incentive for a player to bust his butt beyond what he might do in a spring training game, and that shows on the field.
Seeing that, Bud Selig reared his head and came up with the idea that the winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. First, it’s just strange. What does one have to do with the other? But, for the purposes of this article, the more pertinent issue is that the prize is so utterly disconnected from the players that it doesn’t change their behavior. This topic has been beat to death, and I’m not helping, so I won’t continue in this vein except to say that the tactic hasn’t worked. The players still treat it like the exhibition it is instead of the seventh game of the World Series, like Selig and the owners would prefer.