It used to be that there was a day of inactivity after the All-Star break. We complained and we moaned, but we understood that a day, one day, is tolerable. Now there are two days, which is great if you're an All-Star traveling to your next road trip but more silence than most of us are into. We, as a staff, discussed some possibilities to distract us on the Wednesday after the All-Star game.
1. Play the Futures Game.
Why/How: It was late afternoon this year, but some years, it overlaps with up to 14 different games, which means that an audience of 420,000ish fans who presumably watch baseball (because they're at a baseball game) can't watch. Also, it's competing against those teams' television audiences, which is very dumb. Making it the Sunday night game would be okay, but I like moving it to one of the blank nights so it can get the evening to itself. Bonus benefit: The marquee players would be able to remain with their minor-league teams for the weekend games, which in a lot of cities are the only games people attend.
Jason Wojciechowski: How about every night that isn't the All-Star Game itself (and maybe that night, too) has a Futures Game? Make it a series and we can see the starting pitchers for longer and see the players play more like a real game.
Mike Gianella: This is a good idea. I’d actually like to see the game on Monday evening, but if the HR Derby is too “important,” MLB should use Sunday night for The Futures Game.
Sam Miller: I’m basically in favor of the Sunday night idea, except then we’d still have nothing to do on Wednesday, which is the problem we’re trying to solve! I prefer the Wednesday option because I like the idea of turning the post-ASG dead stretch into a prospects showcase. Could put the Futures Game on Wednesday, and do even more than that; a skills competition between minor leaguers, for instance, would be infinitely more interesting to me than one between major leaguers. A second “futures” game on Thursday that features all draft picks from that year is something I’d definitely tune in to, even more than a regular futures game.
Bret Sayre: A second game could be called "The Hazing" and put the winner of the Futures Game against the best players from the new draft class.
2. The Amateur Draft.
Why/How: How cool would it be to have one of the 30 All-Star reps from each team announce the picks? How many kids would love the honor of being introduced by Jeter this year? It would also put the draft center stage on a day where there was literally no sports competition. Yes, teams want to get the players into the systems sooner than this would allow, but couldn't the calendar shift to accommodate the schedule change?
Zachary Levine: You’d have the benefit of not drafting players during the college season, but this would kill short-season ball as we know it. They need the players to come in June, and I actually think the 76-game season they run (not having to sell tickets during the school year) is great. Would take it away from the NBA Finals, though.
3. Doing Stuff.
Why/How: Baseball Players Doin' Stuff. Take a bunch of current and recently retired players who are still in good shape and televise them during the normal baseball hours doin' stuff. Some guys will play pickup basketball, some will smoke drugs (these types of Stuff will be for the retirees), some will play Stratego, some will romp with/like puppies (these types of Stuff will be for the current players). As with a normal baseball day, many of the Stuff will happen in parallel, so you can choose which Stuff you want to watch on MLB.tv, your friends will tweet about more compelling Stuff than you're watching, you can get alerts that a player who was on your fantasy team four years ago is now Doin' Stuff on a different channel, and Stuff happening down the street from you will be blacked out until 90 minutes after the Stuff is over.
MG: I suspect it would quickly turn into yet another dopey reality show.
SM: I assume this suggestion is meant as a joke, but 16 cameras on 16 players who agree to be filmed and be relatively candid for a day–especially without the pernicious influence of editing–would be pretty fun. I'd watch. I'd flip. I'd react on Twitter. It'd be especially fun, or especially intolerable, if the 16 were competing for the most viewers; they would have no idea what the other 15 players were doing, but they know they have to be interesting to keep people on their "channel." I absolutely can't believe I'm talking myself into this idea.
4. Rookie vs. Sophomores Game (like the NBA does)
Why/How: For instance, this year the Rookie team would look something like: TDA, Singleton, Wong, Odor, Alcantara, Boegarts, Owings, Castellanos, Springer, Hamilton, Polanco, Betts, Taveras, Ventura, Gausman, etc. And the Sophomores: Zunino, Adams, Gennett, Rendon, Machado, Arenado, Yelich, Ozuna, Marte, K Davis, Calhoun, Gray, Teheran, Wacha, Martinez, Archer, Wheeler.
BS: This could be an excellent idea, but I have a slightly different take on it. Make it a US vs World type situation with any player 25 or under with MLB experience not in the ASG eligible to participate. At least one participant per team, 25-man rosters. Rosters would be selected by the Baseball Prospectus staff because why not.
ZL: My idea on Effectively Wild was have rookies be eligible for the Futures Game just for a little more name recognition in the game, though I like this one too.
SM: Problem is that MLB has decided players need two days to recuperate from exhibition game action. This would involve major-leaguers. Therefore, two days of rest/travel needed, and we're back where we started.
5. A skills competition, like the NHL does.
Why/How: Test outfield arms, baserunning speed, throwing accuracy, hitting accuracy, etc.
JW: I'm for this as long as the winner is awarded a tiny gold statue of Ichiro as penance for not instituting the skills competition while said Ichiro still had the physical talent to win it.
BS: Love this idea. I wrote last year about having a single event between two superstars encompassing all of these things but any iteration of this in general would be supremely fun to watch.
Craig Goldstein: Love the idea of a skills challenge. I think it combines fun and competition in a way that is perfectly suited to what my ideal all-star event would be.
SM: This is a skills competition. It tests players' ability to bunt. It lasts just 26 minutes, about an eighth as long as MLB would draw out a skills competition. If even one of you can make it to the end, I will endorse this terrible, no-fun idea that everybody should be ashamed of supporting.
6. World Baseball Classic
Why/How: Dump the All-Star Game as we know it (AL vs. NL). Start the "break" on a Thursday instead of a Monday (strictly for TV purposes) and extend it to a week. It's time for a better (annual!) World Baseball Classic. Eight teams, single elimination (win-or-go-home) format. Have a host site on the East Coast and one on the West Coast that can rotate around each year. MLB teams play real games until Wednesday, and then Thursday is an off/travel day. On Friday, the two sites each host the four first-round games as day-night doubleheaders. You can use the discrepancy in time zones to stagger the games for national TV (i.e., the game at Fenway starts at 1:00 pm local time, and the game at Dodger Stadium starts at 1:00 pm local time, but 4:00 on the East Coast). That Friday would become the most called-in-sick day of the year in the United States. On Saturday, at the same sites, the four winners play semi-finals against each other. On Sunday, they travel to a third site for the championship game to be held on Monday night. Tuesday and Wednesday are… still dead days, and the games resume on Thursday or Friday.
SM: Well, besides being aggressively beyond the scope of this prompt, there's one seemingly unsolveable problem with any mid-year WBC idea: you have to make Japan and Korea pause their seasons at the same time, and they have to all travel to the United States (which, as we know from the Dodgers/Diamondbacks’ complaints, takes a week to recover from) and back, effectively interrupting their season for two or three weeks just to play one or two games. That’s a high cost for participation, and I assume we’d want them to participate, because a Korean World Baseball Classic team with only American-employed players wouldn’t be very competitive.
7. Reverse Derby
Why/How: Fastest pitch thrown by position players (as in link) and also home run derby for pitchers. Someone locate Carlos Marmol.
SM: If this were on at the same time as the World Series, I would actually choose to watch this. Well, I’d certainly watch the fastest pitch thrown by position players. I’d watch almost anything that involved Andrelton Simmons on a mound; I’d watch Andrelton Simmons strangling a puppy if he did it on a mound. The pitchers’ HR Derby has the potential to be a big flop; home run derbies, as we’ve seen very recently, are boring when home runs aren’t being hit, and I’m not sure that pitchers would be reliable enough to be exciting. Might need to do something, like juice the balls or give them aluminum—wait, yup, that’s the answer. Pitchers’ home run derby but with aluminum bats. This is a real contender.
JW: In the video, there's a mascot sitting on his butt not too far from home plate. He's not really doing anything, but sometimes he lifts his mascot head up a ways so he can watch the position player throw 90 mph with his real eyes instead of his dead bear eyes. As long as this is part of the competition, it should happen. There isn't enough of mascots breaking kayfabe in American baseball.
8. Trade Deadline.
Why/How: Move it up two weeks. Have the deadline itself be Thursday at midnight Eastern. Turn the All-Star break into a mini mid-season GMs conference. All the reporters are already there. Nothing happening to distract them, two days after the All-Star game to absolutely obsess over rumors and transactions.
JW: If GM attendance is mandatory. You know how Billy Beane only shows up for like the middle day and a half of the winter meetings because he thinks the whole thing is nonsense? Don't let him do that. Required attendance for 48 hours in a big conference room by all 30 GMs. No lieutenants, no war rooms / suites, no sleep. Ideally no outside communication, either. Just lock them in and see what happens when you open the door two days later. Like Vic Mackey did.
SM: Re: above idea, lock them in and film it; release the film five years later as documentary footage. Not sure why I'm so eager to turn everything into reality television.
CG: Added benefit here is a lot of players would change teams at or directly prior to the All-Star break, resulting in more Jeff Samardzija 2014 conundrums.
ZL: This would be fun. You don’t even need the meeting, but the deadline when there weren’t games going on and a fresh start with new teams after the break would be enjoyable.
9. All-Star Game for National Pro Fastpitch.
Why/How: It seems unlikely that getting more time out of the MLB stars would be easy to make happen, so share the spotlight with the women.
SM: A noble idea that, unfortunately, is probably doomed by the market.
Thanks to (in order) Zachary Levine, Dan Brooks, Jason Wojciechowski, Jeffrey Quinton, Dan Rozenson, Russell Carleton, reader Chris Geissler, Sam Miller, and Rob McQuown for suggesting the ideas.
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1. Catch up on great games you missed from the first half. Missed Lincecum's no-hitter? Tanaka's debut? The games in Australia? Now's your chance.
2. Candid Camera-style show, narrated by Vin Scully (obviously). Live.
3. What if the WBC only featured national teams from the Western Hemisphere, and then the winners played the Old World champions in November? Alternate idea: Hawaii! Meet them halfway.
4. I'd suggest NPB action but guess what: their All-Star break starts Thursday. bis.npb.or.jp/eng/2014/calendar/index_07.html
"In 1989, Larkin seemed destined for a tremendous season. At the All-Star break, he was third in the National League in batting with a .340 average. Larkin was also named to the All-Star team. However, during an exhibition skills competition, he tore the medial collateral ligament in his elbow. His brilliant season was finished."
The bigger issues is not the day after the ASB, its that we have to wait until Friday for the season to get re-started. It used to be Thursday. Get back to that, and I'm good.
I do like the idea of Futures game on Wednesday, or bring in the Double-A and Triple-A all-star games play them at the MLB site. One today and one tomorrow, or do a double-header.
Ok, carry on.
Let's get the snowball rolling.
So this is my just-thought-of suggestion: send the players up there, and have all the skills comp stuff set upâ€”the bunting half-bullseyes, the trash can to hit/throw balls into, cardboard Bryce Harper cutout for Cole Hamels to hit in the head, an Android that dances down third and looks vaguely Carlos Gomezian while Brian McCann tries to impede his path to home, several umpires consulting with replay cameras to see who's fastestâ€” but so anyway the audience doesn't know what skill the batter is attempting. Or maybe not even the batter knows: he or she just has to guess (in this alternate world maybe women play baseball.) Maybe the batter gets a different skill assignment every time up? Maybe it's a team game. Or maybe it's like Cranium, where sometimes David Ortiz gets stuck trying to throw Paul Konerko out at 2B because sometimes through randomness the Gods are incredibly kind.
Normally I prefer to see the major sports concentrate on what they do best rather than chase the others, but I think there is room for a Skills competition in Baseball, if it's done right. The NHL does it right, and the NBA, by sticking to the Dunk competition, and sometimes a shooting competition, works too.
So, my All-Star Base Ball Skills Competition:
--First, 6 or so events, aiming for 2-2.5 hours, maybe 3 if ESPN throws enough money at us.
--No more than 3 players per league per event.
--Each league picks an all-arounder who will participate in every event (and probably count as one of the three). Say, Trout vs. Cutch.
--Events include bunting (like in the video); outfield throws to the plate, with and without relay, for distance and accuracy; double-play pivot; 1 or 2 pitcher accuracy events; Base running; Spray hitting at targets around the field; that sort of thing...
--Final event is just for the two all-arounders: a mini HR derby. Neutral pitcher (maybe a machine!), guys alternate jumping in the box for each pitch like they sometimes do at the end of BP. 10 pitches for each, but if you HR on the 10th, you get to keep going until you miss (or the other guy does and you already have the lead)