Overhauling the Midsummer Classic
By: Ryan Smith
Most sports fans would agree that, when it comes to all-star games and the festivities associated with them, Major League Baseball puts the other professional sports leagues to shame.
But that’s not saying much.
When you break it down, the other leagues aren’t doing a whole lot to overtake MLB in this category.
The NFL’s Pro Bowl is a joke. If it’s before the Super Bowl, you are missing the best players from the league’s two best teams. If it’s after the Super Bowl, no one cares because, well, it’s after the Super Bowl. Hell, they almost cancelled the damn game in the last few months!
The NBA used to have an impressive All-Star Weekend. Used to. I remember when the Slam Dunk Contest had the league’s best players competing year-in and year-out. These guys wanted to win. Back before Vince Carter was a salary-cap albatross, he absolutely tore the place down. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan also found the time to compete – and win – this once-wonderful competition. Now, the contest is filled with a bunch of bench players who can jump but can’t actually play a lick of basketball. And, believe it or not, the All-Star Game itself features less defense than a typical regular season NBA game.
The NHL’s All-Star Game is…well, to be honest, I can’t stand hockey. When they went on strike, I realized I didn’t miss the NHL. Maybe the NHL has an amazing All-Star Weekend. Who cares? It’s hockey.
That brings us to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. As I said before, this is the best All-Star Game in professional sports. But it could be better.
With that being said, here are a few suggestions that, in my opinion, would make MLB’s Midsummer Classic even better:
1) Make the Futures Game a bigger part of the festivities.
This little four-day break from the grind of the regular season is supposed to be an exhibition – a time to celebrate the season thus far and a chance to showcase the best of the best…and Pablo Sandoval. Well, if it’s an exhibition and a showcase, then why not shine a little more light on this game, which selects the best players from all minor league levels? First of all, this game draws the short straw by being broadcast on the Sunday before the ASG, when there are still major league games being played. If you were lucky enough to tune in to the dominating performance by Team USA on Sunday night, you were able to see some of the pitchers and hitters that will soon become household names. I know this will never replace the Homerun Derby as the biggest event before the game itself, but it is by far the best display of actual baseball talent before the game.
2) Fix the Homerun Derby.First of all, no captains. That’s just stupid. Especially when one of the captains has been on the DL for a good chunk of the season and cannot even participate in the ASG itself. Instead, why not just take the top four homerun hitters from each league’s roster? Taking the guys who have hit the most homeruns in that given year seems to make sense, right? Right. So let’s move on. Next, the winner should be the guy who hits the most homeruns over the course of the entire contest. A few years ago, Justin Morneau “won” the Derby, but no one remembers that. Everyone remembers Josh Hamilton hitting 28 homers in the first round. Maybe Hamilton tired himself out with that first round. Should he have stopped at 15 and saved something for the final round? No! The Homerun Derby is supposed to be entertaining, so let’s do whatever we can to keep it that way. Finally, why not add a little twist to the Derby? College baseball’s homerun derby features a bonus ball (similar to the last ball in each rack of the NBA’s Three-Point Shootout), so why not add that? Or maybe they could have special “zones” that are worth two homeruns? When Sammy Sosa was wowing the crowd at Miller Park in 2002 with his shots off of Bernie’s slide or when Prince was knocking them into the fountain in K.C., why not give them a bonus? I’m sure I could think of more changes for the Derby, but I’ll move on for now.
3) Change the roster selection process.
I think this year’s roster fiasco proved that fans just don’t know what they’re doing. Sometimes, the managers struggle with this, too. I know the fan vote will never be taken away, but it should be. Derek Jeter wouldn’t have been good enough to start in the Futures Game, let alone the ASG. And don’t even get me started on Kung Fu Sandoval. Anyway, since the fan vote has no chance of changing, let’s look at the other elements of the roster selection process. Personally, I think the players might do the best job in selecting the most-deserving participants for the ASG. So why do they need to vote by the end of May? When the players selected Lance Lynn as an all-star this year, he was still pitching really well. In that pesky month after the players voted, the wheels fell off for Lynn, yet he still made it ahead of Zack Greinke. So let’s push back the deadline for the players to vote so their selections accurately reflect as much of the season as possible. Also, instead of just having the manager of each All-Star Team select players, why not have all of the managers in each league vote? It just makes sense to include as many voices as possible in this process.
4) Bring in some fun announcers.I’m stealing this one from Manny Parra (@MannyParra26), who tweeted that the ASG should have All-Star announcers. I completely agree. Now, I must admit that I may be a bit biased for two reasons. One: I hate Joe Buck. Always have. Always will. Two: If we’re talking about All-Star announcers, don’t you think our very own Bob Uecker would be in the running? As Parra tweeted, “Anyone else think that the All-Star game should be announced by Uecker, and Skully? Would make sense…All-Star Announcers.” Bob Uecker and Vin Scully announcing the ASG together? Sign me up, please.
5) The Managers should be from this season’s best team in each league.
If the game is supposed to matter, then why do we have the managers from last year’s World Series? This makes absolutely no sense to me. And this year, it has gone to new levels with the retired Tony LaRussa taking the reigns for the NL. (Ed. Note: I know the National League won 8-0, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous that a retired guy is managing in a game that is supposed to matter.) Why in the world is a guy who is no longer managing having an impact on home-field advantage for the World Series? This doesn’t seem like a tough change, so make it happen, Bud.
6) Quit having the game determine home-field advantage for the World Series.
This is the biggest change that needs to be made. There is no way that a game being played in July should have a direct impact on the World Series. Remember, this rule was put into place because the 2002 ASG ended in a tie. Because we couldn’t live in a world where the ASG ended in a tie, Bud Selig decided that he would take this exhibition game and have it play a pivotal role in the freaking World Series! In that very game that ended in a tie, I remember Torii Hunter making a leaping catch at the wall to rob Barry Bonds of a homerun. For the most part, the players were always trying, so why change it? Seriously, this needs to stop. Let’s just let this exhibition game remain an exhibition.
These are only a few changes that I think would help the overall All-Star experience for Major League Baseball. As is, the MLB All-Star Game is the best of the best in professional sports. But that doesn’t mean that they should stand pat.
With a few simple changes, Major League Baseball could make the Midsummer Classic a true classic.