The all-star game is just not what it used to be. The midsummer classic once was a mighty battle between the National and American Leagues. Images such as Pete Rose barreling over catcher Ray Fosse at home plate in the 1970 all-star game was an iconic image, and a prime example of the appeal of the all-star game back in those days. I can still remember Moises Alou driving home tony Gwynn Sr. with the winning run in the tenth inning of the 1994 all-star game. Gwynn slid in just ahead of the throw and pumped his fist in celebration as the National League had won yet another midsummer classic.
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Or how about former Dodger great Mike Piazza slugging a mammoth home run in his home city of Philadelphia to earn the all-star game MVP honors? Randy Johnson throwing behind John Kruk in the 1993 game was another moment that would stick out in my mind. Or what about Cal Ripken Jr. delivering a spectacular performance in the 1991 game? These were the images that I grew up with when I watched the all-star game. I marveled at those moments. The all-star game was once competitive and exciting back when it really didn’t mean anything to win it. Bragging rights for both leagues was what mattered. The all-star game has lost its luster.
We found out today that Clayton Kershaw will be going to the all-star game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Not because he was voted in by the fans or selected by the manager and coaching staff. He was selected only because starter Max Scherzer is inactive because he is pitching today for Washington. Scherzer can’t pitch because any starter that has pitched the day or two before the all-star game is unable to do so. Certainly Kershaw has pitched well enough to earn his spot on the all-star squad. However he finished third in the final vote, a last chance for players to be voted into the game by fans.
I was actually a little sad for Kersh that he was selected at the last minute. Not because I felt he was snubbed, or it was some kind of an insult to Kershaw’s talent. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the Dodgers properly represented in the all-star game as well. I just felt bad for Kershaw because I am sure he would rather be spending the week off with his wife and baby girl then sitting in the dugout next to Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal in a meaningless game. Kershaw deserves a little vacation to spend with his family.
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That’s just the point, the all-star game is meaningless. There is no competitiveness, no fire in the midsummer classic anymore. What it really has become is a hyped up awards show. Kind of like the Oscars, or the Grammy awards. The game itself has taken a backseat to social media campaigns and annoying advertisements.
Most people can blame things on the flawed roster selection process. I don’t know if I agree with that. I agree that not every deserving player gets a spot. However that’s part of what makes the all-star game fun. There’s going to be snubs. The debate is good for the game. Not every player can make the rosters, despite the rosters getting larger and larger every year. One of these days we’ll see a 100 man all-star roster for each league.
I strongly believe that the fans right to choose the starters is more important than making sure deserving players make the team. It’s an imperfect system sure, but the all-star game is for the fans. The fans pay the player’s salaries. The fans pay for the concessions, the fans pay create the buzz of the game. Yes you could argue that the all-stars should only be chosen based on advanced metrics like FIP, or wOBA. That’s boring though. Keeping the process fun for the fans is just as important as well.
A few years ago MLB decided to try and inject some meaning into the game by determining that the winner of the all-star game decide home field advantage in the World Series. I’ve never supported that change. It was a desperate move to try and make the all-star game meaningful again. It hasn’t really worked well. I think everyone can agree that best record should determine World Series Home field.
There’s no competitiveness anymore in the all-star game. Players just don’t care. When the players stop caring, the fans stop caring. Then you see what happens, which is Clayton Kershaw finishing third in a fan vote. Oscar got it half right Nobody cares about the all-star game anymore.
I think that they’ve gotten away from what the all-star game was really about. It used to be about the best hitters trying to hit the best pitchers on a national stage. It’s an exhibition game for the fans. It was a showcase of the top players in the game competing for their respective league. It’s just as important to have the deserving players there, as it is to have the stars that everyone wants to see. It was just as important to have a balance of young stars and familiar veterans.
Joc Pederson will be starting because Matt Holliday is hurt. The Dodgers will have five players represented in the all-star game. The game may end up being boring but the Dodgers should factor prominently throughout the game.
It’s time for MLB to get back to the basics of the all-star game. Competitiveness, showcasing the most exciting players for the fans, and less commercialism. The all-star game has lost its luster. However the ingredients are all there to regain its appeal.