Dodgers: A Fantasy All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 09: Los Angeles Dodgers players who will be attending the MLB All-Star game hold their jerseys before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Dodger Stadium on July 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. L-R: Kenley Jansen
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 09: Los Angeles Dodgers players who will be attending the MLB All-Star game hold their jerseys before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Dodger Stadium on July 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. L-R: Kenley Jansen /

The Dodgers will host the 2020 All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium for the first time in 40 years.  A lot has changed since then and there should be more changes to the All-Star game.

There was no internet to speak of 40 years ago, at least not as we know it today.  There were no “out-of-town” packages so you could watch your favorite team play even though they weren’t your home team.  (That would have been great for us New York-based Dodger fans!)  There was no streaming video.  If you wanted updates, you pretty much had to tune in to CNN Headline Sports at 19 and 49 after the hour.

Real-time access to scores and stats was virtually unthinkable.  But we live in a different world today.  A world where almost every baseball fan is a GM for his rotisserie league team.  Perhaps it’s time to update the All-Star Game and make it a little more interesting for today’s fans.

There’s no tie-ing in baseball

Over the years there have been many stories written about how the All-Star Game was boring.  And while there have certainly been some great games over the years, there’s certainly more than a hint of legitimacy to those stories.  After a disastrous 2002 ASG which ended in a tie (Seriously, a tie?  In baseball?  Are you kidding me?), Bud Selig got the “brilliant” idea to make the ASG more exciting by giving the winning league home-field advantage in the World Series.  “This time it counts” was the pithy slogan.   That fiasco thankfully ended in 2017 when the game was once again “meaningless”.  But meaningless does not have to be boring.

The talking heads on the MLB network floated the idea of playing Old vs Young rather than NL vs AL.  They also jokingly tossed out Red vs Blue States or Impeach vs Non-Impeach.  But those are all just as arbitrary as NL vs AL.  If you really wanted to make the game more interesting for fans, why don’t you structure the game in a way more fans can probably relate to… a Fantasy Draft.

Give the Player Pool to the Fans

The fans would still get to vote, but now their vote means more.  Instead of limiting the fan vote to just the starting 8, the fan vote would determine the entire pool of available players.  For each league, they would vote for 3 players for each of the 8 regular positions and the DH, and then 5 starting pitchers and 3 relief pitchers.

I would even consider adding 1 “Utility” player (who would have to play at least 20 games at 2 positions or 15 games in 3 positions) per league.  You could also require all ballots to have all selections made for each position.  That should help to cut down on “homerism” since people would be forced to select out-of-town players as well as their home-town favorites.  I suppose they can still skew the outfield, but at least it would be better than it currently is when a City tries to stuff the ballot box with all locals.

The potential down-side would be that not every team may end up represented under this structure.  But I suppose you could always say that the top 2 vote-getters on each team that isn’t represented would be added to the pool and each manager would pick one (with the implicit understanding that those players would likely be the last players to see any time in the game, perhaps in extra innings?).

Roster Selection to the Managers

Once the top 3 vote-getters at each position (5 and 3 for starters and relievers, respectively) are selected, ALL players go into a general draft pool.  The managers of the 2 World Series teams from the prior year (with their coaching staff) will then have a good old-fashioned “Fantasy Draft” just like millions of baseball fans do every year.  It would be fascinating to see how each manager constructed his team.

Do they take the undisputed best player in the game, Mike Trout with the first pick or do they go for the most dominant starter in the game at the moment?  If there is a big drop off at a position from number 1 to number 2 (think Mariano Rivera vs any other reliever for example) do they draft that player earlier?  What positions do managers think are more important to lock down first?  Imagine if Alex Cora had selected Mike Trout first and Dave Roberts then chose Mookie Betts?

How many times have you heard a baseball pundit say “If you were going to start a team from scratch, the first player you’d want to build around would be…”  This would give the fans a chance to see how that would really happen.  It would give a fascinating insight as to how big-league managers view roster construction.

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Given MLB’s love for self-promotion, there would be hours of coverage with the pundits making the case for who to pick.  And of course, the draft would be aired in real time, stretched for a few hours, no doubt.  People could even have draft parties and draft their own All-Star Team in real-time.

Side-by-Side and Head-to-Head

As for the action on the field, that should be great.  The benefit of seeing the best players in each league playing alongside each other is even better now that the best players in both leagues get to play as teammates.  And as an added bonus, players who would never face each other could to head-to-head.  Imagine seeing Clayton Kershaw pitching to Cody Bellinger?  Or Steve Carlton pitching to Mike Schmidt?  Whitey Ford to Mickey Mantle?  Awesome.

Restructuring the All-Star Game into a Fantasy Draft Game would be a double win for fans.  They now get the benefit of having sole selection in determining the players who will appear at the ASG and the fun of getting to see how their roster construction would compare to a professional’s.

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They essentially get to go head-to-head against the World Series managers in a real game of fantasy baseball.  And that could make a meaningless game a lot more interesting, especially at a time when MLB is trying to entice younger fans back to the game.  Hell, it’s gotta be better than creating a ridiculous rule that a pitcher has to face at least 3 batters in order to “speed up” the game!