Monday, July 11, 2011

All-Star Game: Exhibition or Competition?

When it comes to controversial arguments, I'm pretty decisive. It doesn't matter if it's abortion, religion, illegal immigration or whether Kevin Costner's "For Love of the Game" is a sports movie or chick flick (more on that in the future), I have my stance and I'm not budging. There is one thing that has me on both sides of the fence and it deals with the MLB's All-Star Game and since we're at the break now, I think it's time for me to pick a side.

As most of you probably know, the winner of the ASG gets home-field advantage in the World Series. This was the result of the 2002 ASG that ended in a tie after 11 innings because both teams ran out of pitchers and they just stopped playing. So the following year, they ditched the former tradition of home-field alternating each year and went with the winner gets it. I was on board from the beginning. I thought it really went from making the game purely an exhibition to being a legitimate sporting competition. It made it more like a real game and teams did what they could to try and win because they might reap the benefit of their labor if they make it to the World Series. Also, to try and make sure that teams didn't run out of players, they expanded the rosters to 34 each and have limited re-entry for Catchers and one position guy so running out of players is highly unlikely now.

One of the best baseball games I've ever seen in my life was the 2008 ASG classic at old Yankee Stadium which went on for 15 innings and almost five hours with the AL taking the W. Plays at the plate, clutch strike-outs, big hits. That game had it all, including Dan Uggla with the worst performance in MLB history (only player to ever commit three errors, strike out three times and ground into a DP in the same game).

Lately though, my opinion is starting to change. Home-field advantage is a big thing and now it's being decided by many players that won't have a real chance of being in the World Series. Most of the best players that are voted in by the fans will go out there, get their one, maybe two, at-bats and then hit the showers. That leaves us with are the "lesser" All-Stars in the game at the end during nut-cutting time. What would people think if Aaron Crow was facing Starlin Castro in extra innings with the bases loaded and a tie game? Those are two guys whose teams aren't going anywhere, yet in their hands they hold the World Series hopes of the good teams that will make the post-season. Just doesn't seem right.

One of the other major things now is that it bothers me how many players are skipping the ASG now. The Yankees have a real shot of being the World Series, yet they have three eligible players that aren't going to play. A-Roid just elected to have knee surgery, so he's off the hook. But Mo Rivera isn't on the DL and he said he's not playing. Same for Derek Jeter, who although was healhy enough to go 5 for 5and get his 3000th hit Saturday, is too hurt to play a few innings Tuesday. Gimme a break. There's also the rule that if you're a starting pitcher and you start on Sunday, you're ineligible to pitch in the ASG. That's going to prevent the AL from using one of the most dominant guys in the league, Justin Verlander. With all the replacements for players that are declining to play or are actually injured, we now have 84 so-called "All-Stars" instead of the 68 which they should. There are guys making the ASG that some of the fans watching might not even have heard of before. Do we really want them affecting what goes on in October?

So anyways, I have decided that the novelty of home-field advantage in the World Series has worn off and probably the fans have, too. Last year's ASG was the lowest rated one ever. Take home-field out of the equation and make it an exhibition again. Here are some possible solutions for the home-field advantage quandry:

1) Go back to alternating it every year like it was before 2003. That worked for a hundred years and would probably work for a hundred more. The NL would get it this year if that were the case.

2) Give it to the league that has the best overall record in Interleague play. The issue here is that you're once again basing home-field and how teams that don't make the play-offs do. Imagine the Phillies losing out on in because the Cubs dropped two-of-three in KC. I don't see this one happening but it might be kind of cool to try it out and see what happens.

3) I saved the best (and most common sensical) for last. Give it to the World Series TEAM with the best record during the regular season. That would be the ultimate incentive to keep trying to win even after a play-off spot is locked up in September.

So anyways, there's my little rant on the ASG. I'll watch it as I always do. I'll tune in to watch Castro have a routine grounder and launch the throw into the 5th row and I'll tune in so that I can watch Crow not get in the game. Now it's time for me to start my own little All-Star break.

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