Well, I suppose it's time for an All Star Game post, isn't it. Problem is, I was all set to go, and then I saw that the great Christina Kahrl beat me to it. I'll try anyway, but she's tough competition. Here's a taste:
It's easy to write off the All-Star Game as MLB's variation on another triple-named oxymoron: the Holy Roman Empire. If, as Voltaire once quipped, the old Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire, the problem with the All-Star Game is that it might not fulfill any one of its three elements. Because of the selection process, the rosters aren't comprised solely of “stars,” let alone “all” of them, and as to whether or not it's a real “game” in which baseball gets played, we get hung up on whether or not it's an exhibition and a promotional tool, or a game played to a serious purpose by two teams, with victory as its objective.Read, as they say, the whole thing. At any rate, the All Star Game didn't used to be this way. As a fan, I'd like an actual game filled with Stars. If I got my way...
The team would be chosen based on a variety of criteria, severely downgrading the current "best three months of the season" standard. Actually, fans are not too bad about that; it's more a problem with bench players than with the starters. So I'd like everyone who fits the general "best in the league right now" description (even if they've had a rough first half of the season). Then, fill out the roster with a few of the good-first-half types, some faded all-time greats, and don't forget to include last year's best players.
And, the starters would actually play the game. I'd like to see the starting players (obviously, pitcher excepted) go a minimum of six innings unless there are unusual circumstances, and I want to see the biggest stars go the full nine. Yes, that means that a lot of players won't get in the game. Tough luck!
By the way, none of this is radical; it's just asking for a return to the way the game used to be. Christina mentions the 1989 game in her piece. That year, Ozzie Smith and Ruben Sierra p played the whole game. Each AL starter had at least three times at the plate, as did most of the NL players. Only one spot (other than the pitchers; it was a DH game) had more than two players -- the NL used three catchers. So that means (again, outside of pitchers) the AL used 17 players. the NL 18. Oh, of the guys who played, there's no one who stands out as an oddball All Star. No Omar Infantes. Go back even farther, and the starters stayed in even more. In the first 9 inning game with revived fan voting -- that's the 1971 game in Detroit, with Reggie Jackson's famous home run -- Bench, Yaz, Brooks Robinson, and Aparicio played the whole game It's hard to compare total number of players because there's no DH, but for what it's worth the NL used 18 players, the AL 16, not counting pitchers. Now, compare that to the most recent comparable game (9 innings, DH) in 2005. No one played the whole game. The NL used 19 players, the AL 20 -- and among these "stars" were Shea Hillebrand, Scott Podsednik, and Morgan Ensberg. (To be fair, the 1971 game had quite a few mediocre players, but they were mostly NL middle infielders -- Felix Milan, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Bud Harrelson. No idea where Joe Morgan was, and I'm not sure who else in the NL should have been there. SS may have just been a weak position).
I'll try one other way of thinking about it. The seven All Star Game MVPs since the tie game are Crawford, Drew, Ichiro!, Michael Young, Tejada, Soriano, and Garret Anderson. Ichiro is going to Cooperstown. I suspect Crawford is, as well. The rest? I don't think so. They started giving the award in 1962, the last year of two games, which everyone agrees didn't work. The next seven MVPs: Mays, Johnny Callison, Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Perez, Mays, and McCovey. In fact, the next three years after that was Yaz, Frank Robinson, and Joe Morgan. By my count, in ten years, you have one dud, one extreme fringe HOFer (that's Tony Perez), and, well, the third-worst guy is Brooks Robinson, a solid HOFer.
By the way, I'd retain the rule of having at least one player from each team. Yes, I know, it means that there are a few marginal All Stars, but they don't actually have to play, and I very much remember being a kid and being thrilled to watch Chris Speier or whoever getting introduced along with Bench, and Reggie, and Seaver.
I'm also pretty much resigned to the pitching situation; we are, for better or worse, past the point that starting pitchers can work three innings off-rotation. I'd still like to see as many starting pitchers as possible, but I doubt there's much that can be done on that one...about the best I can hope for is that they'll take more career stars and fewer guys who put together twenty good innings over three months.
So: choose stars, and let the starters play.
Oh, and please get rid of Chris Berman on the Home Run Derby. I suspect it might be watchable without him.