If the title didn’t jump out at you, the MLB All-Star game is very flawed. Traditionally, it’s supposed to honor the best players from both leagues, and provide an alternate atmosphere besides the World Series where the best in the American League face off against the best from the National League.
However, what was intended has changed over the years. There are many flawed aspects to the game, from the fan voting system to the down viewership and lazy, lackluster play from the players. Some flaws have been repaired, like the god-awful decision to have the game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Had that been in play sooner, the Cubs would’ve won their first Fall Classic in 108 years at their hallowed ballpark, Wrigley Field.
Fortunately for Major League Baseball, some of these egregious flaws can be corrected. While these changes would be big, they would benefit the game and re-energize the All-Star Week.
Home Run Derby
Does this directly pertain to the All-Star Game? Not exactly. But, the Derby is a very big piece of the All-Star Week as a whole. As of right now, the current system is pretty good, but it could definitely be improved. For starters, the current seeding system could either remain, or change altogether.
In the current format, players are seeded based off of the amount of home runs they have hit in the season. They then go head-to-head to determine who advances to the next round. This provides a ton of entertainment, but has its flaws. For example, say Cody Bellinger and Giancarlo Stanton face off against each other, and Bellinger wins by a home run. If Bellinger hits 20, and Stanton mashes 19, then Stanton is sent home packing. But, in the other round, if Kris Bryant only hits 7 home runs, and Nolan Arenado hits 8, it’s a little unfair for Stanton to hit 11 more home runs than Arenado but not be in play. The only way to repair this is to go back to the old format of outs. The most home runs would advance every time. Yes, it’s more time consuming, but it’s also fair.
Another modification to the Derby would be to implement fan voting as to who should participate. No event in baseball is more laid-back and fun than the Derby, so why not let the fans have a say as to who they want in it? Generally, the guys picked with the present method are the ones that the people want, like Aaron Judge for example, but some don’t make sense. Brandon Inge, who hit 152 home runs in his career, was miraculously picked in 2009. He had 27 home runs in 2009, yet guys like Mark Teixeira, who finished with 39, were passed over. Also, this would enable fans to vote pitchers in. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want Madison Bumgarner to start taking hacks, smashing bombs, and maybe even win the Derby?
The voting process in the MLB All-Star Game is probably the most flawed of them all. On the outside, having the fans vote for who they want representing their teams and league appears all fine and good. But, as you dig a bit deeper, there are some major-league (no pun intended) problems. Take a look at the present ballot.
In the American League shortstop race, Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians made the team as a reserve. Lindor, a very popular player, has struggled this season, hitting just .248. Those numbers shouldn’t get you even considered for the All-Star game if you’re a contact-hitting shortstop.
Trailing Lindor is Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius. Didi has had an outstanding season, anchoring the Yankees’ infield and batting .310. He is only two RBI shy of Lindor, despite missing the first month of the season. Gregorius has been by far the better player, but is not in the game presently because it’s a popularity contest.
Also trailing Lindor is Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who is in the midst of an outstanding season as well. However, both Didi and Xander are in the AL Final Vote.
Let’s look at the WARs of all of the top four American League shortstops.
In first place by a wide margin (and deservedly) is Astros phenom Carlos Correa. However, Lindor finished second to Correa with a 1.55 WAR. Both Bogaerts and Gregorius were higher than Lindor, yet they got snubbed.
The intent of the All-Star Game is to showcase the best talent each league has to offer, so why not actually put that talent out there, the talent that actually produces, instead of a player in a slump that is well-liked? The way that the voting is set up completely defeats its intent. Too often, players get snubbed by former MVPs or underachievers, and it’s not right.
The way you fix this is by setting up the system so that the players vote. They’re the ones playing the game, why not let them have a little say in it? With that, you have actual ballplayers determining who plays, not some delusional Cubs fan who will vote in Addison Russell 35 times because he won a ring. Does this take away the fan vote and make it less interactive? Absolutely. But, their vote in a game that should actually mean something would matter in the Home Run Derby.
Another thing the MLB could do to enhance the fan experience with the All-Star Game is to implement fan contests pertaining to predictions. Up to two days before the game, have fans submit something similar to the NCAA or NHL Bracket Challenge. On it would be projected starting lineups, which players would hit home runs, what pitchers will be used, and final score. The winner would receive tickets and on-field passes to the World Series, and the second and third place winners could win anything from a jersey to tickets to the opportunity to meet a player of their choice. It makes it fair to the players, and fun for the fans.
The MLB All-Star game should be one of the highlights of the summer. When no other major sport has the spotlight, it’s baseball’s time to really shine. Unfortunately, with all of the troubles harming the game, it really can’t shine through. Adding a fan vote for the Home Run Derby brings more attention to one of the most underratedly fun events in sports, and subtracting it from the game itself makes for a fair environment for the players who actually deserve to be there. Adding the challenge also makes the game more interactive, and provides ordinary fans who normally wouldn’t shell out hundreds of dollars for a World Series ticket the opportunity of a lifetime in late October.
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