I'm going to be honest. I don't like the All-Star Game. Actually, that's not quite right. I'm underwhelmed by the All-Star Game.
The Midsummer Classic has all the tools to be an outstanding event, but I usually tend to walk away from the experience feeling it should have been better - And when I say "all the tools", I'm really talking about one gigantic set of characters that automatically makes the event somewhat compelling no matter what they do, and that of course is all (or at least most) of MLB's best players in the same place playing in the same game for one night. As a baseball fan, I find that to be a pretty awesome drawing card.
It's pretty hard to screw that up, but if I try to create a list of positive things about the All-Star Game beyond the umbrella of that fact, I tend to come up blank. What's particularly annoying about the way the All-Star Game is handled is how it combines two unappealing qualities.
1) The everybody gets a trophy mentality
2) The phony "it counts, but it probably won't impact your team"
Let's take them one at a time.
The All-Star Game is supposed to be exclusive, and while you still have to play really, really well to get on the team, have you seen some of these rosters? No really, have you ever stopped to look at how many people are on these rosters?
We'll take last year's roster so we can step away from some guys who might just be having a hot month or two at the right time this year. I don't want to go on a tangent with this year's roster.
With that in mind, here's what the American League had for reserve players in 2014. None of these guys were starting. These are just the players who were available to come into the game off the AL bench:
For those counting, that's 15 reserves. You could almost field two additional AL starting teams with the remaining players who didn't get the call to start in the game.
Now for the National League pitching staff:
19 pitchers. 19 pitchers to get through one game! Why? I understand you need a good handful of guys to get through certain situations and insurance for extra innings, but this is overkill.
Then you throw on top of that the extreme effort made by each manager to get certain people into the game. Sorry, but as I fan, I'd rather see Bryce Harper and Mike Trout bat four times in a star filled game than see an inferior replacement come in late, especially if the game is on the line in the eighth and ninth inning.
This brings us to the second issue I have with the All-Star Game which becomes highly annoying when combined with the first one. If the game "counts" for World Series home field advantage as Fox annually promotes in its commercials of the game, then why isn't each manager using the best player at his disposal for the duration of the contest?
This is just so, so stupid to me and makes the entire game come across as a farce. Does the game count or not?
If it does, then the best position players should be in the game from start to finish unless otherwise called on late in a nail-biter to pinch run or for defensive replacement. If it doesn't count and each manger tries to get as many position players into the game as possible, which is exactly what's going to happen this year as it does every year, then the All-Star Game shouldn't be determining home field advantage in the World Series. You can't have it both ways.
Unfortunately, when the game is marketed and manged the way it is every July, the entire production comes off as a series of half measures, which doesn't promote the sport in a good light.
At this point, I just want a new formula to replace the current stagnation that's gotten very, very tiresome. I'm not quite sure what the perfect solution is here (although I would find a USA vs. the World matchup like they have in the Futures game interesting), but I do know that the current format of AL vs. NL and "it counts" but we're not going to manage it like it counts has run its course.
I'll still watch tomorrow night because I love baseball and I love seeing all the stars together in one place, but I'll also probably walk away from the experience once again thinking that it could be so, so much better. Perhaps even more frustrating though, I'll also walk away knowing that MLB probably won't do a damn thing about it.