ALL-STAR REVISIONS NEEDED
It seemed to me that for some reason, I was far more invested in this years major league baseball all-star game than I usually am. I followed the vote counts, voted myself a few times, and watched the selection show. I voted for Justin Morneau to be the "extra player" on the NL squad too. It didn't matter to me as much in the AL.
When Monday came, I was in front of my "boob tube", watching the rain-delayed home-run derby. When Tuesday came, I was two feet from a TV in Jeremiahs, with a couple of fellow fantasy baseball owners in my leagues, watching the game and talking about it.
I feel I am pretty "up on things" and have been for a number of decades, when it comes to all-star baseball games. That being said, I have noticed a few things about both the home run derby and the game itself, and wanted to pass along my thoughts for the first time.
Now, as for the home run derby, in general, I liked the changes. The old derby seemed to get boring. With ten outs, it seemed to go on and on, like an endless insurance seminar. Sure, it led to some impressive displays once a player got on a roll--15-25 homeruns were not out of the question--but all too often, the highs weren't worth the lows.
Dropping it to seven outs instead of ten seemed to speed up the rounds a bit, although it seemed much tougher for any of the participants to get on a roll.
I liked the "head to head" matchups by league, and the fact that the top two homer guys in the first round got a bye to the finals, although that was the main reason BOTH of the players who got those byes didn't win. Giancarlo Stanton lost to Todd Frazier in the NL final round by the ignominious total of 1-0, while Jose Bautista had the most homers in the first round of anyone, and waited over two hours before he could hit again. He lost lost in the AL finals to Yoenis Cespedes, who then routed Frazier to win the whole thing. Anyone who was watching knew that would happen, and could have predicted correctly that Frazier had no chance whatsoever against the heating up defending champ.
I've heard some say that it wasn't fair that Cespedes hit every 20-30 minutes, while Bautista had to wait over two hours, and while one (Bautista) was cold, the other (Cespedes) was warmed up and hot. Problem is, I don't see any way to make it fairer. Ask Bautista if he would rather hit in the 2nd round or have a bye and he is going to take a bye every single time. Theoretically, it still should give him a better chance to win than having to win another round in the derby to get to the finals. As it was, it was a "Cespedes for the rest of us", and I was very excited that one of my fantasy baseball players won the derby for the 2nd year in a row.
I think on a warmer, more humid night in a different city than Minnesota, the derby will be much better as it was last night than it has been in the years before that.
I cannot say the same about the all-star game itself.
It was not a terrible reflection of the game itself, which was better than most, and quite entertaining, with the AL winning 5-3. What is ridiculous are the same issues the game has faced for the last 10-20 years.
--Other than the home team, MLB should abolish the ridiculous "every team must be represented in the all-star game" rule. That would allow more "deserving" players to actually get in and make it easier for the selecting manager.
--Instead of taking away players, they are ADDING players! This is utterly ridiculous! They have 34 players per team now, which is about 10 to 15 too many. The players who are voted in should play at least three innings each, maybe more. The second line players who are truly having the best years should play the rest of the games. There could be maybe three of the eight position players who could have three players play that position during the game. Each league should need no more than ten pitchers (one per inning in a regular game plus one for extra innings). The Starting pitcher should go at least three innings, unless they are getting totally ripped.
--There needs to be some kind of standardization of how many starting pitchers and how many relief pitchers can be elected to each team. It is ridiculous that one league could choose 8 or 9 relief pitchers and 4 or 5 starters, while the other league chooses 9 starters and 4 relief pitchers. In a single game elimination like the all-star game, a team with 9 relief pitchers who are used to pitching one inning max, and all throw 100 mph smoke would have a serious advantage over a team that has 9 starters who are used to going 6 or 7 innings and pacing themselves. Starting next season, baseball needs to say, "In next season's all-star game, each league must select ____ starting pitchers and _____ relief pitchers. It doesn't matter what the numbers are, it just needs to be uniform.
Adding it all up, if you have eight players voted in as starters who play at least three innings, plus another eight, who five of the eight play the rest of the game, while three others play...that equals 19 (8+8+3). Then, you add in the ten pitchers, and the way I see it, each roster should be limited to no more than 29, and that is a liberal number.
To get rid of another three, you could say that the starters play at least five innings, and then each position player is allowed ONE backup, who will play the remainder of the game. That equals 26 players per team. Actually, that seems to be about right to me.
Another thing baseball did better this year (and I believe this was the first year for it but I am just going by memory)--they started the pre-game introductions at 7:30 instead of 8. That allowed hundreds of thousands of young fans to see the end of the game for the first time in their lives.
Baseball doesn't know a lot, but at least they are doing some things right. They are doing some things better too. Now if only they listen to me and read this column, they would be well on their way to making the all-star game what it used to be--a true summer classic.