07/15/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
Remember when Major League Baseball's All Star Game meant something? Yeah I honestly don't either. But there was a time when it did matter, I swear there really was. Way back before the days of interleague play players in the American League only played against those from the National League twice during the season. Once was in the World Series. The other, was the All Star Game.
Yes, there was a time when the AL and the NL were pretty much two separate entities united under the banner of Major League Baseball. Each league used to have their own president. They each had their own umpires too. The AL used the designated hitter, while pitchers in the NL had to bat. Now I'm not saying that interleague play is what killed the All Star Game, but it was definitely a factor in getting it to it's current lame status. Modern day free agency, with so many players moving between the 2 leagues each season, has killed off the rivalry a bit too. There was a pride factor back in the glory days of the All Star Game. Players really cared about the league they played in and it showed in how they represented their respective league's on the field during the game. Players went all out and actually tried. Does anybody even remember when an all star game in any sport was more than just an exhibition? Back before home run derby's and celebrity softball games, the actual highlight of the All Star Game was the actual game itself. And yes, this was before the game meant something by todays standards. You know, the lame excuse MLB uses for trying to make the game relevant by granting the team representing the winning league in the World Series home field advantage.
Of course the excuse for the game still being relevant is that the it makes a lot of money for the host city and there are more fans voting than ever. Of course there was also a time when you punched holes in the paper ballots you received when attending an actual baseball game. Back before the internet where fans can vote a billion times, even the voting mattered. The way online voting is set up now is another problem with the selection of all star representatives, as the home city, or any city for that matter, can (and will) set up some way to load votes in favor of their favorite players, even if they aren't the most deserving candidates.
But the truth is that the All Star game has lost its relevance because nobody really does care. The 2013 Mid Summer Classic drew half of the audience the 1994 game did. The 11 million viewers who watched were a third of those who watched the game 30 years before in 1983. And viewership was down almost a third of what it was in 2008. Why? Because the game itself stinks, period. It's not a competition anymore. There is no dislike for the other league or pride in winning for the players involved. One of the hardest home plate collisions in the history of Major League Baseball was in 1970 when the NL's Pete Rose ran Ray Fosse, the AL's catcher, over at home plate to score the game winning run in extra innings. Could you imagine someone running over a catcher in today's All Star game format? Today's format features starters getting one, maybe two at bats. Pitchers tossing an inning or so. The focus today is getting everyone selected into the game. My question is why? Why not let the best players play the whole game?
How little does the All Star Game matter anymore? Just ask a current player. Before being selected to this years game, Pittsburgh Pirate Andrew McCutchen was asked if he would be watching the game if he didn't get selected. McCutchen's answer "why would I watch it if I'm not going to play in it?". Enough said.
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