I have a proposal that I believe could breath new life into the all star game and address some of the issues with all star team selection and participation at the same time. I have made this proposal before, but the discussion over this year's Diamondbacks All Star representative prompted me to bring it up again. So what is this grand proposal ?
I believe the All Star Game should become a PRE SEASON EVENT. Specifically, I feel the game should be played either 5 or 10 days prior to the start of the regular season. Having brought this up before in other forums, I am familiar with some of the pros and cons that might be brought up in discussion. While I hope this post will generate some fresh back and forth perspective, after the jump I lay out what I believe will answer some of the concerns with this proposal.
Player selection: This is the area that will receive the biggest improvement. While rewarding a player for a breakout half season is understandable in many cases, most often those "breakout players" are being rewarded for one breakout month, either followed by or sandwiched in between two average months. Having the benefit of an entire season of play will help fans and coaches make more educated picks, thus increasing the chances truly deserving players get in the game. You'll still have your perennial fan favorites from big market clubs getting selected, even if they had a slightly down year. However you will see fewer one month wonders. And players that come on strong in the second half and finish the year with All Star Caliber numbers will be snubbed far less often.
Player Participation: Currently we see a lot of players beg out of the all star game at the last minute. In the case of pitchers, it's usually because of rotation slot and rest days between starts. Nobody wants to lose a regular season start, or risk injury to a top pitcher. However if the game is held towards the end of spring training, it's much easier for teams to allow a starter who was selected to pitch in the game. The days between starts are more manageable at that point, and also the shorter outing required for an All Star Game Appearance makes it easier to work in as well. For position players, while Spring Injuries and aches and pains do occur, players are not exhausted yet, and are far less likely to bail out of an all star game over a minor ache or fatigue. So overall, the top players will participate at a higher rate.
Keeping Baseball in the news and building excitement for the Season: Right now, by the time the All Star Break rolls around each year, each team has usually played about 90 games. The "buzz' for baseball isn't quite as high as it is when fans have been anxiously waiting for the season to start.
The way this would work is online voting would start after the awards are handed out in November. Teams could also mail All Star Ballots to all their season ticket holders......as another way to nudge them towards renewal. ;). Giving the fans something to DO, to INTERACT WITH, will keep people more engaged with MLB during the off season. While NFL and later March Madness will not be usurped from their prime positions during those months, it will keep MLB in fans consciousness. It's just damn good advertising. Voting updates could be featured on sports programming. Then, once spring training starts, more fans could vote at the ST ballparks. Voting would be cut off around March 10th-15th, and rosters finalized a few days later.
I believe this would help baseball jump start excitement and interest in the game, and lead to higher ratings and attendance at the start of the season.
"Tradition ! : You can't change the "Mid Summer Classic" to a Spring event, can you ?" Hey Tevye.....get with the program. MLB has been screwing with "Tradition" ever since the start. Rule changes, league changes, length of season, expansion, playoff formats, the DH, etc etc...things NEVER stay the same in MLB. Heck, from 1959-1962 MLB even tried playing TWO all star games during the season.
"Players need the break in the middle of the season" : I agree. How about letting ALL players have a 3 day break in the middle of the season ? Right now you have 70 players plus a bunch of coaches and umpires that don't get a real break as they have to travel to the All Star City, participate in many events, for some, participate in the HR derby, and then of course the game. It's not much of a rest for a lot of the best players in the game that are the most important players to their teams.
The Weather is not conducive to playing games in Late March in the North: This is the biggest issue that I see. It's true. Nobody is going to go to Detroit , Boston, or New York in late March to watch an All Star Game in an outdoor stadium. If this proposal were adopted, the games would need to rotate in southern cities and cities with a roofed stadium. That means that MLB would not be able to give the ASG to every major league city, or use it as a carrot to get teams to build new stadiums. But this seams to work for the NFL super bowl, and it could work for MLB too.
This is the biggest obstacle, and I'm not sure how to overcome it. Anyone have a good ideas ?