Skip to content

For all its flaws, MLB’s All-Star Game is best of its kind

Jul 13, 2011, 2:12 AM EDT

g-spt-110712-nl-happy-1050p.standard[1]

PHOENIX – Say what you will about MLB’s All-Star Game.

Call it ridiculous that the winner of an exhibition game clinches home-field advantage for its league representative in the World Series. Say that the bloated rosters — made even larger by the handful of players who beg out of the game – make a mockery of the contest.

There is certainly some truth behind those criticisms. But for all of its flaws — and the All-Star Game is flawed — it’s still the best of its kind.

Tuesday night’s game, won 5-1 by the National League on the strength of MVP Prince Fielder’s 3-run homer, had its share of silly moments you are unlikely to see in your average, run-of-the mill baseball game. Heath Bell’s Earth-shaking slide into the mound in the eighth inning certainly helped everyone remember that when all is said and done, this is still at its heart an exhibition game, a showcase for the fans.

But there was also an intensity you don’t see in other games of its kind. Not in the NBA – and to some extent, the NHL – where players treat defense as if playing it will cost them their shoe contracts. And definitely not in the NFL’s Pro Bowl, where competitors can barely gather the interest to take a three-point stance for a field goal attempt.

Instead, we witnessed Toronto Blue Jays star Jose Bautista sliding feet-first into the wall to rob Brian McCann of extra bases. We saw majestic homers by Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez. We got a first-hand look at the electric stuff of rookie Michael Pineda and the steady brilliance of Roy Halladay. We saw the strong outfield arm of Hunter Pence, gunning down Bautista at the plate, and the lightning-quick first step of Starlin Castro, who easily swiped a pair of bases after entering the game as a pinch-runner.

There was no dogging it on Tuesday, and aside from Bell’s playful entrance, no hot-dogging it either. This was baseball at its everyday best, only played by collection of not-so-everyday players.

“It’s absolutely a normal baseball game,” said St. Louis’ Lance Berkman. “It doesn’t have the intensity of a playoff game, but in terms the effort and in terms of the concentration (it’s a normal game). Baseball isn’t a sport that lends itself to a lack of concentration or a lack of effort. You can’t coast through a baseball game.”

MLB commissioner Bud Selig has taken a lot of heat for the rule – his brainchild – giving the winner of the All-Star Game home-field advantage in the World Series, and deservedly so. It seems ridiculous to allow a player who might not make it anywhere near the playoffs play a role in which team wins the championship.

But in a chat with writers on Tuesday, Selig made it clear that the criticism doesn’t bother him. He said MLB’s TV partners like it that way, and he claimed the players do, too.

And for the most part, he seems to be right.

Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto said that NL manager Bruce Bochy stressed how important home-field advantage is, and that it helped Bochy’s San Francisco Giants jump out to a 2-0 Series lead last fall before dispatching the Texas Rangers in five games.

“Just hearing that from his perspective really helped,” Votto said, “and I think it kept our eyes on the prize.”

Votto said that while he thinks players have always competed hard in All-Star Games, Selig’s rule will lessen the likelihood of past antics, mentioning specifically the Randy Johnson-John Kruk shenanigans in 1993.

Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee agreed.

“Regardless of who makes the World Series, someone out here is going to be impacted, so it’s important,” Lee said. “It’s not just a showcase, it’s not just a game where we’re out there messing around having a good time. It’s meaningful. We’re going to do everything we can to win.”

Berkman, however, said that it’s the nature of baseball itself, not Selig’s rule, that makes baseball’s All-Star Game the best of its kind.

“Really and truly, baseball is an individual sport played under the auspices of a team,” he said. “Whenever you have individual competition, nobody wants to get embarrassed. You’ve got guys who are throwing as hard as they can throw, we try as hard as we can to not make an out, and then the guys on defense are trying to make every play, so that leads to a good  baseball game.

“The level of play is exactly the way it is in the regular season, which I don’t think you get in the NBA All-Star Game, and certainly not in the Pro Bowl.”

So yes, Derek Jeter, as well as some of the other big-name stars, begged out of the game. The rosters are outrageously large and the lineups are watered down. The home-field advantage rule is questionable at best.

But for all its flaws, MLB’s All-Star Game is still the best of its kind, a marketing tool for the game and an exciting showcase for the fans, as it’s intended to be.

It’s hard to argue with the results on the field.

  1. pjmarn6 - Jul 13, 2011 at 3:40 AM

    And it still doesn’t mean a damn thing.

    • Old Gator - Jul 13, 2011 at 12:29 PM

      That’s part of its charm, and its endless fasin…ZZZzzzzzzz….

    • pjmarn6 - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:14 PM

      The all star game has never had an appeal for me. BUT HERE IS AN IDEA THAT HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN. A MID SEASON ONE WEEK MINI WORLD SERIES! Take the top 8 teams and have them play one game against each other. 7 games in total and they will count in the standings. So fans across the country can see the best of the best 7 days running for a full seven days. AND TO MAKE IT FAIR FOR THE “FANS” THE GAMES WILL RUN ON “FREE” NATIONAL TV. WOWSIE PAYING BACK THE FANS! INSTANTANEOUS HATRED OF BUD SELIG AND ALL AGENTS AGAINST THIS IDEA.
      ALL THE OTHER TEAMS WILL GET A 7 DAY BREAK BUT SOMEHOW THE COMPUTERS WILL BE PROGRAMMED FOR ALL THE OTHER TEAMS TO PLAY 7 MORE GAMES AFTER THE MINI WORLD SERIES. JESUS THIS MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE THAN GIVING A PITCHER WHO PITCHED 1/3 OF AN INNING A WIN FOR THE WORLD SERIES OR SEEING AN “ALL STAR” WHO HIT .231 NAMED TO THE TEAM. AND AT LEAST THE PLAYER AND THE TEAM CAN’T BOW OUT BECAUSE THE PITCHER JUST PITCHED OR THE PLAYER IS HURTING FOR A DAY OR TWO.
      WANT TO CORRECT A COUPLE OF ERRORS IN PREVIOUS COMMENT. …..MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE THAN GIVING A PITCHER WHO PITCHED 1/3 OF AN INNING A WIN FOR THE “ALL STAR GAME”……AND THIS WOULD TAKE THE PLACE OF THE “ALL STAR GAME” THE SEVEN GAMES COULD BE REDUCED FROM THE NORMAL SCHEDULE OF THE 8 TEAMS WHO PLAYED IN THE MINI WORLD SERIES. AND TO MAKE IT VERY CLEAR, THESE GAMES WOULD BE AT THE MID WAY POINT IN THE SEASON. ONE DAY OFF PRIOR TO THE MINI WORLD SERIES AND ONE DAY OFF AFTER THE MINI WORLD SERIES ONLY FOR THE TEAMS WHICH PARTICIPATE IN THE MINI WORLD SERIES. THINK ABOUT IT, FANS ACROSS THE WORLD WOULD BE ABLE TO SEE THE GREATEST PLAYERS PLAY SEVEN GAMES DURING THE SEASON. AND AT THE END OF THE YEAR, OF COURSE THE NORMAL WORLD SERIES AND THERE WOULD BE NO GUARANTEE THAT THE SAME EIGHT TEAMS WOULD BE IN THE PLAY OFFS OR WORLD SERIES. HELL WHO WANTS TO SEE A GREAT PITCHER PITCH TO ONE BATTER OR ONE GREAT BATTER HAVE ONE AT BAT?

  2. gammagammahey - Jul 13, 2011 at 4:02 AM

    I agree that it’s the best of the all-star games but part of the indelible charm of baseball is that any one game isn’t all that meaningful in the course of the 162-game season. In that sense, as an exhibition, the game more or less works. Trying to attach any sort of importance to the outcome is therefore just rubbish. I’ve yet to hear a person speak up in favor of that system.

  3. tpxdmd - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    I’m not really arguing in favor of WS homefield determined by ASG outcome. What I will say, and it seems seldom said, that the previous system was equally arbitrary. Does anyone actually remember that WS homefield was determined by whether it was an odd or even year, alternating between the leagues?

    • brucewaynewins - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:54 AM

      The better record….

    • Steve A - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:10 AM

      I completely agree, tpxdmd.

    • PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:15 AM

      What was wrong with home field advantage alternating years? It seems much fairer than by the ASG result. In fact, it seems to be much fairer than by best record.

      • Steve A - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:30 AM

        I don’t see how attaching HFA to the ASG is so horrible. The game is still an exhibition. If “This Time It Counts” gets one more person engaged in the game, then it’s done its job. Why not let some sort of contest decide HFA over a simple back and forth arrangement?

        Yes, this is all Selig’s fault in the end. Once Selig dissolved the separate league offices and combined them into one MLB office, the alternating HFA lost its purpose. And then, he had to do something after playing the fool in 2002.

        Like Bob says in the post, when you get down to it, the game is enjoyable, and that’s what’s most important.

  4. cur68 - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Agree; best of its kind and none of the players seemed to be coasting. Which had my heart just about stopping when I saw the Beavermen’s Bautista sliding feet first into the wall. He always plays like a life depended on it; swings like he’s trying to kill the Kraken, runs like the hounds of hell were after him, fields like it was his mom’s life on the line if he didn’t catch the ball. If he’d hurt himself on that catch or sliding into home I’d have been beyond upset. I’m glad the damn fool All Star Game is over. True, I enjoyed it, but ultimately I’m happy no one, Bautista especially, got hurt. Him, Romero, Lind & Morrow are about all the Jays have going for them this season and he’s a bout the only reason anyone shows up in Sky Dome to see them play. Which will be tomorrow. Against the Universe. I wonder if Minka will be there?

    • Old Gator - Jul 13, 2011 at 12:31 PM

      Welcome back beaverboy. Got that thesis put behind ye yet?

      • cur68 - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:14 PM

        Hey Gator. No, not done yet but significant hurdles were hurdled. You don’t by any chance know how to get Excel to carry out a Mann-Whitney test, eh? No one seems to know how or they have some complicated way of doing it that flat out loses me. I fear i shall have to get SPSS help. The STATS nerds all mock me when I come to them for help; it’s so demeaning.

  5. FC - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    Bochy says it’s important because last year they were able to win both home games first and start with a 2-0 lead, they won in 5 games, by taking two out of three on the road… In other words they played more road games than home games… I guess it’s psychological then, it’s easier to win on the road if you’ve won the first games at home.

    But what happens if you split? Doesn’t the pressure increase? Consider the 2003 WS. The Marlins split the first two with the Yankees at New York. The Marlins won their home series 2-1. They went back to New York and finished off the Yankees in 6. Total home/road games 3/3. Fish went 2-1 and 2-1 Home and Away.

    2004 WS. Boston, riding that wave from coming back from an 0-3 ALCS deficit took 4 straight against St.Louis, they won 2 home games and 2 road games. 4 Games Total.

    2005 WS Chicago White Sox, same story. Swept the Astros in 4 games. Two Home and Two Away.

    2006 WS St Louis won this contest in 5. The Tigers had HFA in this World Series, but split the first two and then were SWEPT in St Louis…. HFA didn’t seem to help them at all. 5 games were played… St Louis, despite not having WS HFA played more home games than road games! they went 1-1 in Detroit and 3-0 in St. Louis.

    2007 WS Another Red Sox 4 game Laugher. 2 Home, 2 Away (see 2004) The Rockies just had no chance, I think that 10 day layoff was detrimental to their Rythm, maybe you shouldn’t sweep your opponents…

    2008 WS Phillies win in 5 games. Again they didn’t have HFA. The Rays did. But they split the first two, and then Phillies swept the remaining games. 1-1 Road, 3-0 Home. they played more games at Philly than St. Petersburg!!!!

    2009 WS Yankees win in 6 games. 3 Home Games / 3 Road Games. Phillies split the first two BUT they lost 2 of 3 at Home. This was crucial for the Yankees because they went back home with a 3-2 lead. But such conditions would not be possible if they hadn’t won their road series. They played 2-1 Home and 2-1 on the Road.

    It seems the HFA hasn’t been all that useful. The Truth is it would only matter if you reached game 7. But the WS Championship Teams of the last decade won on the road. Once they accomplished that the WS was in the bag. HFA is ostensibly an advantage to a winning WS Team because they can afford to lose the road series. It’s just that that hasn’t happened.

  6. ThatGuy - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    The game itself is probably the best one, but I think the NHL has the best all-star weekend. Because the Skill Competition is the best part of that weekend, and probably the best all-star event in all of sports(granted that is not saying much)

  7. foreverchipper10 - Jul 13, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    Wasn’t the ball McCann hit that Bautista caught lsiding into the wall foul? How is that robbing him of extra bases?

    • jimbo1949 - Jul 13, 2011 at 12:44 PM

      From the Yahoo play by play
      Bottom 2nd: National
      – D. Robertson relieved J. Weaver
      – B. McCann fouled out to right
      – L. Berkman singled to center
      – M. Holliday struck out looking, L. Berkman caught stealing, catcher to second
      .
      That’s the way I remembered it

  8. mgp1219 - Jul 13, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Any all star game is a useless waste of time and money. Period.

    I love hockey, but the NHL all satr game is ludicrous. Scores like 10-9? C’mon!

    NBA alll star game is not much different than regular season b’ball. It’s all about how they look on the court; it’s the epitopme of playground ball.

    The Pro Bowl? Who actually watches that anyway?

    Finally, MLB all star game…see last night, for a prime example.

    • ThatGuy - Jul 13, 2011 at 12:47 PM

      The NHL All-Star game isn’t real hockey, but some of the moves you see can be entertaining and sick as hell. Of course the only reason these moves can be made is cause no one plays defense at all.

      • mgp1219 - Jul 13, 2011 at 1:03 PM

        So what’s the point?

      • foreverchipper10 - Jul 13, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        The NHL has the skills competition which is pretty cool I will give them props for that.

  9. 24may98 - Jul 13, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    I don’t care about the actual game. II just want more Joe Buck and Tim McCarver brilliant colloquy, incisive wit and ultra hip remarks. They are so-so cool.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Who are the favorites for Rookie of the Year?
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Soler (4141)
  2. R. Castillo (3054)
  3. Y. Molina (3017)
  4. A. Rizzo (2512)
  5. J. Ellsbury (2384)
  1. B. Posey (2353)
  2. M. Cabrera (2277)
  3. A. Dunn (2229)
  4. D. Pedroia (2205)
  5. M. Wacha (2184)