If we are to believe Major League Baseball, the 2012 All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City is one of the feel-good moments (FGM) of the baseball season. Besides the playoffs and World Series, there is more hot air pumped into this basically meaningless game than the Goodyear Blimp, but from what I have been observing over recent years (and especially this year), the game is nothing more than a lead zeppelin, ready to do a Hindenburg on Tuesday night in the ratings.
First of all, we now are treated to the Home Run Derby on the Monday night before the game. Like New Year’s Eve, you know that it is more exciting than the day to follow. The derby is another one of baseball’s FGMs and it features baseball players’ kids on the sidelines cheering on their power-hitting daddies as they bring on their inner sultans of swat. Nothing wrong with that, right? America loves the home run. It’s as traditional as apple pie and Chevy and that ring around your bathtub.
The problem is that this night, while overblown to be sure (the guys are hitting balls that are tossed at them like in slow-pitch softball), is much more exciting than the game itself. The game takes on so much hype mainly because it is supposed to be a showcase of the best stars in the game. Please, make no mistake: This has not been the case in the All-Star Game for a long time.
The “voting” system is about as reliable as the one used on Dancing with the Stars. The ballot box can be stuffed and there are simply no checks and balances on how it is done. Witness the debacle involving Mets third baseman David Wright this year. He is having a career year with 11 homers, 59 RBI (fourth in the league), and a .352 batting average (third in the league), but he did not get voted in. Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants did. His numbers (7 homers, 28 RBI, .309 average) are not even remotely close to Wright’s, plus the Met is a much better defensive third baseman. Still, none of this matters because Pablo got more votes. I am sorry, but in this case, “democracy” doesn’t get it right.
The problem is that there have been many times where that has been the case over the years. The so-called “fan favorites” get in over the more deserving players. It is testimony to the fact that the All-Star Game has lost much of its significance. Why do you think many players try to back out of it? It’s not just that they would rather be fishing, spending time with their kids, or sitting on a beach for a few days: the game has become a ludicrous exercise in sound and fury, but in the end it signifies basically nothing.
Credit Commissioner Bud Selig with recognizing that the game had lost its luster long ago; therefore, he wanted to make the game matter, so his bright idea was to make the winning league get home field advantage in the World Series. You have to hand it to Bud; he took a game that no one wants to watch or play and took it to the next level. Too bad that some of the players on that field probably do not belong, and the players know it, the announcers, the writers, and the fans as well. Only good old Bud hasn’t seen the light.
My suggestion is that if this game is to be rescued it has to be entirely revamped. The voting process must be taken away from the fans. If they don’t like it, let them eat cake (or should I say Cracker Jacks?). Put the vote into the hands of the baseball players themselves. It would be like the actors voting for those to be nominated for Oscars. The chances are that if they know people know that they have the vote, the players will do the right thing and vote for the most deserving players rather than the most popular.