This week, The Machine takes aim at Baseball, what some people still refer to as America’s pastime. The Machine refers to those people as losers. We all know who rules our hearts and minds. #NFL #51daystokickoff.
Anyway, back to the All-Star Game. All-Star games, in general, are designed to be entertaining and fun; a chance to see the best of the best play against each other; to suspend rivalries for a night and just have some fun. The Home Run Derby and Dunk Contest are perfect examples. But the games themself? Who cares?. Can you really tell me who won last year’s All-Star Game? How about the Pro-Bowl? Of course not.
In fact, viewership for last year’s MLB All-Star Game was at an all-time low. We’re willing to bet that the Pro Bowl isn’t far behind. Why do people not watch? The answer is simple: It’s meaningless. But is it more than that?
Thom Loverro of The Atlantic argues that it is, and that the decline of the All-Star Game can be traced to two events: the 1993 and 2002 All-Star Games. In 1993, AL Manager Cito Gaston refused to pitch hometown All-Star Mike Mussina, thus enraging the Baltimore crowd and leading to a chorus of boos (and death threats for Cito). In 2002, the game ended in a tie, as Bud Selig, seemingly making up rules on the fly, ended the game in the 11th inning, and in so doing went against the time-honored American tradition of winning.
The Machine’s not sure if these events caused the downfall of the All-Start Game (we frankly forgot about the ’93 drama), or simply added to what was already a declining product. For sure, the 2002 All-Star Game exposed the complete ineptitude of Bud Selig, and Loverro’s right about the sad decline of the All-Star Game. But the best was yet to come.
In an effort to increase the importance of the All-Star Game (read: get more people to watch so we can charge more for advertising) Bud Selig and the MLB Brass decided that the winning league of the All-Star Game will get home field advantage in the World Series. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. In a game where most people are giving 75% effort because they don’t want to get hurt (the days of Pete Rose sliding head first are long gone), the winning team decides who gets home field advantage in the World Series?
For those of you that think home field advantage is not important, think again: 8 of the last 10 World Series have been won by the team with home field advantage. It’s a big deal, which makes determining who gets it by a meaningless game in July all the more ridiculous.
What does the World Series have to do with the All-Star Game? Sure, it’s the best way anyone from the Mets is going to influence the World Series, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Arbitrarily adding value where none exists is confusing and simply wrong.
The All-Star Game is kind of like the Iowa Caucus. There’s a reason we let Iowa vote first in Presidential primaries: they’re meaningless. Seriously, we care about Iowa for about 6 minutes, then look at the calendar to see when the real states hold their primaries. How’d Rick Santorum, winner of the 2012 Republican Iowa Caucus, do in the general election? How about Mike Huckabee, the 2008 winner? Exactly. So imagine how dumb it would be if, to add importance to Iowa, the winners of the caucus became the Presidential nominees.
Trying to add meaning to an otherwise meaningless game is beyond dumb. And, let’s be honest: All-Star games are completely meaningless.
The NFL gets it, and is considering drastic changes to the Pro Bowl, including changing it to a skills competition or eliminating it completely. The NBA gets it too, and puts more of an emphasis on the Dunk Contest and Skills Competition than the actual game. Christ, even the NHL gets it; they’ve abandoned conference v. conference format and instead have team captains draft players (pretty cool idea, actually). What do all these leagues have in common? They’ve all assigned zero meaning to the actual game, and understand its purpose: a fun, lighthearted, fan-friendly event.
But not Bud. Bud believes the game has to count for something, in sharp contrast to his tee-ball tie of 2002. And, if his goal is to make it meaningful so people will watch, he’s completely failed, because even though the game now has meaning, nobody watches.
Look, Bud. You tried. However misguided, you tried to spice it up, but it didn’t work. Now it’s time to spice it up again, but this time do it in a way that makes sense. Take a page from the NHL and have a draft. Have the fans vote for teams. Have more skills competitions besides the Home Run Derby (fastest man, throwing competitions, etc.). But determining home field advantage for the World Series is not it. It makes zero sense, much like a Santorum Presidency.
Enjoy your teabag.