Jim Grey calling out Pete Rose. Mike Piazza playing tambourine for Alter Bridge. Mike Williams making the NL All-Star team with an ERA of 6.29. Those are just 3 moments in Midsummer Classic History that Joe Posnanski chooses to ignore when proclaiming Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game a fine venue for experimentation (robot umpires, wool uniforms, managers pick sides, etc.) but not so great for actual intrigue between the lines. “The most fun part about the All-Star Game,” writes Posnanski, “is arguing about it before it even gets played.” Well, that and playing tambourine for Alter Bridge.
Baseball’s All-Star Game is the one that has tried the hardest to stay relevant — in large part, I suspect, because it plays such a big role in baseball’s history. There is nothing in any other All-Star Game to compare with Carl Hubbell’s successive strikeouts, Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse, Ted Williams hitting the eephus pitch out, Dave Parker’s throw, Fred Lynn’s grand slam or Bo Jackson’s massive center field homer. I just came up with six All-Star moments off the top of my head — it would be difficult to come up with one in any other sport.*
*I do know Jeff Blake completed the longest touchdown pass in Pro Bowl history; not sure if that record still stands.
So, baseball has tried numerous gimmicks and rule changes to make the game “matter” more. It’s taken the fan vote online, it’s added a player vote, it’s created this runoff vote, it’s tried to keep the game provocative. Well, it has made the voting process more interesting, but it has done little for the game itself. I don’t think anyone is to blame here: The very purpose of the All-Star Game — the extravaganza of seeing the best players in one place — has simply lost most of its appeal. We are left with an exhibition game where players are run in and out like it’s a game of pickup basketball. Do I want to watch Justin Verlander pitch one meaningless inning or wait three days and watch him start a game that matters? Do I want to see Ryan Braun get an at-bat against some hard throwing middle-reliever with nothing on the line, or do I want to wait until the weekend when it counts? There is nothing baseball can do about this issue. The All-Star Game — like pretty much all of these one-offs — is a casualty of the time.