It’s becoming as reliable a baseball tradition as spring training and “Country” Joe West ejecting half the league’s managers: around this time of year, the media, players and fans spend a week kvetching about the sorry state of the All-Star Game.
It’s not like it used to be!
The rules are inane!
It’s been ruined by selfish, spoiled athletes!
Well, there’s a simple solution: cancel the fucking thing.
Baseball’s All-Star Game is an anachronism, a relic of a different era in the sport. Unlike the Pro Bowl or the NBA and NHL all-star games, which have all always been utterly useless, baseball’s all-star game once held value.
In the days before Interleague play, and before modern TV and internet packages made virtually all games viewable and accessible, the All-Star Game was a rare opportunity for fans to see other teams’ best players. And in the days before widespread free agency, it was a fun rarity to see Steve Carlton face Reggie Jackson or Whitey Ford face Hank Aaron. Even as recently as the 1980s, getting to see Tim Raines or Tony Gwynn play in a game felt exotic to an American League fan. Now, the novelty’s gone.
And with much less player movement, and more team cohesion and consistency over time, players did take a certain amount of pride in playing for their particular league. They wanted to win the game, and that made it “count” more than artificial incentives like World Series home field advantage ever could.
Those days are gone. Players are more friendly with rivals, and the money at stake means players aren’t as willing to go all out and risk injury. Modern ballplayers simply don’t care about winning the All-Star Game. And fans no longer need the chance to see opposing players. That doesn’t make the current state of things better or worse. It just is. Things change.
But people hate change, and sportswriters hate change most of all. Evolution is their natural enemy because it makes them feel obsolete.
So every year, millions of words are wasted delineating the problems with the game, and weeping over how it doesn’t compare to our lovely Technicolor memories. We hear about the convoluted, unfair selection process. We hear about the audacity of the managers trying to get everyone on the roster into the game. We hear about how the game just doesn’t feel special anymore.
This year, the media added a new layer to their giant pile of complaints. They can’t believe that so many players have dropped out of the game due to injury, or flat out refused an invitation to even show up in Phoenix. These ingrates would rather rest, or vacation with their families, then honor the game and the fans. At the Home Run Derby last night, reporters actually went from player to player trying to find guys who were offended at their peers’ insubordination.
Well, that should tell us something. If players are treating the All-Star Game like the Pro Bowl, and not even bothering to show up, than it’s time we all stopped caring about this overhyped exhibition.
Let’s admit that this game has outlived its usefulness and appeal. Let’s stop coming up with annual lists of ideas for how to save it. Let’s cut our losses and move on.
We can keep the All-Star voting, so players still have an accolade to pin to their resumes. But why go through with the charade of a game no one cares about? While we’re at it, eliminate the Home Run Derby too. Any time we can get rid of one of the rare occasions that Chris Berman is released from his chains to terrorize America, we must take advantage. And cancel the Pro Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game and the NHL All-Star Game too. They’re wastes of time. (“No wait! If only we implement a thrilling H-O-R-S-E competition, we can save NBA All-Star Weekend! It’s the Black Super Bowl!”)
It’s no fun watching these guys perform the perfunctory exercise of playing this game. It’s like watching the Royals close out the season in late September when they’re 35 games out of a playoff spot. It’s like watching Alex Rodriguez recite a contractually obligated PSA on the Jumbotron. End the charade.
There are more important things to wring our hands about.
Baseball will go on without the All-Star Game. Babe Ruth will still have existed. Your Dad still will have played catch with you. It will be OK.