>All-Star Sigh of Relief

16 Jul

>Rumor has it that Bud Selig himself was loosening his tie, throwing on his cleats and heading to the bullpen to warm up last night. He would have volunteered himself to be all-time pitcher to avoid what would have been a PR catastrophe for his sport.

This might be a slight exaggeration, but we should all be incredibly relieved that we didn’t see or hear our favorite Bud last night until he handed the MVP trophy to J.D. Drew. He was seriously exposed last night for the latest failure of his tenure as commissioner: neglecting to come up with a contingency plan for how to resolve the All-Star Game. If only he would have learned something from the 2002 game, in which Torii Hunter robbed Barry Bonds and the game ended in a tie.

The MLB All-Star Game remains the greatest exhibition game in sports, but it needs some serious reform to avoid nightmares like what nearly happened last night. I propose two changes:

–Make the game a true exhibition again, and not the determining factor in anything important like home-field advantage in the World Series. Or at the very least, lower the stakes. Bud and his clan gave the game this weight a few years back to encourage the mega-stars not to skip it for the extra time off. But just ask any manager or any NL team – it isn’t working. The game isn’t structured appropriately to decide such a matter – you need bigger rosters to avoid emptying benches, or at the very least you need a fair and merciful way to end it if we have a marathon like last night. Terry Francona and Clint Hurdle did a helluva job last night, considering the circumstances.

–Regardless of what you do with the implications of the game, come up with a way to end the game in true exhibition style, if necessary. I propose that if the game is tied after x number of innings (maybe 11, to give the players time to try to decide it on the field) that there be a All-Star Game Home Run Derby. Each team sends five players to the plate, and they each get just one out. Their own pitchers – or coaches – throw to them. The league whose team hits the most HRs wins. Wow, what an ending that would be…fans might root every season for a tie. There would be a clear winner at the end of the night, sort of like there is now in the NHL. Plus, the game would be decided in a showy style, bringing in elements of drama, power and grandeur.

The health/safety of the players and the integrity of the sport are the two most important things to consider and preserve in making any changes. It’s my opinion these two ideas maximize both. If a couple of stars choose not to participate, well, it’s their loss, public reputation and ultimately earning power on the line. I think the vast majority of players will still consider it a great honor to play in this great game.

I’m out like Billy Packer.

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