Making the Midsummer Classic better
The All-Star Game is pretty darn good, but we have ways to really make it relevant
To: Bud Selig, MLB commissioner
From: Gene Wojciechowski
Re: All-Star Game
Follow my advice. You can thank me later.
All the best,
If you want to make the All-Star Game relevant again, here are the solutions to your problem:
If ever there was a game in which to experiment and expand the use of instant replay, this is it. I mean, what's the downside? That the umpires might get their feelings hurt?
For starters, you have months to scout out the perfect positions for replay cameras at the All-Star Game stadium. You also have lots of time to perfect the replay protocol; conduct some practice sessions at the venue; and educate the umps, players and managers about its use.
Of course, the more cameras, the better. On the bases and at home plate for bang-bang plays, catcher interference and hit-by-pitches. On the foul lines and foul poles for fair/foul balls. On the outfield walls for home runs, fan interference and ground-rule doubles.
Balls and strikes belong to the umpires, but everything else is reviewable. The managers each get, say, three challenges during the first nine innings and one additional challenge if the game goes into extras. In the time it takes Charlie Manuel to slow-walk out to second base and argue a call, the replay officials could already have the answer. It's as easy as buying a Dodger Dog.
If it works -- and it will -- then you prove to the traditionalists that the human element of umpiring can coexist with replay. Extend its use to the playoffs or, at the very least, the World Series. If the umpires don't like it, remind them of the wonderful job opportunities awaiting in the fast food service industry.
The point of replay is to get the call right. Nothing else should matter.
Want to see a 600-foot home run? Me too.
Let the Home Run Derby contestants go aluminum and ping themselves silly. More dingers. More freakish distance.
It'll be just like the flaxseed oil days when Barry Bonds played.
No more fan voting
It isn't the All-Popularity Game; it's the All-Star Game. The best players -- not just the ones Lady Gaga likes, or the products of massive team-coordinated voting campaigns -- should be invited.
Did you realize you can vote online up to 25 times before the deadline of midnight, July 1? And depending on how many punch cards you scarf up at a major league stadium, a minor league game or a home improvement store (an official distribution site), you can stuff the ballot boxes full of votes for Mark Teixeira (.229, 12 home runs, 45 RBIs) instead of for Miguel Cabrera (.328, 19, 61).
So my careful, well-researched and performance-based vote for Cabrera doesn't have a chance against someone with a laptop or a chad fetish for Teixeira. Dumb.
My solution: Bud Selig appoints a 12-person selection committee that chooses the starters. The committee would include a mixture of, say, Hall of Famers, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Bob Costas, Bill James, George Will (he's on every baseball-related commission or committee, so he might as well be on this one), someone from Baseball Prospectus and an advance scout or two. Then you let the AL and NL All-Star Game managers choose the reserves to complete the 34-man rosters.
You'd still have controversies, but I can live with those debates. And this way the selection show would have some meat on its bones.
Do I even have to explain why?
Forget about the players voting for other players. Let them vote for the umpires.
I've talked to players about their All-Star votes. Most of them try to make informed choices, but there are plenty who vote purely on reputation, or because they think a guy is a good dude, or because they're trying to keep somebody else off the roster.
It can get that petty and arbitrary.
Thanks for stopping by the booth
Nothing against the Fox TV or ESPN Radio crew calling the All-Star Game, but how about reserving three innings each year for some of the great play-by-play and/or analysts from the local markets?
The game is in Anaheim this year, so you'd have some sort of combo of Angels broadcasters (Mark Gubicza, Terry Smith, Victor Rojas and Jose Mota) doing an inning. What a neat way to let them honor the longtime voice of the Angels, Rory Markas, who died during the offseason.
Have Vin Scully call an inning. Or Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. Or Jerry Remy. Or Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone. Or & well, you get the idea.
We have all-star players. Why not throw a bone to all-star broadcasters?
Stagger the starters
Instead of pulling all the starters by the fifth or sixth innings, use three in the first three innings, another three in innings four through six and another three in innings seven through nine. That way you always have at least three starters in the game.
Microphones on everyone
You can bleep out the four-letter stuff. But I want to hear why Joe Girardi is going to make a pitching change. Or who's saying what in the bullpen. Or what Manuel is drawling about in the dugout. Or the dialogue between the catcher and the plate umpire.
It's the All-Star Game, not a nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Make the game more accessible.
No more World Series home-field advantage
MLB's heart was in the right place, but the All-Star Game shouldn't determine who gets to start the World Series at home.
I like the idea behind it -- make the All-Star Game more meaningful -- but why would you want an RBI infield single by a Pittsburgh Pirate in July in Anaheim to be the reason the New York Yankees don't get home-field advantage in October?
Ditch mandatory representation
This isn't the U.S. Senate. Not every team should get an automatic spot for one of its players.
Let the players sitting on the bench or in the bullpen use Twitter during the game. We can read their tweets online, or Fox can scroll selected messages continuously at the bottom of the screen.
Or just let Ozzie Guillen tweet about the game from home.
Texts are good
Girardi turns to the camera in the sixth inning and says, "If I have to bring in a new reliever in the eighth inning, who should I use? So-and-so or what's-his-name?"
And we, the fans, text our answers during the next 10 minutes. Girardi has to go with our vote. This way the manager picks the finalists, but we pick the pitcher.
You could do the same thing with a pinch-hitter, etc.
Bud and Joe Fan
Nine randomly chosen fans -- one for each inning -- get to sit next to the commish in his swanky seats during the game. Selig buys the beers.
Jim Cornelison. Chicago Blackhawks fans can tell you all about him. Or watch and listen for yourself here. He'll knock your baseball cap off with his voice.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.
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