Ideas on how to make the All-Star Game even better
Complaining about the All-Star Game sure is fashionable these days. Maybe not as fashionable as hanging out with Lenny Kravitz. Or hugging the nearest Wimbledon runner-up. But in serious vogue nonetheless.Well, here at World Rumblings Headquarters, we don't want to get lumped in with all those other All Star Game malcontents. Heck, we love the All-Star Game. We love Workout Day and Home Run Derby. We love the pregame hullabaloo. We love The Classic itself.
Mariano Rivera will head to his ninth All Star Game next week. Can you name the only two active pitchers who have been selected to more All-Star teams than Rivera? (Answer later.)
1. Tweak the DerbyIs last year's Home Run Derby over yet? We can't remember. Did it last six hours -- or 60? Hey, don't take this the wrong way. It's a fun event. And it's definitely a popular event -- so popular, in fact, that more people watch the Derby on the tube than watch your average division series game. And you can look that up. Unfortunately, the Home Run Derby, as currently constituted, has one tiny little flaw. It's toooooo darneddddddd longgggggg. So we have a simple, two-step proposal. We confess we've made it before, but it's always drawn universal acclaim. So we figure if we keep rolling it out there, somebody might even listen to us one of these decades. Step 1: Go right from Round 1 to the finals. It's that middle round that drains all the momentum from this event and wears out the contestants. So bag it. Eight guys wail away in the first round. Then only the two best wailers advance. It's easy. Step 2: Turn the finals into a true Duel of the Mashers, with a back-and-forth nine-inning "game." The first finalist gets three "innings" (or, as we used to know them, "outs"). Then it's the other finalist's turn. They go back and forth for nine innings until somebody wins. And the result: Real, live drama as opposed to the current anticlimax delivered by the misguided 10-outs-apiece format. Let these guys alternate hacks and you'll get the same mano a mano ebb and flow that the Slam Dunk Contest is so famous for -- not to mention the same feel that a great baseball game is famous for. We've never run this idea past anybody (including our friends at MLB) who didn't love it. So why aren't they doing it already?
2. More voting funWe don't know about you, but we're tired of all the grumbling about these All-Star rosters. So the fans don't elect the "perfect" lineups. So what? There's no such thing. And the players and managers don't always select the "perfect" reserves, you say? No kidding. That's impossible, too. However we assemble these rosters, three things are true: (A) It won't be ideal, (B) we'll leave somebody out and (C) despite all that, most of the greatest players on earth are still going to wind up on the field. So relax out there. But that doesn't mean we can't make the art of roster selection more fun and creative. How? Well, one thing we've noticed about this sport lately: It's never met a fan-voting opportunity it didn't love. So you like elections? We've got lots of cool election ideas. Why confine the final-week election fun to just The 32nd Man balloting? Here are five more voting attractions we'd love to see:
3. Make the break "National Baseball Week"We've always wanted the All-Star break to feel more like a summertime version of that week between Christmas and New Year's -- a week to kick back, evict all other sporting distractions from your brain and celebrate what baseball means to summer in America. "I want the All-Star break to be a whole week," Wagner told Rumblings. "One good thing about that is, that way nobody can say, 'This guy pitched Sunday, so he can't pitch.' Everybody would be available." Now there's an awesome idea. Unfortunately, it can't possibly happen because teams won't give up those big weekend dates at home -- and it's almost impossible to add an entire week of off days to the schedule and still finish the World Series before Thanksgiving. But we'd still like to see some version of it. In World Baseball Classic years, we'd like to import the WBC semifinals and finals and play them the same week as the All Star Game, in the same ballpark. In non-WBC years, we'd propose this schedule: Monday: An entirely new Futures Game, matching a team of great minor league prospects against a team of first-year and second-year big leaguers. If David Price strikes out Jacoby Ellsbury in prime time, wouldn't that be a bigger ratings magnet and bigger conversation piece than Julio Pimentel whiffing Andrew McCutchen at 12:40 on a Sunday afternoon? Tuesday: An entirely new Workout Day, with a Derby-esque tale-of-the-tape gimmick. We'd measure every BP home run. Then the player who hits the longest bomb wins a car -- but also wins two more cars, for some lucky fan in the stadium and some lucky fan watching on TV. It wouldn't be an actual Home Run Derby, since the batting cages would be in place and everybody on the rosters would get to participate. But it would sure be a fun night in front of the old TV set.
I want the All-Star break to be a whole week. One good thing about that is, that way nobody can say, 'This guy pitched Sunday, so he can't pitch.' Everybody would be available.
Ready to rumble• Now what?: With CC Sabathia and Rich Harden off the board, the Phillies and Yankees might rank as the two teams with the most motivation to deal for what's left of the starting-pitching market. But they both seemingly have almost nowhere to turn. Both teams made runs at Sabathia. But even though the Phillies offered more bodies than Milwaukee, they lacked the position-player centerpiece Cleveland was looking for. And the Yankees U-turned once the Indians turned down their request for a negotiating window. Neither team, meanwhile, got aggressive on Harden. But now both find themselves unsure of where to find another, more affordable arm. The buzz in Philadelphia is that GM Pat Gillick has convinced ownership to take on a big contract if the right starting pitcher falls into their zip code. We're not sure how hard that was, but even the most skeptical members of a conservative ownership group can't help but see that the Phillies aren't going anywhere without a high-impact starter. Then again, Sabathia was the guy they'd targeted. Yet they wouldn't talk about either their best minor league arm, Carlos Carrasco, or their most advanced position player, catcher Lou Marson, in those Sabathia discussions. So without altering that stance, they might not even have the ammunition to get a second-tier starter. Phillies executives have been telling people they're wary of both Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett. But at this point, they have no choice but to stalk both of them. The Yankees, on the other hand, don't seem interested in Bedard. And it's dubious Toronto would even talk to them about Burnett. While they've checked out Aaron Harang, he might be untradeable now that his forearm has a date with an MRI machine. Can Melky Cabrera net them a decent arm? Clubs that have spoken with the Yankees say he's the player they're most willing to dangle. One thing the Yankees can't do, even if they fall apart, is sell. Virtually every veteran player on the roster has a no-trade clause.
Around the horn• Radar gun stunner of the week: Thirteen months ago, Phillies left-hander R.J. Swindle was pitching in the Atlantic League. Monday, he made his big league debut and might have set some kind of record -- for slowest radar gun reading by a non-knuckleballer. He threw five pitches clocked slower than 60 miles per hour, topping (or is that bottoming?) out at 54 on a strikeout of Carlos Delgado. Asked if he'd ever seen a non-knuckleball register below the speed limit before, one scout replied: "Not until now. My kid threw 39 the other day, so at least he's 15 miles an hour faster than him." • Quote of the week: From CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt on whether he was concerned about switching from the American League to the National League: "I'm more worried about my [batting] average going down." • Vulture of the week: That term "winning pitcher" isn't always the most revealing phrase in baseball. But, as loyal reader Pat Berger observes, it looked especially dubious when hung on Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano on Saturday. He allowed a game-tying single to the only hitter he faced (Jayson Werth), but lucked out when Werth got thrown out trying to advance to second and the Mets then scored three runs a half-inning later to make Feliciano a winner. Feliciano was the first winning pitcher to give up a run-scoring hit to the only hitter he faced since Dan Schatzeder on May 11,1987 -- and just the fourth in the past 52 years. Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis and Billy Wagner spent all 170 minutes of their never-ending delay Sunday in Philadelphia building a boat. They used water bottles, nail files and Slim Jims to construct the hull, and cut holes in aspirin packs to serve as the sails. "We were down there so long," Wagner quipped, "we were going to go down and see if the Phillies [bullpen] wanted to have a boat race. Whoever wins gets to go home." • Quiz show of the week: The sports-humor site sportspickle.com featured a poll last week asking readers to name the most memorable moment in Tampa Bay Rays' history. Our favorite choice:
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