Eight years ago, the All-Star Game ended in a tie when the teams ran out of players to put into the extra-inning contest.  Nobody likes a tie, and the fans at that game in Milwaukee and those watching nationwide on TV, like myself, were no exceptions.

In response to the deadlocked Midsummer Classic, Commissioner Bud Selig deemed change necessary.  As of six seasons ago, the league that wins the All-Star Game also wins home field advantage for the World Series. 

While it may seem logical on the surface, Selig’s overreaction to the tie eight years ago has him talking out of both sides of his mouth these days.  The hypocrisy of an All-Star Game “that counts” has divided fans on exactly how the teams should be chosen and the game played. 

The two main changes fans want are to remove the fan selection portion of the balloting and also get rid of the requirement for there being at least one player from every team to be chosen for the game.  This way, fans can’t just vote for their favorite hometown star when there is a more deserving (and better) option available, and we would never need another Pittsburgh Pirate on the National League team.

These seem like very logical choices.

But they’re wrong.

The hypocrisy surrounding the All-Star Game does need to end, as you can’t put weight on the results of the game when fan voting and the one-player-per-team rule mean you can’t guarantee that the best teams will be out there for each league. But by taking away these two aspects of the process, it makes the game even less fun than Selig has already made it with his changes.

You see, I can’t even remember what happened in the last six All-Star Games.  I probably won’t remember what happens in this year’s event.  When Bud stopped the game from being an exhibition, he removed most of the entertainment in the process.

As much as the commissioner wants the game to matter in order to drive up TV ratings and add importance, it’s still nothing more than an exhibition.  And when it was treated that way, the games were more memorable.

My three favorite All-Star Game memories:

In 1997, Larry Walker stepping in to face dominant lefty Randy Johnson…from the wrong side of the plate.

In 2001, Alex Rodriguez switching positions so that Cal Ripken, Jr., the man who may have revolutionized the shortstop position, could start there instead in his final All-Star appearance.

In 2002, Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a surefire home run, and Bonds proceeding to take off for the outfield to jokingly tackle the center fielder.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the last fond memory I have of an All-Star Game came during that 2002 contest.  It was the resulting tie of that game that led to the drab and dull game that takes place now. 

Under the current structure, I’m not sure any of my favorite All-Star memories would have ever occurred.  The aforementioned three all happened because the players were having fun with the game.

Walker never would have taken on the lefty killer from the right side because he was left-handed, and you can’t give up outs in an important game.  As much as A-Rod would have loved to honor Ripken, he wouldn’t have made the switch, as it probably wasn’t best for the team.  And after being robbed of a dinger, Bonds wouldn’t have been joking around with Hunter.  He would have wanted to take his head off for taking away what could have ultimately been a deciding home run.

The game was more fun for the fans when it was more fun for the players.  Sure, they may have played for some small amount of pride, but the players were allowed to go out and just enjoy themselves, along with the spectacle of the moment.  But no more. Now it matters.

My other issue with the call to change is the assertion that the “one player from every team” rule should be abandoned.  Yes, this has its merits.  Should anyone from the Pirates, or the Orioles, or the Indians really be present at a display of the best talent in baseball this year?

In my opinion, yes. 

The large market teams and their very large followings are going to be well-represented on the team no matter what.  Between fan voting, managers favoring their own players, and the fact that those teams can buy the best talent in free agency, there will always be a plethora of Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Mets available for the team.

But as a fan of a small market team, I know how special that one token selection each team receives can be.  During their years of total irrelevance, the Rockies’ one All-Star a season let me know that even though they weren’t on the same level as the top-tier teams, they were still playing the same game, at the same level, and that their achievements, as minuscule as they may have been, could still be recognized by those following the game.  It let me know that no matter how bad the record was, my team still mattered.

The All-Star Game, in its purest form, isn’t about the players, or the marketing, or even the final score; it’s about the fans.  It’s our chance to see the best in the game on the field at once.  For those without expansive cable packages or access to the Internet, it could be their only chance to see many of these players in a given season.

Giving home field advantage in the World Series to the winner of the All-Star Game doesn’t add enough significance to the game to offset the entertainment that it has robbed from it.  The game should celebrate all that is great about the game of baseball, and allow the fans and players to revisit the simpler times when they played the game just for the fun of it.

To take away the fan’s input on the game would further distance the fans from a game with which they are already growing disenchanted. But to combine that with the continued assertion on making the game count is hypocritical and counter-intuitive.

There has to be a better way to decided who gets home field advantage for the World Series, one that doesn’t ruin the best All-Star contest in American professional sports. If that happens, everyone, from the fan who voted online to the kid unfortunate enough to have been conceived in the Steel City, can enjoy the All-Star Game again.

Don’t take the game away from the fans, Bud.  Give it back to them, and let them make it fun again.

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