So, the biggest trend this week in the mainstream sports media seems to be bashing the format of the All-Star festivities. Either the home-run-derby is too long, or the 'every team needs an all-star' rule should be thrown out, or the Futures Game gets totally lost since it is still up against real games, or the game shoudln't be for home field advantage in the WS...there is lots to like, and more to complain about.
Here are some thoughts I've had about these three days, and how I would change them going forward.
The Break Itself
The first change I would make, is change it from a 3 day break, to a 5 (or 6) day break. The season is LONG. I feel for players like DeJesus that just had a life altering moment (in the birth of his 1st son), and has had hardly any time to spend with his family since then. Addding 2 days to the break wouldn't exactly extend the season into December either, I think it is a win-win for players to get a little longer break (Kendall needs his rest remember), and it adds 2 days of activities to showcase the game we all love dearly. Not only that though, but this current three day break gets everything CRAMMED into the first two days. It makes no sense, but I understand that you can't extend things to the 3rd day, as then no veteran player would WANT to be an All-Star, since they would get no break at all.
Day One - All the Celebrity Crap, Player Introductions & HR Derby
I'd really like to get rid of the Celebrity crap, but lets face it, the fans still like it, and it makes $$, so it isn't going anywhere.
This day will be completed by the extended player introduction ceremonies (which, personally is my favorite part of the game...it has been since I was a kid). This day would be only to announce the coaching staffs & reserves. This would take place before the Home Run Derby.
The Home Run Derby itself. The first thing I change is the eligibility. I'd make it so you don't have to be an All-Star to participate, but you do need to be in the top-15 in your league in HR (or top-25 all-time). The first round would no longer be 10 outs, it would be TEN SWINGS. The maximum number of HR in round one would be 10. This would cut the overall event time in half I figure. After the 1st round, it is Match Play, old school style (anybody else miss the show that used to be on ESPN in the afternoon...I loved being able to watch Hank Aaron take on Eddie Matthews in HR Derby!!!). Two 3 inning matches where you get 3 outs to hit as many HR as possible to decide your finalists, which is then decided in another 3 inning head to head match.
Day Two, Three & Four - Best of Three All Star Game Series
First the starter introductions would be made. Those voted as starters would be the starters for game 1 of the series.
This isn't a traditional 'best of three', in that there would always be three games played, but whichever league wins the majority would win home field advantage for the WS. I think you could do a best of 3 without further expanding the rosters, (but you may have to add a couple of pitchers spots per squad to make sure). I believe up until 1958 there were two All-Star games played, so this isn't as radical of an idea as it may seem. There would be rules in place to protect pitchers (no more than 3 innings per pitcher, pitchers could at most appear in 2 of the 3 games, etc). This would ensure that every team gets representation in the games at some point, and add more of a playoff feel to the event. I think it would have the possibility of becoming a media darling...imagine the non-stop 3 day talking head coverage of a series of the games best.
What this accomplishes most though would be that it gives the managers more of an opportunity to manage these like real games, since there is a pretty big carrot on the line, in home field advantage in the WS. They wouldn't be pinch hitting for their best player in the 3rd or 4th inning (typically). It would allow them to manage the game more like a playoff game, which I think would make for a more watchable product. This is my biggest issue with the current format...there is such a public backlash when a teams representative doesn't get to play in the game, yet Girardi was totally handcuffed with nobody (but A-Rod) left on the bench to run for fat boy Ortiz @ 1st in the 9th. That possibly cost them the game.
Day Five - The Futures Game
This event would be a single game, and it would stand alone on the 5th & final day of the break. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it gets national exposure, as it is up against nothing of significance from a sports standpoint (sorry Tour de France). As it is now, it gets completely lost in the shuffle. It also means that there is no more 'dead day' like there is now with the 3rd day of the break. Thre is something every day of the 5 day break, but even the players involved would be more rested after this schedule than the hectic 3-day schedule there is currently.
If you added a 6th day to the break, then the All-Stars would get day 5 & 6 off. Either way, I would ensure that all teams play on the 1st day after the break. The last couple of years it seems that about 1/2 the teams get 4 day breaks, & 1/2 only get 3 day breaks...doesn't seem consistent, or fair to me.
Anyway, what do you think? I think my moves would make the break much more of a 'celebration of the game' than it is now. Like I stated earlier...everything gets crammed into those 2 days (the Futures game isn't even in teh break technically) and so much gets lost in the shuffle. Baseball is not a sport meant to be crammed...it needs to be given the opportunity to be played out.