The Major League Baseball All-Star game is upon us, and?
That’s the noise you hear from the collective sports viewing public. The All-Star game is no longer fashionable, it’s an over-hyped, inconvenient, charade of people who don’t want to be in a place they are forced to be, doing something they don’t really want to do, for approximately 37 people who actually care.
The All-Star game was cool, and hip, and relevant up through the 80s. No longer does it hold such meaning.
Blame it on interleague play, blame it on the fall of baseball as the nation’s most popular sport, or blame it on the massive media coverage at everyone’s disposal. Blame it on Bud Selig for cheapening it with his ill-conceived plan to have “This one count”.
Regardless of where the blame gets placed, the All-Star game has been rendered an afterthought in the American sports culture.
The All-Star game used to be a chance for fans of the National League to see the stars of the American League take the field, and vice versa. Thanks to interleague play, the expanded post-season, the difference in the haves and have-nots of baseball, and free agency, that’s not such a novelty anymore.
Whereas once upon a time, the only time you ever really saw anyone from another team playing baseball, or had much coverage paid to them, was when they were playing against your home team. American League teams didn’t play National League teams aside from the World Series. In turn, stars from opposing leagues might as well have been foreign stars playing across the ocean. Interleague play brought those players to everyone’s city.
The dearth of free agency and player movement also contributed to the excitement around the All-Star game. As mentioned, players from the American League and National League rarely crossed paths. The All-Star game was the only way to see some of these superstars take the field.
With player movement at such an all-time high, (see Cliff Lee, arguably the best pitcher in baseball now pitching for his 4th team in two years), players are constantly crossing over leagues. An American Leaguer one day, a Chicago Cub the next. It happens all the time.
The player movement also contributed to taking away from one of the other great allures of the All-Star game. The love affair between fan and player is no longer what it once was. Players change teams constantly, owners and players alike seem to have lost a sense of loyalty. As a result, fans aren’t so enamored with their particular players, as they recognize that as soon as the end of that month, that player could be wearing a different uniform.
Where once fans took great pride in watching the All-Star game to see “their guy” play, to see him on a field with other stars. In today’s climate, that pride is non-existent, and for good reason.
Do you really think Royals and Pirates fans are overly excited about seeing their guy for his couple at-bats, or their pitcher pitch one inning? It’s imply a reminder that he’s pretty much the only good player their miserable franchise has at its disposal. Worse, they are fully aware that that particular player will more than likely be traded away within the next couple of weeks, or in the very least, the coming off-season. So, yeah, that pride in your players thing, eh, not so much.
There was once a time the All-Star game was the only game outside of World Series games that really seemed to matter. There were no LCS, there were no wildcard series. Baseball came down to two things, the Mid-Summer Classic, and the Fall Classic. That was it. You didn’t miss either.
Now the post-season lasts an entire month. Not coincidentally, the vast majority of players who comprise the All-Star teams will also be those still playing baseball in October. So what’s special about seeing them all on the field now? You can see them all together for an entire month in October.
The biggest contributor however to the lack of interest in the All-Star game is the endless coverage afforded to baseball fans 24/7. All the reasons mentioned previously refer to the same basic concept, that the stars from the “other” league were like hidden secrets that only got exposed on a very infrequent basis.
No longer is that the case. Fans can watch any player take every single at-bat of their season if they so wish. There’s nothing secretive, or alluring for a Dodgers fan to watch Derek Jeter bat. They can watch every single inning of every single game that Jeter participates in. So what now is so special of watching him take two meaningless at-bats in an All-Star me.
The fact that this game actually counts for something, and determines home field advantage in the World Series is nothing more than a joke, and all that joke does is take even further away from what once was a spectacle of superstars.
Now it’s a collection of baseball players who wished they had three days off instead of trotting around for a nation that doesn’t really care anymore.