The mid-summer classic, the grandest of all the All-Star games. Something about it makes it more prestigious than the Pro-Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game. Maybe it is the rich history. Maybe it is the game itself, America's pastime. Whatever it is, the MLB All-Star Game is annually the best exhibition in any American sport.
However, the rules of the game have been tinkered with the last couple years and for the worse. Now the game is not a true exhibition since it decides home field advantage for the World Series. Thanks to this rule, debate rages over whether fans should vote for the starting lineups and if every team should be represented. The argument is more than fair and legitimate since the game means something. The MLB All-Star game is not a true competitive match with the current setup, but not an exhibition either. Unbelievably, it is somewhere inbetween.
So, baseball must make a choice: is the game a competition or an exhibition? If they choose that it needs to be competitive and decide home field advantage, then the fans should not vote, not every team should be represented, and the roster should be built to win. The teams would look like World Baseball Classic squads.
But that is not the right choice. The All-Star game is a celebration of baseball, meant to please the fans and reward the players for a job well done. It needs to be an exhibition, the one time where the greatest players in the game go out and play like children in the streets. Remember when Randy Johnson threw a pitch over John Kruk's head, scaring Kruk to death and making him a pathetically easy strikeout victim? Then, four years later, Johnson pulled the same trick against Larry Walker and in response Walker switched around to bat right-handed, even going as far as putting his batting helmet on backwards so the earflap was still in front? Or what about 2001, when Alex Rodriguez forced Cal Ripken Jr. to take the field at shortstop in his final All-Star game? These are great moments that do not happen in a competitive game. Fans see six months worth of competitive baseball; one exhibition in the middle of the year is a breath of fresh air.
Please baseball, make the All-Star game an exhibition again. Take out the home field advantage rule. While you're at it, make a few other changes too. Let the fans vote on the starting pitcher, and also let the fans select one reliever. Keep the rule that every team must be represented, as long as the rosters stay expanded with 32 players, and take the task of picking the final All-Stars out of the manager's hands and make it the baseball writers' task. They know enough to select all the post-season awards, so they are qualified to pick All-Stars and it takes the pressure off managers to pick between their own players and other deserving ones. Also, always have a DH in All-Star games, even when in a National League park. No pitcher is picked because of prodigious hitting ability, so leave hitting in the All-Star game to All-Star hitters. Finally, there should never be a tie like the debacle in Milwaukee. I propose having a game last no longer than 10 innings, and then if the game is still tied, a home run derby decides the winner. Each squad would pick three batters and they each would get three outs (a.k.a., three hits that aren't homers). The team with the most homers in the end would be declared the winner. To add more spice, the opposing team could have three outfielders trying to rob home runs. It would be a quirky way to end a baseball game, but it would be fun to watch, and it is just an exhibition, right?