The Rockies took 2 out of 3 against the Washington Nationals before MLB took a break for the All Star Game festivities in Kansas City. The Rockies lone representative, CarGo, participated in both the home run derby and started the All Star game at DH. Unfortunately, his underwhelming performance (4 homers and a first round exit followed by an 0-2 performance) served as a nation-wide reminder of the Rockies’ futility. The Tony LaRussa-led NL won the lopsided affair 8-0 and, as a result, the NL representative in the World Series will have home field advantage regardless of record. This week, we take our own break from the Rockies and discuss the All Star game format and player selection criteria.
1. Is it good for baseball that the All Star game “counts” and dictates home field advantage for the World Series?
Brendan: No. The whole saga is a gross over reaction to a tie ball game during an exhibition 10 years ago. These things happen all the time in spring training and no one demands that changes be made. With the addition of a second wild card team for each league, new emphasis is put on winning the division and “finishing” the season. Baseball is one of the few sports where home field is not only a comfort, but a strategic advantage as well. The teams with the best records deserve to be rewarded for their stellar play. Indeed, a superior record is good enough to earn a team home field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs, but suddenly, in the championship round it no longer matters? Ridiculous (as is the old method of taking turns – lame). The All Star game was fun before the infamous tie game and subsequent “This One Counts” garbage, which is what it’s all about in the first place. The fact that an exhibition game has such an impact on who is crowned champion is laughable and needs to stop.
Kevin: Yeah I guess. It clearly drums up more enthusiasm for the All Star game, even if it is an incredibly flawed idea. I for one pay more attention to the All Star game now that “it counts.” Granted, it’s meaningless for Rockies fans at this point, but it creates more enthusiasm within the general public, so in that sense it’s good for baseball.
Ned: The All Star game does not matter. The fact that Bud Selig has tried to inject some degree of importance into the ASG by the World Series home field advantage ploy shows again that the ability to sell cars does not make one fit to be the Commissioner of Baseball. Fan selection of the starters, with unlimited internet voting, renders selection as a starter close to meaningless. It has become a popularity contest decided by the ignorant and the biased. If MLB wants the ASG to have integrity, then the participants should be selected by the players and managers who actually do have informed opinions on which guys are truly having all-star years.
2. Should every team continue to have an All Star representative?
Brendan: Yes. One of the great features of the All Star game is that it is a showcase for smaller market (usually losing) teams to display their best player. True, there may be one or two players who probably shouldn’t be there, but for the most part every team has at least one worthy candidate even if he is not a household name. When I tune in for the All Star game, I want the opportunity to watch the Rockies’ representative do well (remember Aaron Cook and Matt Holliday in 2008?) and thrive on a national stage where everyone can appreciate what we get to see day in and day out. Without the mandatory inclusion from every team, I fear the Rockies players would often be left out of the fun as the same old Derek Jeters and David Ortizes of the world trot out there year after year while the smaller market players toil away in anonymity.
Kevin: Absolutely not. This rule is more in line with the exhibition nature of the All Star game. So long as home field advantage for the World Series is on the line, the leagues should be allowed to choose their players so as to field their best teams. This logic also means that fan voting should be banned, which I am completely fine with. The best argument against giving the vote to fans/average voters is a five minute conversation with the average fan/voter. Under the current situation, MLB and Bud Selig are having their cake and eating it, too. On the other hand, if the All Star game is played only as an exhibition, I don’t care what creepy ideas Bud Selig comes up with to select all stars.
Ned: Absolutely not. The sole reason for this goofy rule is to encourage interest in the game from fans of those teams who do not otherwise have a true all-star. If the players and the managers selected the ASG participants, then fans from around the entire two leagues would have a legitimate interest in watching the best play the best. Requiring each team to have at least one representative on the ASG roster is nothing but a misguided attempt to toss a mollifying sop to fans who would otherwise be too parochial to watch the best MLB has to offer.
3. Does the NL need to adopt the DH?
Brendan: Absolutely yes. I love the strategic aspect to the pitcher in the lineup as much as the next fan, but the NL teams are at a competitive disadvantage without the DH. The fact that the two leagues in the same sport play by different rules is cute, but it has become antiquated. In the NFL, it would be like if the AFC did not have a two-point conversion while the NFC did, but when the two played each other they just used the home team’s rules. Expansion of interleague play requires a unified rulebook and the DH is not going away anytime soon, so the NL needs to grin and bear it. Additionally, NL clubs are at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating with free agents because they do not have the option of sliding an aging slugger into a DH role. Prince Fielder’s contract is a prime example: NL teams simply could not take the risk on a 9 year deal worth over $200 for a player who may not have a position in 4 years. A small piece of baseball will die when the DH is instituted across the board, but it is going to happen eventually.
Kevin: Yes, it’s more fun and it would help to close the gap between the National and American leagues. Maybe I am no longer a baseball “purist” for supporting the DH, but the fact of the matter is that it has been and always will be more fun to watch David Ortiz hit (or Albert Belle) than it is to watch Drew Pomeranz hit. The argument that it’s more fun to watch a well executed bunt or a goofy pitcher swing is founded in a deep state of denial about the joys of the DH. The DH also makes the game more fun for the average viewer, and if the league wants to attempt to attract new fans, it has to make the game more entertaining. Homeruns > bunts. Lastly, it gives the AL an advantage over the NL because AL teams actually invest full resources into the position, whereas the NL does not, and this is why we see NL teams trotting out fourth outfielders for a DH while the AL trots out the likes of Edgar Martinez – advantage American League.
Ned: No. While the DH is fun to watch occasionally, I am strongly in favor of not adopting the DH in the National League. Most opponents of the DL focus on the managerial strategies, such as the double switch, which the DH removes from of the game. But the DH also takes significant pitching strategy out of the game. Do you walk the 8th batter to get to the pitcher’s spot with a man on second and two outs? How devastating is it for the pitcher to issue a walk to the opposing pitcher who is hitting under .200? And, what impact does running the bases have on a pitcher who does manage to get on base? All these considerations and more are lost with the DH. I understand the desire for more offense which one more big bopper provides. But I personally enjoy second-guessing the manager, and many of the second-guessing opportunities are lost when the DH is used.
Have a different take? Let us know in the comments below.
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