The 2017 MLB All-Star Game has come and gone, with the American League pulling out a 10th-inning, 2-1 victory over the National League. Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners hit a home run off Chicago Cubs reliever Wade Davis to provide the margin of victory, and Cano walked away with the MVP award for his effort.
Now that the winner of the game no longer determines home-field advantage in the World Series, everyone was free to enjoy the festivities without feeling like anything important was on the line. But still, we can do better. The game was entertaining, but we thought of a few ways to make it even better. Here are seven changes that Major League Baseball can do to make the MLB All-Star Game more fun.
7. Actually embrace the fun
There was a moment in the All-Star game where fun prevailed over all the cliches about hard work, grit, and taking things seriously. Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners approached the plate with a camera in his back pocket, and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina offered to take a picture of Cruz with home-plate umpire Joe West. The lighthearted moment reminded us what an All-Star game is all about.
More of this, please. Remember the good old days of Larry Walker facing off against Randy Johnson, with the left-handed hitter putting his helmet on backwards and stepping into the right-handed batter’s box? An All-Star game shouldn’t merely be a game played by great players around the league. It should be really fun, too. Embrace it.
6. Tweak the rules
If you’re going to embrace the fun, the rules need to be a little less rigid. MLB has already gone out of their way to make things more flexible, at least to a degree. One player, designated prior to the game, is allowed to re-enter the game after being removed — something not normally allowed in a major-league game. But why limit it to just one player? Couldn’t we allow any player who is removed from the game to come back? What’s the harm in that?
The concern, of course, might be the managers getting too cute with things and making all sorts of switches all the time. But wouldn’t it be a bit more fun if you could essentially pick and choose from a list of stars to pinch-hit in the ninth inning? Again, we aim to make the game more fun and less rigid.
5. WBC style of play
Prior to the start of the 2017 season, fans had a nice break from the monotony of Spring Training in the form of the World Baseball Classic. The tournament featured teams comprised of players from several different countries, including the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Japan. It energized fans with more than just a love for baseball, but also a feeling of national pride.
So why not do something similar with the MLB All-Star Game? We can’t break it down into a tournament, of course, but why not create an MLB “Team USA” to go up against the “World Team?” The Futures Game already does basically the same thing, and it works out well. Some sort of national bragging rights would give the game a sense of purpose without forcing it to be anything more than a fun exhibition.
4. Get rid of fan voting
History is riddled with undeserving All-Stars who fans voted into the game in an attempt to either get a bad player in on purpose or simply vote in large quantities for a fan favorite. Remember in 2006 when Mark Loretta (who finished the year with 0.5 WAR) started at second base? Or when Cal Ripken Jr. started in 2001 despite a .594 OPS? Or the time when freakin’ Cesar Izturis made the team?!
Get rid of the fan voting. Give us the true All-Stars, no matter how they are selected. Maybe you do a poll of front office personnel and the coaching staffs around the game, taking the top players at each position. A small group of people — who have little to do other than voting over and over for their favorite players — may be upset. But a large majority of baseball fans don’t even think about voting for All-Stars until the league starts throwing it in their faces in May.
3. More silliness
Bring on the silly stuff! At the MLB All-Star Game in Miami, everyone enjoyed at least one great moment of levity. The Freeze, a groundskeeper for the Atlanta Braves who has become famous for his ballpark races, took on a little competition on the warning track in between innings and got what he had coming to him: He lost, and it was great.
But we say, why not go sillier? More races! More giant hot dogs and people dressed in shark suits. Let a fan play catch in the outfield with Bryce Harper. Heck, let a fan play right field for an inning. If it’s fun and silly, the All-Star game is the time and the place.
2. A sudden death ending
Probably the best and most exciting part about the 2017 All-Star weekend was the Home Run Derby on Monday evening. Aaron Judge absolutely owned Miami Marlins first baseman Justin Bour in the first round. Then, Judge went on to win the derby with several jaw-dropping moonshots. So, in the event of an All-Star game heading to extra innings — Tuesday’s game did — why not finish with a sudden death home-run contest?
The rules would be simple: Each team selects two players, a batter and a pitcher. The pitcher tosses to his own teammate, who attempts to hit the most home runs possible. The team with the most homers at the end wins the game. As outside the box as that may seem, it’s not all that different than a shootout after overtime in hockey — and the NHL does that during the regular season.
1. Draft the rosters
Recently, Washington Nationals outfielder Harper suggested that the two top vote-getters should be named as team captains who draft the All-Star rosters. In reality, this schoolyard style of pickup ball sounds like a blast. The idea is that you get players out of their element and add a little more excitement to the game, with the draft happening on the field, in front of the fans on game day.
Wouldn’t it be exciting to see Clayton Kershaw pitching to Justin Turner? Or Max Scherzer versus Harper? A Cubs batter facing a Cardinals pitcher in a key at-bat? It’s a little crazy, but we’re with Harper on this one. It makes the game more fun and interesting, which is the main purpose of the midseason exhibition anyway.