As far as sports all-star games go, the MLB version is far and away the best of the three major sports. Here’s why.
By Jake McCormick
Just as a precursor, All-Star Games are meant to be novelties where the game’s best for one year are rewarded with a week-long mid or end of season party before the finale actual game only meant to give player’s bragging rights.
There are flaws in each league’s star-driven exhibitions (mostly surrounding the fan voting process, but no democratic structure is perfect) and the NFL, NBA, and MLB always pump up their respective games in hopes that those same fans casting votes are willing to watch the game, buy a jersey, or make the trek to the host city. But even with the problems and lack of significant interest generated by each league’s all star game, the MLB’s version stands heads above the rest.
Here are just a few reasons why Commissioner Bud Selig presides over the best All-Star Game in sports:
1. It counts
As annoying as it is to have an All-Star Game determine home field advantage for the World Series, it adds a certain amount of strategy not seen in the Pro Bowl, or NBA All-Star Game. Defense in the NBA All-Star Game is more of a rarity than Dennis Kucinich at a Tea Party rally, and any football game where the quarterback, by rule, can’t be tackled doesn’t qualify as anything other than a glorified flag game.
Personally I think the winner of the seasonal Interleague record, or the World Series team with the best record, should decide who gets four home games, but Selig at least deserves a little credit for forcefully injecting life into a game not seen since Pete Rose barreled over Ray Fosse in the 1970 Mid-Summer Classic. It may not be ideal, but even the biggest skeptics have to admit that the game got a little more exciting when the players knew they were playing for something more than just pride.
2. The Home Run Derby
The NFL has the Skills Competition and the NBA has the Dunk Contest. But as the old saying goes: Chicks dig the long ball. As annoying as it is when Chris Berman hoots and hollers at moonshots off batting practice fastballs, the Home Run Derby still remains the most exciting individual pre-game contest in the three major sports. The Dunk Contest has sloughed off since the days of Michael Jordan, mostly because there is a creativity threshold and most NBA players are able to pull off at least one athletic throw down.
Anything involved with the Pro Bowl draws less interest than Jonah Hex did on its opening weekend. In contrast, the Home Run Derby provides consistent, cheap entertainment that draws fans in with the promise of seeing something they’ll never witness in regular game play. There still is very little in sports that can eclipse the thrill and anticipation of watching an MLB slugger effortlessly crank a 450+ foot home run.
3. Rarely seen matchups
Interleague play takes a little wind out of the sails of potential NL-AL superstar pitcher-batter matchups, but nearly every at-bat is a battle between the league’s best at both positions. It’s the only All-Star Game that is a constant one-on-one face offs between the league’s premiere talent on the mound and at the plate.
In every other sport, interleague games account for more than 10% of a team’s regular season, and there’s still some level of uniqueness involved with the MLB All-Star Game. Baseball is an individual sport masquerading under the veil of a team concept. This only increases the appeal of the All-Star Game when intriguing matchups are guaranteed to occur.
Only one all-star festival brings the sports world to a halt like the 1995 shutdown of the federal government under Bill Clinton, and it belongs to the MLB. When every other U.S. sport has to stop for three days for a glorified scrimmage, it says something about the star power of your sport and the game’s popularity.