I’ve put a ton of thought into the MLB All-Star game after enjoying the refreshing look that the NHL put on display last weekend. Some people may or may not agree with what I’m about to post, and most will likely not care, but I just thought I’d through it out there as my 2 cents on the issues.
In 2010, the ratings for the All-Star game were, simply put, horrific. They hit a record low of 7.1, with the previous low being 8.1 in 2005. To put this in perspective, in 1967, the rating was 25.6. Talk about a steady drop! There’s a post-2008 graph, courtesy of tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com, showing you just how dire things are getting for the All-Star game. Sure, there are a ton of reasons for this drop which MLB can’t have a real impact on. From more channels to watch to busier lives for most folks, it’s not easy getting people’s attention these days. Still, it better do something and do it soon, or it will only get worse and may eventually become irrelevant altogether.
Here are some of the more prominent issues that I’ve heard are plaguing the current format of the All-Star game:
1 – Deciding the World Series Home-field Advantage
- A ton of people are absolutely against having the winning team gain home-field advantage for the World Series.
- Others also dislike the record-based format because they argue that it is hard to evenly rate the records coming out of each league. The DH, powerful franchises and divisions, and budget differences all come into play and are factors that can’t be weighed evenly between leagues.
Solution to #1:
Alternate between the leagues regardless of who wins what. It’s about as fair as you can get, and makes sure that each league gets its fair share of home-field advantage. After all, why should a team’s chances of home-field advantage be in the hands of the players from opposing teams?
2 - The Motivation of Players to Compete and Injury Issues
- This may be the biggest issue in that many people, and players, see this as an “exhibition” where interaction between the fans and the players is enhanced to a new level.
- Simultaneously, have you noticed how hard players participating in the HR derby event of the All-Star game try to get all of those HRs for charity purposes when they reach the “Golden Ball” level? Everyone seems to be sitting on the edge of their seats when they get to that level, the announcers pay more attention to each pitch, and the amount of money “earned” for charity as a result is added up during the inning to show just how much is being earned for charity. State Farm paid a high of $517,000 to charity in 2009 after deciding to pay $5,000 per non-golden ball HR. They lowered that amount to $3,000 in 2010 and paid out a total of $453,000 as a result.
- Players are also said to “take it easy” during the All-Star game because they fear injury and don’t want to wear themselves down during the event or game.
Solutions to #2:
- First, make sure that all pitchers who part take in the event only play a maximum of 1 inning.
- Second, make every single strike out, walk, hit, double, triple, HR, RBI, double play, stolen base, catch, sacrifice, and error be worth a certain amount. Half of the designated amount would go to a charity as decided on by MLB, and the other half would go to the charity of the player’s choice in his name. Some of the pre-game focus could be used to enhance the awareness of the causes the players are playing for, and it would definitely motivate them to perform. The best example of this is the Babe Ruth and Johnny Sylvester example, where Babe promised to hit a HR in game 4 of the World Series for him and wound up hitting 3! Charity motivates even the richest people to do wonderful things, and the All-Star game would become a much better spectacle because of it.
- Just throwing this out there as an example: a hit could be worth $1,000. A double would be $2,000, a triple $3,000, and a HR $4,000. Each RBI could be worth $250, a stolen base would be $2,000, a double-play $2,000, a catch for an out $250, a sacrifice $500, ect… Something different would have to be done for pitchers, since they could be said to be throwing lemons for the hitters to hit and to rack up donations with. So, a system of pitch count bonus for their charity could be established. The fewer pitches thrown to get out of their inning, the more money they make for their charities. A certain amount could also be added if they get a hitter out in less than 3 pitches, if they don’t allow a hit or a walk in the entire inning, and also another amount if they strike out 2 or 3 hitters in their one inning of work.
- Finally, all of the players and coaches on the winning team will have a $3,000 donation made to the charity of their choices. That makes winning the ultimate priority of all players because it sets the biggest gain for all of their charities, and allows some of the players who didn’t perform well in the game a chance to get some donations for their charities – which they can match if they so chose.
The amount of money designated to each category could be debated and argued for or against, but I truly believe that this solution would go a long way to making the All-Star game worthwhile watching, worthwhile playing in, and would be the best win-win-win situation for owners, players, and fans alike. If a pitcher is not taking part in the event due to having pitched recently, a nominal amount can be donated on his behalf in recognition for his excellent performance. It also continues the enhanced dedication MLB has made towards charitable donations, as evident by the “All Stars Among Us” program.
3 – All-Star Participant Voting
- This is a major issue for a lot of fans who disagree with the players and managers having a say in who plays in the All-Star game, but it is also the simplest to resolve. If it is truly an exhibition game for the fans, let the fans decide who plays. End of story.
- The voting currently allows multiple votes for each e-mail address.
Solution to #3:
One email address, one vote. Only fan votes count, that way those who are supporting MLB most get to see the players they want to see, and fans each get the same number of votes (alright, possibly 2 or 3 if they have multiple email accounts).
There’s a chance that many people will see these changes as minimal in impact of viewership, but something has to be done, doesn’t it? My take is that tugging at the hearts of the public by upping the ante in terms of charitable donations would go a long way to getting people viewing again and seeing the game as a great event. While the NHL has brought in a draft for selecting players and other gimmicks to make things interesting, I can’t see this being something that MLB wants to take on, and I don’t think it would have a huge impact on ratings on its own. When we see entire T.V. shows dedicated to charitable giving, such as Sears and the Extreme Home Makeover show, we can tell that people are drawn to it in huge numbers. Their ratings did drop over time, but were still consistently higher than MLB’s All-Star game.
I believe that combining charitable donations on a bigger scale than any other sport will not only bring back a lot of fans who may have strayed from the mid-summer classic, but I also believe that it would entice people who may not be huge baseball fans to watch anyhow because they appreciate the event and its charitable focus. Allowing for featured charities to be presented, and all of the marketing that goes with it, would bring a ton of focus to the game that would not only be for the one organization that sponsors the event, whether it be State Farm or another corporation. Broadening the included sponsors would go a long way to helping the game out. They could even auction off sponsors for each statistical category if they want to, so that one corporation or company doesn’t have to pay for all of these amounts being “earned”.
Finally, the players, or the majority of them, would surely love to bring their charitable efforts and the charities they support to the spotlight. So many great players do so much work for charities that allowing for such a stage to be set makes perfect sense.
Sure, the All-Star game is supposed to be about baseball, but it’s still about the people it impacts as well. Allowing each the NL and AL to gain the home-field advantage, until such a time as both leagues use the DH or play in one massive division, allowing fans to vote the players in, and increasing the positive impact on the communities and charities they count on to support them would bring exactly the attention that should and could be brought to a great event like an MLB All-Star game.
Setting MLB and its players as the “good people” of professional sports by making such an impact-full charitable push could help brand MLB ahead of other pro sports, particularly when 2 of them are set for a possible lockout over money.
I doubt any of these changes will ever make it past this post, but I’d sure love to see what the ratings would be if they were.