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Friday, February 11, 2011
Commish for a Day: All-Star Game edition

By Jason Rosenberg

Last week, Joe Aiello discussed a few of his ideas were he named "Commissioner for a Day." On Monday, Bill Baer followed it with some of his own. Today is my chance to don the commissioner's cloak of power and wield a mighty sword.

Aiello touched on a few things about the All-Star Game that he'd like to improve, but his ideas are more about scheduling and the logistical challenges faced with so many other events involved. My suggestions target the root causes of some of the All-Star Game grievances I've seen and heard over the past few years.

Let's start with the basic question: What's the point of the All-Star Game, anyway? A few of the obvious answers include:
  1. To promote the game, in general.
  2. To promote the game's best players.
  3. To promote this year's best players.
  4. To promote the most popular players.

The game should never be about determining home-field advantage in the World Series. That's a gimmick that was doomed from the beginning. Yes, the concept was grounded in a desire to make the game more "meaningful" after the 2002 debacle. However, affixing a prize on the game's great exhibition was faulty logic.

At the core of this dichotomy is the selection process. As it currently stands, the starters are selected by us, the fans. I know many of us, you, we, them do our best to pick the best guys each year, but it will forever be a popularity contest and deserving guys will not be selected as starters and the managers will have to use up roster spots to rectify fans' snubs. (And if you think poor fan selections are endemic to baseball, look no further than the out-for-the-season Yao Ming being selected a starter in the 2011 NBA all star game.)

There's also a rule that was created and relevant/important 30 years ago: mandatory representation. Every team must have a player selected and that, naturally, leads to further problems as some times, a team doesn't have a player worthy of making the team.

Again, the manager must select someone from every team, and this, too, eats up precious roster spots. Thankfully, MLB recently expanded the All-Star rosters to accommodate this growing problem, but the mandatory representation rule is a problem, in a kinda-sorta way.

Additionally, the trend of using the starting pitcher for only two innings and giving an inning to every other arm you've got, minus a few for "just in case," is not how you manage a game in which you are trying to win. Why? Because this should be an exhibition! The selection process, the mandatory representation rule, the Little League-esque style of "everyone plays" all works just fine if this was an exhibition. Except it's not. This game counts. See the problem?

Everything about the game flies right in the face of the game counting for something as important as home-field advantage in the World Series. So what to do? Glad you asked. Here are my suggestions on to fix this problem:
  1. The game is an exhibition, period. The home-field advantage in the World Series can be determined by the head-to-head record in Interleague games. I think this works because it will remain intact and is one of Bud Selig's pets. And if you don't like that idea, how about the league which won the World Series the prior year keeps home-field advantage? Winner stays on.
  2. Mandatory representation remains intact. Bring on Mark Redman, 2006!
  3. The game lasts nine innings. No extra innings. No worry about a tie because it's an exhibition. Play the game, go home. Get back to the games that matter and reduce the risk of injuries over an exhibition. Take that, Ray Fosse.
  4. DH's for both teams, regardless of the host city's league affiliation. It's an exhibition; no one wants to see a pitcher bunt.
  5. Want something new? How about this Manny Ramirez-inspired doozy: Any player testing positive for PEDs cannot play in an All-Star Game within the next 12 months after the conclusion of their suspension. That covers players who get caught in the second half of a season so they can’t be selected for the following All-Star Game.
  6. Because I'm a stickler: Unless you are on the DL at the time of the game, if selected as a starter, you must show up. No phantom injuries so you can enjoy a long weekend in the Caribbean. Play an inning so your fans who voted you onto the team can see you take the field and maybe an at-bat. If you fail to do so, you are ineligible for selection the following year. You, the players, work for us, the fans. Don't forget it.

You simply cannot continue to have a game that counts with a selection process that is fit for an exhibition.

Jason Rosenberg is the founder and lead writer of "It's About The Money, Stupid," a SweetSpot Network member. IIATMS can be found on Facebook and on Twitter. Larry Behrendt contributed to this article and can be followed on Twitter.