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Should the MLB require a player from every team in the All-Star Game?
By Amanda Rykoff
Remember the good old days when the MLB All-Star Game was just an exhibition designed to showcase players? It wasn't that long ago. But since the league and the players agreed in 2003 that the winner of the All-Star Game would receive home-field advantage in the World Series, the game has morphed from an exhibition to a real game with significant implications ("This time it counts" is the slogan). That's why MLB should abolish the archaic rule that at least one player from every team must be named an All-Star.
This rule made sense when the game served as a showcase for players fans might not otherwise get a chance to see. But thanks to interleague play, MLB.TV and many more national games on ESPN, Fox and TBS, baseball fans don't need to rely on the Midsummer Classic for a chance to see players from all over the league. And let's be honest -- there are often teams with players who just don't deserve to be called an All-Star (I'm looking at you, Marlins). More deserving players who are legitimately having "All-Star" seasons should play instead, especially if the goal is to field the team with the best chances of winning the game.
I don't have enough space to get into a rant about how it makes no sense to have a game serve as an exhibition and popularity contest as well as one with significant postseason implications. Fan voting appears to be here to stay, so one way to show the All-Star Game does actually count is to eliminate the rule that every team have a representative. It's not going to happen any time soon, but baseball fans can at least dream.
By Mechelle Voepel
When the All-Star Game was just an exhibition of the best players, the requirement of having at least one representative from every team undeniably seemed to be a good rule. Since 2003, though, there has been something at stake with the game: World Series home-field advantage to the winning league.
That does make it more than an exhibition. So should the practice of all-inclusion still be followed? Or should it just be the so-called "best" players regardless of team representation?
Ultimately, I think the current set-up might be the best situation, despite its many passionate and intelligent critics: The All-Star Game "counts" for something, but it remains representative of all franchises. That way, fans of every team still have a "connection" to the All-Star Game.
By Graham Hays
Can we please keep at least one of baseball's quirks, especially as part of a game that really, really ought to be meaningless anyway?
Interleague play is here to stay, and maybe the benefits of a heavyweight series between the Rangers and Giants or regional rivalry between the Nationals and Orioles outweigh the pointlessness of the same between the Astros and Royals. The wild card isn't just here; it's expanding. Doubleheaders ... all right, I'm not actually old enough to remember a wealth of scheduled doubleheaders, but they sound fun. The point is baseball, as much as it revels in its history, keeps chipping away at some of its most endearing peculiarities, some for the better and some less so. But if tradition for tradition's sake should be motivation for reform in a lot of instances, All-Star Game representation isn't one of them. There is still something endearing about both teams lining up along the baselines before the game as we watch each player tip his cap to the sound of loud cheers (hometown team), good-natured boos (hometown team's rival) or mild puzzlement (generally the representatives of the Pirates, Royals and Orioles, who may or may not ever be heard from again). In those instances, the incongruity of George Sherrill or Marlon Byrd in the line is as important as the familiarity of Derek Jeter or Albert Pujols.
Until a starting pitcher goes six innings or a bench remains unused, I'm not buying that the All-Star Game means anything, World Series implications or not. And as long as that's the case, it's the perfect place to keep alive the most meaningless and inconsequential of traditions. Keep spreading the wealth.
By Sarah Spain
Ever since Bud Selig elected to give home-field advantage in the World Series to the winning side of the All-Star Game, the contest has taken on a whole new meaning. It's not just about recognizing the best in the game anymore, it's about the final score.
As a longtime fan of the Chicago Cubs, I appreciate being able to watch at least one of my guys suit up as an All-Star, even when my team is dead last in the standings.
But one day, down the road, when the Cubs are challenging for a World Series (Shut up, it's gonna happen!) I'll want the best possible team out there repping the National League.Baseball needs to decide whether this game is meant to be entertainment for the fans or a competition that affects the season. It can't have it both ways.
By Kate Fagan
We used to talk about this within NBA circles, because when I covered the Philadelphia 76ers, they never had a player chosen for the All-Star game. That team was always around .500, filled with a bunch of solid players, but no star player. That was the reality, and no league-instituted rule was going to change it. If you don't have a player the fans want to see, and vote to see, then your team shouldn't have a player at the All-Star game.
Because All-Star games should be about just that: stars. It shouldn't be a collection of each team's most valuable player, it should be the top players in the league, whether that's three or four off one team and none off another, or whether the players are evenly distributed throughout the league. Obviously, in a perfect world, Major League Baseball would have a big-name player on each team, because that means each market has a player people would pay money to watch. But there should be no rule artificially creating "star" players, ones who aren't actually deserving of that designation.
When I do watch All-Star competitions, which is rare because it's entertainment not sport (even more so than the regular-season games), I'm watching for the spectacle of it, to see the top players together on one field, regardless of uniform or of city represented.
By Melissa Jacobs
Most successful careers are rooted in various forms of favoritism. So-and-so may have had the preferred hair length to land that modeling contract, the preferred writing style to wow a particular editor, the preferred law school to fit in at a particular firm.
Perhaps the great draw of sports is it is largely the exception. At its core, two players or two teams battling with the same rulebook make sport one of life's remaining meritocracies. Of course there are bad referees and performance-enhancement issues, but for the most part, when an athlete is the best at their position or in their sport, they are objectively the best.
This is why the Major League Baseball rule is so asinine. All-Star games are an opportunity to show off the cream of the crop. Instead baseball fans are subjected to a slew of players who don't deserve to be there, while real All-Stars are missing out on the fanfare they have earned.
I hated this rule before the All-Star Game decided home-field advantage in the World Series. Now it's just incongruous, backward and has stripped luster from what used to be the best All-Star game out there. Objectively.
By Adena Andrews
Letting players from each team into the Midsummer Classic is fair but that doesn't make it right. The only time fair should come into play in baseball, is if there is a large pole in the outfield involved.
Forcing players and coaches to make a decision based on the trivial fact that all teams must be represented in the Midsummer Classic is meaningless.
In the end, the game is about money and how many eyeballs are watching. Fans will watch the all-star game whether their favorite pitcher from the Cincinnati Reds is present or not and advertisers will still pay. By tossing in players to meet a team quota, it lessens your spot on the team. You could be looked at as a charity case that got there just for representation.
Also, the last time I checked, all-star games were about the best talent. Not being nice. This isn't a school science fair where every class must be represented. This is baseball and I want to see the best possible team fielded. Not one that was picked to protect people's feelings.
By Michelle Smith
No. Too many marginal players get in at the expense of those who are better and more deserving. Most of the marginal guys are there to get their names introduced. They often don't get to play. Fans don't care if every team is represented and this is a game for the fans. As long as the All-Star manager has home-field advantage for the World Series on the line, he should get to pick his non-starters without having to worry about representing every team.