Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why the All-Star Game Still Doesn't Matter

This year's All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium is going to be a financial bonanza for MLB, causing some to call the Midsummer Classic "revitalized" since the infamous 2002 tie.

From a pure baseball perspective, though, the ASG is nowhere near as compelling as it used to be, nor it it likely to become so. To understand why, think for a moment back to 1996 - no, not because it's the last time the National League won, but because it's the last time the All-Star game was genuinely interesting. This is because it was the last year before MLB instituted interleague play, making it the only chance to see marquee players from each league go up against each other, except on the off-chance they'd meet again in the World Series. Take a look at the play by play and think of some of these then-rare matchups: John Smoltz having to face Mo Vaughn, Pudge Rodriguez and Cal Ripken Jr. in an inning, or Pedro Martinez (then with the Expos) facing in one inning Kenny Lofton, Wade Boggs, Roberto Alomar, Albert Belle and Vaughn.

Whatever interleague play's merits, it's definitely undermined the most interesting thing about the ASG. As just one example, we've already seen Dan Haren go against the Red Sox lineup (granted, without Ortiz, but does he even really count as an All-Star this year?). Hence, MLB's artificial attempt to restore some intrigue by making World Series home-field advantage depend on its outcome.

There is a bright spot, though: the Home Run Derby still remains interesting, because getting to see the top power hitters in a pure slugging competition is both compelling in its own right, and hasn't been diluted by seeing it over and over throughout the year.


(quick post-Home Run Derby addition - are we likely to see anything in the ASG as exciting as Josh Hamilton's first-round performance?)


  1. I agree with what you are saying but think you are neglecting something. While it's true that we've seen certain pitching-hitting matchups due to interleague play, what you're not mentioning is the matchups on defense we get to see, such as a Hanley Ramirez/Chase Utley double play combination or a battery of Sheets and Soto. I think seeing members of opposing teams in the same league, sometimes fierce division rivals, play together to beat the other league, is worth watching.

  2. Also, a 13 inning (possibly more) ASG is definitely as exciting as Josh Hamilton's home runs last night.

    -Lee (both posts)

  3. one might argue that with the rate players change teams nowadays, the All-Star game would not be as compelling as in the olden days even without interleague play.