Major League Baseball. The games are too long. The action is too slow. There’ve been highly publicized scandals. The League doesn’t even have a proper name for God’s sake. But there’s still a mysterious allure.
There’s the peaceful cracking sound of ball hitting bat. The accessibility. The simplicity at its core. I can’t think of any other sport where you can strip away the majority of the elements and still feel like it’s a real game. To simulate a game in almost any other sport you need a net or a special surface or a lot of people. But anyone can play baseball pretty much anywhere. One ball. One bat. No particular target needed. Just make the sound and you’ve won.
The same goes for the MLB All-Star Game. It’s the professional sport who’s All-Star game strips away the least amount of elements that make the game enjoyable. Take away the intense hitting and blocking of football and literally half the players are pointless. Take away the hitting and aggression of hockey and the value of the game diminishes. Take away the intensity of defense in basketball and it’s harder to appreciate. It’s not a bad way to showcase other elements of those sports, but its only exciting for so long and it definitely isn’t the same as a real game.
In a baseball All-Star game not that much needs to change. The umpire can be every bit as good or bad. The duel between pitcher and batter can be every bit as intense. The fielders can still make amazing catches and double plays. Every hit can be just as electrifying. There may be one or two less balls thrown at batters or collisions at the bags, but the essence, the integrity of the game, is still intact.
That’s why it shocks me to be the sport that makes the All-Star game the most meaningful. To force the players to put in an effort for this one game, the winning League of the All-Star game gets home field advantage in the World Series. Why? There’s nothing preventing the players from trying or making the game entertaining already. The classic feel good elements are still there. People aren’t going to watch any more or less, are they?
The teams play 162 games. Why is it so important to make this ONE game, this one small part of an entire weekend celebration of the sport, more meaningful? If you let the regular season standings determine home field advantage, you might make games 140-162 more meaningful for more teams instead.