Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday some changes that are going to be in place for future All-Star games. Once again, they have missed an opportunity to make baseball better by focusing on this single game rather than the season as a whole.
What I think of the changes:
- The game will always have a Designated Hitter — historically, the DH has only been used in American League parks. Not a good move. Not being a big fan of the DH, I would like to see it being used nowhere rather than anywhere. What? That means no Big Papi? Unemotionally, I say yes, that means no Big Papi. In the mid-2000s, he has undeniably contributed (though much less so recently) to the game insofar as he provides that offensive weapon late in the game. But, one of my main criticisms of American Football is that there is only a small handful of players who have ever played both offense and defense; so to be consistent I can’t count a Major League Baseball player All-Star worthy who doesn’t play the field in a game where his defense is supposed to be one of his key strengths. If the always-a-DH idea is good enough for the All-Star game, why isn’t it good enough for both leagues, including for the World Series? It’s not – that’s why both leagues don’t have the DH. The best way to compromise is to alternate.
[I can see one merit of the always-a-DH rule, though. If you’re going to concede that pitchers just can’t hit and that’s OK because they’re paid to pitch, then there’s some merit to getting him out of the lineup in favor of a star hitter; this also lessens the likelihood of an injury.]
- “No pitcher who competes for his team on the previous Sunday will be allowed to pitch in the game.” As I read the entire article, it becomes apparent to me that this is a misquote. It only applies to starting pitchers — good thing. Even so, this should not be a rule imposed, but rather left up to the players and managers. If the pitcher himself and his manager and the All-Start team manager all agree that it’s best for him not to play, fine; but if all want to give him an inning or so, that should be fine too. I hope that team managers and pitching coaches will plan ahead and make sure that their All-Stars have a day off that previous Sunday — shouldn’t be that difficult.
- Each team now has 34 players, up from 33. Sure, OK, no problem. At some point it will be too many, but 34 seems fine.
- A player can re-enter the game if he was pulled out earlier, but only if another player’s injury necessitates it. No problem. I think it would suck if Albert Pujols played 3 innings and was pulled, then got to go back in to pinch hit in the 9th with a man on 2nd for strategy reasons… but in case of injury or maybe even for other reasons, OK by me.
But the most significant change is absent. That stupid, ridiculous business about the winning league’s team getting home field advantage in the World Series is just a farce, should never have been put in place, and should be revoked immediately. Let the game end in a tie. It’s an exhibition. There doesn’t have to be a winner. Sure, it’s exciting to have the prospect of a game-saving catch or a walk-off in the 12th inning, but at some point if the rosters are spent and it’s been a good game, it can just end. I wasn’t upset in 2002 when the umpires, commissioner, and both managers agreed it was time to be done.
But even if you make them play the game out till one team wins, that victory should have no bearing on who gets home field advantage in the World Series. If a Diamondbacks pitcher has a bad 7th inning in July and gives up 3 runs on the way to a 6-5 AL victory, that shouldn’t mean that a team with the 4th best record in the AL gets home field advantage over the best team in the NL in October — that’s just stupid. I usually try to see both sides and refrain from just calling something stupid outright… but in this case, this is just stupid because there’s no way to see the merit of other side’s position.
So, I kind of turn my nose up at Wednesday’s announcement. A couple changes are OK, a couple aren’t, and the one that would make all the difference was skipped over again this year.