CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 9, 2012 — Of America’s favorite sports, baseball has always been the best designed professional event for an all-star game.
The NFL’s Pro Bowl has always been a meaningless exhibition that must take place after the regular season is over when fans have no interest.
The NBA version is basically a freak show for giants to show off individual offensive abilities while playing no defense.
Baseball, however, is a “team sport played by individuals,” and once the All Star Game was a mid-season break, showcasing the skills of generally normal-sized athletes who play both offense and defense. In the era before round-the-clock media coverage, interleague games, free agency and a single set of rules, the National League challenging the American League for bragging rights was an intriguing concept.
No more. Ho hum.
Following the NBA format of having a “slam dunk” contest, baseball has added the Home Run Derby on the Monday before the game. In reality, the derby is little more than a two and half hour batting practice session. Boooorrrrring.
Back in the day when the two leagues only faced each other in the World Series and Spring Training (which doesn’t count), the idea of baseball’s best players challenging each other for supremacy had a certain validity for fans. Enter interleague play and the credibility of both the All Star Game and the World Series declined overnight.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig claims that fans love interleague baseball. Not real fans. For purists, interleague baseball is anathema. It is a two-week interruption of the pennant races during the first half of the season. Furthermore, it unbalances schedules so that teams in the same division frequently play against different opponents for two and a half weeks of nonsense.
Not only does the advent of interleague games make the All Star Game just another dull competition among overpaid athletes, it has made a mockery of baseball’s showcase event, the World Series.
Time was when baseball had something no other major league sport could claim, a true champion. The American and National Leagues were separate entities and the final meeting was between teams competing for the championship that had never faced each other during the regular season. That led to speculation and anticipation among fans and media alike. No other sport had it. Baseball was unique.
In the modern world of major league baseball, speculation about the Series has been diluted by mid-season games that also destroy the nobility of the sport. Much of the anticipation is lost, devoured by regular season games that ruin the delicious joy of watching teams meet each other without a previous frame of reference.
For the All Star Game, interleague games have reduced what was once an opportunity for baseball to display its finest players in any given year in one place at one time. Today, network re-runs are probably more popular and a replay of the Super Bowl in the same time slot would probably be won by the NFL.
Throw in the different rules played in both leagues, and the All Star Game is now a convoluted mess. One league plays real baseball where the pitcher hits, while the other league gives mostly past-their-prime sluggers a chance to extend their careers as a designated hitter.
Sadly, the game is better in the National League where the strategy is pure, but the American League offers more offense due to the additional hitter. If changes were made to include a DH in the National League, the game would also lose much of its integrity by revamping an integral aspect of its strategic competition.
Of course, MLB could eliminate the designated hitter, but the player’s association would never allow that because it provides extra jobs for players who might otherwise be forced to retire.
Combine all of these elements with the constant changing of leagues through free agency trades and inter-team negotiations as well as non-stop television coverage, and the once popular intrigue of the All Star Game is lost in a sea of greed and technology.
When the game is played, the stadium will be full. The media will TRY to make it interesting. But in the end, baseball’s mid-season classic has become a tedious three-day break where baseball fans twiddle their thumbs waiting for the pennant races to resume.
Peabod is Bob Taylor, a former professional baseball player and television sports anchor. He is owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC, founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more.
Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.
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