I love the All-Star Game. It’s a timeless and magic event that showcases the very best of baseball. I always remember the excitement of watching the Midsummer Classic as a kid, and being amazed that all my favorite players assembled each July for a contest ripped straight from hardball fantasy. Yet this year, the prospect of watching eight Kansas City Royals start in Cincinnati, as the voting presently dictates, simply doesn’t appeal. In fact, it threatens to make a mockery of the entire process, and consign the All-Star Game to sad irrelevance.
My opposition to the Royals’ domination of voting is multifaceted. Firstly, we must remember that the All-Star Game determines which league has home-field advantage for the World Series. This came into play last year, when the Giants and Royals met in Game 7 at Kauffman Stadium. Therefore, if the game counts, the best player at each position must be selected. For instance, Omar Infante, possessing the lowest OPS of any qualified hitter in Major League Baseball, should not start the game while Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis, or even Dustin Pedroia sits on the bench. That nightmare scenario is on the verge of becoming reality. Similarly, Eric Hosmer is currently slated to start ahead of Miguel Cabrera, and, judging by the last vote count, Mike Moustakas is on pace to play third, ahead of Josh Donaldson and his 17 home runs.
Such fundamentally flawed selections not only affect the American League’s chances of victory, but, in a wider sense, they also insult the history and tradition of the All-Star Game, which has always been a sacred opportunity for the greatest stars to assemble on one stage. Some Royals, such as Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez, are undoubtedly worthy of All-Star honors, but others, such as Infante and Alcides Escobar, simply aren’t worthy of the accolade. By voting for such clearly undeserving players, the currency of All-Star Game selection is devalued immensely, and the contest itself becomes cheap and meaningless.
This fiasco comes at a time when MLB is trying to appeal to a younger audience. Baseball, usually slow and ponderous, isn’t hugely compatible with our modern world, typically frantic and hyperactive. These days, kids generally prefer the fast-paced drama of basketball, or the instantaneous excitement of football, over the meandering poetry of baseball. Yet, the All-Star Game, by design, is a prime opportunity for MLB to showcase a different face; a prime opportunity to exhibit the young stars of our game in a more relaxed and vibrant setting. For instance, the Home Run Derby is a great way of engaging young kids. Accordingly, baseball’s brightest stars, such as Cabrera, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, should play a starring role. They certainly shouldn’t sit on the sidelines watching Kendrys Morales or Lorenzo Cain.
Ultimately, MLB must fix this broken system. Right now, the All-Star Game is a brilliant reminder of baseball’s past, full of tradition and prestige, but also a potentially great vehicle for future progress, full of intrigue and entertainment. Yet, in allowing so many unsuitable players to be part of the festivities, baseball will destroy a once-beloved event, and miss another huge opportunity to develop a global fanbase. Rob Manfred must intervene, to save the players from embarrassment, the All-Star Game from shame, and baseball from slipping further into the shadows of general indifference.