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Park: Why the MLB All-Star Game needs a radical overhaul

With just over a month of the Major League Baseball regular season gone, it’s the time of year again at which MLB.com reminds you approximately 20 times every time you visit its website to remember to vote for the starters for this year’s All-Star Game.

But even though my Colorado Rockies are sure to be well-represented on the NL roster, and the host site this year is back home in Minneapolis, I think that it’s indicative of the sad state of the Midsummer Classic that I don’t feel particularly compelled — or compelled at all, for that matter — to go see the spectacle for myself.

Why, you ask?

1. For god’s sake, don’t let this charade of an exhibition game have any tangible impact on the actual season

I will never, ever understand the reasoning behind Commissioner Selig’s decision to make the All-Star Game determine home-field advantage for the World Series. It was an attempt to make the game actually mean something instead of falling into the sad, sad niche occupied by the Pro Bowl. Clearly, that hasn’t done much to help the reputation of the game — even hurting it in the eyes of baseball fans around the nation, due to its perception as a desperation ploy. While fans certainly turn out for the festivities every year, people don’t go for the actual game; they go for the novelty and uniqueness of the experience.

So for an exhibition game played in a manner that isn’t anything like a normal game of baseball (due to the myriad of substitutions) and that is treated accordingly by many fans around the nation, I think it’s absurd that something that can be as crucial and pivotal as home-field advantage in the World Series comes anywhere near the sphere of the All-Star Game. As a Minnesotan, I’ll just turn to the Twins’ 1987 and 1991 World Series victories to show how important home-field advantage can be.

Do we really want a potential late-game matchup between an obscure middle reliever from the A’s and the catcher from the Padres that was only included on the roster because San Diego needed a representative to have repercussions in October? Absolutely not. And this last point brings me to my next element…

2. Make the rosters smaller so that gameplay and strategy is at least somewhat similar to that of a regular baseball game

Thirty-four players per roster? Are you kidding me?

Consider an “average” regular-season game like yesterday’s game between the White Sox and A’s. Each team used 14 players — 10 hitters and four pitchers — during the course of the game. That’s pretty par for the course in any American League baseball game.

Now, let’s look at last year’s All-Star Game. The AL alone used 29 players. The NL used a whopping 26. In your standard nine-inning game, that averages out to around two players per position per team and a new pitcher every inning.

In any baseball game, a significant strategic element comes from the fact that the pitcher on the mound wears down as the game goes on, and hitters are better equipped to take advantage of the pitcher’s offerings in his second and third time through the order, due to the increased familiarity. At the All-Star Game, that’s completely gone thanks to the revolving door on the mound, making the game almost farcical from a baseball strategist’s perspective.

Because managers are almost obligated to put in every player that they have, the only solution seems to be to cut the rosters down to size to avoid having players make the trip to Minneapolis to ride the bench (sorry, A-Rod). This actually makes it so that the matchups that we want to see (and not the ones that we’re forced to see due to substitution scrambles) are happening towards the end of the game.

Come on. I don’t want to see Troy Tulowitzki (as the starter) have a less meaningful at-bat in the first inning. I want to see him stay in the game until the ninth inning and hit with the game on the line. I want to see Yu Darvish battle into the seventh inning and watch NL hitters try to make adjustments.

This can happen if…

3. MLB gets rid of the rule requiring at least one player from each team to be included on the roster

I kind of get this one; it makes the game a much more national affair, and gives fans from all of the major media markets around the United States a stake in the game. But I think that all this does is bloat the rosters and, like I mentioned before, make for less meaningful matchups later in the game when managers are inevitably forced to rotate them in.

Take last season’s AL roster, for example. The Rays needed a representative, leading to the selection of Ben Zobrist as the fourth second baseman on the team. I love Zobrist to death, but that spot should seriously have gone to either Josh Donaldson or Adrian Beltre. The rule really distorts the contributions that deserving players have made through the season and takes spots away from them.

And really, would it matter that much to those fan bases to not have a player selected? Even as a Minnesotan, I’d place a much higher importance on seeing a good, high-quality baseball game between the superstars of the game (that America wants to see — they voted them in as starters, after all!) than on seeing Joe Mauer get three innings behind the plate and contribute to the farce of an exhibition that is the current All-Star Game.

Finally, while we’re on the topic of fanbases around the nation…

4. Personalize the game-watching experience for each city

Is there anybody that likes Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on the call for any baseball game broadcast on Fox? Personally, I’d much rather listen to Sam Fisher and Michael Peterson —though I may be biased, of course. But in all seriousness, I think that a good way to embody the different experiences that each city has to offer and connect that to not just the people at the game itself, but also for the people watching at home, is to personalize the broadcast for each city.

Namely: Let each team’s home TV and radiobroadcasting crews announce each game instead of Buck and McCarver!

The home crews know the nuances and experiences of each city, and would offer a different, personalized perspective year after year for the people watching at home, so that the viewers are actually able to experience the fact that the game travels between cities.

It would also be a really cool way for the broadcasters to get national exposure and would — depending on the broadcasters, I guess — give the people of the city something to look forward to from the voices that they follow throughout the season.

One caveat: Let’s all agree to make an exception for Hawk Harrelson. If I had to listen to the guy for a whole All-Star Game, I’d end up throwing something at the television.

Despite Do-Hyoung Park’s strange affinity for the Rockies, he knows deep down in his heart-of-hearts that Dodger Yasiel Puig deserves a spot in Minneapolis. Tell him why the Cuban caballero should be selected at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet him at @dohyoung

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 is the head copy editor and a sports desk editor at The Stanford Daily. He has previously served as managing editor of sports and still writes for the football, women's soccer and men's water polo beats. Do-Hyoung is a junior originally from Seoul, South Korea and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing a major in chemical engineering. To contact him, please email him at dpark027 'at' stanford.edu.