Baseball needs some changes needed in selection process for All-Star Game

July 16, 2013 

The NBA All-Star Game is 46 minutes of showmanship, capped by two minutes of competitive play. That is, if the game isn't already out of hand. The NHL All-Star Game is Icecapades in hockey jerseys.

Baseball's All-Star Game is unique. It has always been a grand show. Whereas the other All-Star games are nearly unwatchable, the baseball All-Star Game is compelling. Yeah, interleague play lessened the intrigue a little bit. But other than that, it's still a thrilling event, because the game is played just as hard as a pennant race showdown.

Yet, as good as it is, it could be better. Even as Tuesday night's pregame discussion celebrated what's right with the game, Bob Costas offered ideas on how to improve the game.

Here are some additional ideas.

Start with the selection process. The #VoteFreddie campaign on Twitter was fun, especially because it led to so many funny Tweets. But Freddie Freeman's inclusion on the team should not have come down to an internet campaign against a kid who has played half as many games as Atlanta's Chris Johnson, whose playing time (270 at-bats) is deemed insufficient to qualify for the league leaders.

There should be some minimum playing time requirement. What should that minimum be? Good question. There needs to be some research and thought put into that. The last thing Major League Baseball needs to do is have a knee-jerk solution to a one-time problem, like, say, awarding homefield advantage in the World Series to the winning league because of one ill-advised tie.

Eliminate the paper ballot. It's as antiquated as daylight doubleheaders. Electronic ballots would allow for more equitable voting. Mobile apps. Twitter. Online ballots. But not everybody has a smart phone or a computer. Not a problem. Set up kiosks in ballparks. Partner with major retailers to sponsor and set up off-site voting.

Companies spend millions to market through sports. This would add another ancillary source of income. From a baseball standpoint, it would eliminate players on the disabled list receiving votes. It would also allow players who didn't begin the season on the ballot an opportunity to receive votes without having to rely on write-ins.

Appoint a selection committee to fill out the rosters. The practice of putting that burden on the manager is unfair -- to the manager tasked with selection, to the players, and to the fans. A panel of baseball veterans who have no rooting interest -- retired players and managers, executives and veteran writers and broadcasters. Vin Scully has watched enough baseball to know an all-star when he sees one.

There's no way to eliminate controversy in the selection process. That's OK, because a little bit of controversy can be healthy. The Final Vote -- which essentially turned into Freeman vs. Yasiel Puig -- helped Freeman get the recognition he deserves.

Back to the manager selection. The practice of having the World Series managers as All-Star managers is also antiquated. Why not bestow that honor on legends of the game? Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Frank Robinson. Baseball embraces and celebrates its heritage better than any other sport. The All-Star Game is another opportunity.

Finally, find another way to reward the winning team other than tying an exhibition game to the seventh game of the World Series. It would be more fitting, and more impactful, to award home field advantage to whoever has the better interleague record by a certain date -- say, September 1. Suddenly, those Indians-Braves and Angels-Brewers series in late August would take on added significance.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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