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Updated: July 15th, 2014 11:21am
Zulgad: Selig's replacement could have new ideas for All-Star Game

Zulgad: Selig's replacement could have new ideas for All-Star Game

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- There is no debating the fact Major League Baseball has the best All-Star Game among the four major sports.

But before anyone gets excited, ask yourself this question:

Is this a product of the fact that the Mid-Summer Classic remains as good as it has ever been or are the NHL and NBA All-Star contests just off-the-charts snooze fests? If the NFL was willing to give up the cash grab that is the Pro Bowl, it would abolish the worst all-star game in sports.

Bud Selig, who has said he plans to retire as commissioner of baseball after this season, oversaw one of the biggest changes in All-Star Game history when he signed off on the winning league in the game getting home-field advantage in the World Series.

That happened after the embarrassment of 2002 in Selig's hometown of Milwaukee, when baseball infuriated Fox officials by calling the game after 11 innings because the score was tied at 7-7 and both teams had run out of pitching.

It was Fox executives who pushed hard for a significant change to make the All-Star Game count for something and they got what they wanted. This is what happens when you write the type of check that Fox turns over to baseball each season.

Despite the fact that Fox executives are happier these days, you won't find many people in the game who think it makes sense for an exhibition game to decide where the World Series begins each fall.

The issue with the current format is that it is an example of baseball wanting to dip its toes in the water and declare that the sport has become progressive.

One of the main complaints from this corner is that if the All-Star Game is no longer going to be looked at as only an exhibition why do fans continue to select the starters?

Have fan voting count for a portion of the starting lineup but also allow players and managers to have a say. The fan vote is a way for teams to promote their players and encourage fans to vote for said stars. This makes it a popularity contest, not an All-Star Game.

Baltimore's Matt Wieters played in only 26 games this year and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in June. Yet, he was voted the starting catcher for the American League for Tuesday night's game at Target Field.

Here's another issue with the All-Star Game "counting" for something.

You are unlikely to find anyone who would say that Derek Jeter should not be starting, but this is based solely on the fact that having the Yankees shortstop in the lineup on Tuesday is a life-time achievement award in the final season of a Hall of Fame career.

But if you are convinced the All-Star Game should count for something, then you could make a case that Jeter (.271/.323/.321, two home runs, 25 RBI) might not even belong on the AL roster.

The new commissioner certainly is going to hear many ideas and potential solutions about the sport and the All-Star Game conversation will be included in this.

One key element that baseball is ignoring is that the thing that made this game the most special is long gone. The AL and NL used to face each other two times a year, the All-Star Game and the World Series. This resulted in enormous pride among players from each league to prove they were the best.

Interleague play has changed that. In the current setup, we now have interleague play on a daily basis. It's hard to believe that any commissioner is going to want to lessen interleague competition.

Even if home-field for the World Series continues to be decided in the All-Star Game, the format of AL vs. NL that we have known since 1933 eventually is going to grow tiresome to the television execs who write big checks.

There also will be a realization that what baseball's old-timers still consider sacred - and I consider myself one of the old-timers - isn't what might attract a younger crowd.

I hate what I'm about to write, but I firmly believe there will come a day when baseball's All-Star Game will go the route of what the NHL and NFL are doing. Serve as a pick-up game that will have captains pick the teams from a pool of players.

Do I like the idea? Not one bit.

But I also don't approve of having the All-Star Game decide home-field advantage and baseball went in that direction because of pressure applied on it. Pressure eventually will increase to make the All-Star Game more attractive to the younger crowd and keeping with tradition likely won't cut it.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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