Last offseason, Major League Baseball did one of the smartest things it’s ever done: Got rid of the “It Matters” nonsense at the MLB All-Star Game.
After a debacle in Milwaukee in 2002 in which the ASG ended in a tie, baseball decided to have the mid-summer classic determine home field advantage for the World Series. It was sports’ most absurd rule for 14 years. And now that it’s finally eliminated, the MLB All-Stars did a wonderful job of making sure it would never be seen again.
From Bryce Harper discussing Dak Prescott’s game with a mic in the outfield to Yadier Molina taking a photo at home plate of Nelson Cruz and home plate umpire Joe West, baseball finally had fun.
It was the perfect follow up to a Home Run Derby that scored high TV ratings.
This is a sport that can be like a persnickety neighbor rather than a summer friend. It’s a sport so stuffy that a player’s technique setting down his bat after a home run can spark weeks of beanballs and suspensions. Where stealing a base when up by five runs can be seen as disrespectful (and again, be followed by beanballs) and where, before this year, the freaking All-Star Game was to be taken seriously.
And yet baseball kept wondering and wondering why young people no longer cared for the game like they did the NBA .” It must be the length of games! Let’s put in a time clock! Let’s get rid of intentional walks!”
Uh, hey, everyone, uh…maybe it’s because sports fans like personalities and MLB was pushing everyone to be Derek Jeter?
This generation’s young baseball players recognized this problem before baseball did. Superstar Bryce Harper once wore a hat with the words, “Make Baseball Fun Again,” printed in red letters. During the World Baseball Classic, the Puerto Rican team all bleached their hair – and then their home country ran out of bleaching kits because so many fans were getting on board. They poured out of the dugout with every home run.
The moments that this year’s All-Star players created this year in Miami will stick in the memories of people growing up as sports fans, the same as Randy Johnson’s fastball over the head of John Kruk or Barry Bonds lifting up Tori Hunter after the Twins’ outfielder robbed a home run.
Baseball fans who want the game to remain relevant (and be wholly more entertaining) should hope that the powers that be learned a valuable lesson on Tuesday night and apply it to the regular season going forward.
It turns out there’s no harm in letting players show off their personalities and joy for baseball at the All-Star Game – now how about the rest of the time, too?