Baseball is widely regarded as having the best All-Star game out of all major professional sports. However, it’s in danger of losing that status as the game’s popularity continues to dip: according to the Washington Post, viewers of this year’s All-Star game were down a whopping 20% from last year. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/07/14/mlb-all-star-game-tv-ratings-continue-to-plummet/). So, what can be done? While much of the drop in TV ratings goes beyond the all star game itself (after all, baseball as a whole is not doing well with the younger generation), its structure is far from perfect. If the MLB enacted two simple changes, the quality of the game would unquestionably improve.
#1: Use a Writers Panel to Determine the Game’s Starters in Lieu of Fan Voting.
The MLB uses a writers panel to determine the majority of the game’s most important accolades, including all end of season awards and Hall of Fame inductions, but not the All-Star rosters. A writers panel provides an unbiased source that’s trained to evaluate performance, meaning they could unquestionably select a better starting lineup than the fans. In my opinion, things like team and player popularity shouldn’t factor into who gets to start the game: it should be based solely on a production. After all, All-Star appearances are often used as a meaningful tool to evaluate players, but certain selections are almost illegitimate when they’re made by fans for reasons other than the player’s production. Furthermore, fans don’t have to be completely eliminated from the player selection process; currently, each All-Star manager selects the players on his bench but the fans select the last player on each bench, and maintaining this would give fans a chance to get involved without altering the whole landscape of the game.
#2: Revoke the Right of Player Representation for Teams out of Playoff Contention
While having a player from every team in the game gives every fan someone from their team to watch, it often leads to more deserving candidates being snubbed from the rosters. For example, George Springer was having a better season than Eduardo Nunez by all accounts heading into this year’s all star break, but Nunez made the team over Springer simply because the Twins needed someone on the roster. Yet, it also feels wrong to put no regulations on team representation since the game has serious playoff implications (the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series). Therefore, a good compromise would be to only require representation from the teams who have a chance to make the playoffs. How could this be determined? Fangraphs has a calculation system that serves as a good reference point, showing that a team’s chances to make the postseason can be effectively quantified by the All-Star break (here’s the link to each team’s midseason odds from this year: http://www.fangraphs.com/coolstandings.aspx?type=2&lg=div&date=2016-07-10). According to this model, the teams that had a 0% chance to make the playoffs were the Rays, Twins, Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Reds, Padres, and Diamondbacks. None of these teams are currently in contention as the 2016 season nears a close, so not requiring their representation would not have raised any fairness issues in that regard: it simply would’ve opened up the door for an improved selection process.