Baseball’s All Star Game used to have real appeal for me. That was back in the day in the old days, before 1997 and the birth of interleague play. Prior to ESPN in 1979, not only didn’t the players on your favorite team play those in the other league, but you never saw them. Growing up in an American League city, guys like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were strangers to me. The All Star game and the newspaper box scores were the only places they existed.
You outgrow these things. The All Star game now represents little more than a break in the flow of the season; four days in the heat of the developing pennant races, when baseball has the stage to itself, that don’t count for anything. Boston won’t build on its 2 1/2 game lead in the AL East. Chris Davis won’t hit another home run. Derek Jeter won’t get hurt again.
Flow is important in baseball. It is one of the few things it can offer that the other sports can’t. Every day for six months there are games. Except for four days in July.
Nevertheless, we’ll give baseball this one. The All Star game. The Home Run Derby. We’ll do it for the kids. Besides, baseball has bigger problems on its hands. Things we can put these four days to use fixing.
The sport needs to get a handle on the length of its games. Less is more in this case. How about when a batter gets settled in the batter's box, he stays there. He should be ready to play. How about when a pitcher is on the mound, he actually pitches. How about we eliminate all visits to the mound. Everyone ought to be ready to play.
The season needs to be condensed. Sunday doubleheaders used to be common. Bring them back and shorten the season by a week or two. Get the postseason moving. There is no excuse for teams waiting a week for a playoff game after playing five or six games a week for six months.
Baseball is getting squeezed by basketball on one end of its season and by football on the other. The NFL has been accommodating to the extent that its opening weekend still takes place after Labor Day. Baseball is further encroaching on the fall, and that’s a battle it isn’t going to win.
The seven-game World Series of 1960 was over by Oct. 13. In 1969, the first year of divisional play, the series ended on Oct. 16. The five-game World Series in 2010 ended on Nov. 1. The Winter Classic, last I checked, is a hockey event.
Postseason starting times are too late for games that go too long in the east. The fan base is aging, and the game isn’t doing enough to attract a young audience. Television ratings are on the decline. And there’s a serious drug problem.
Page 2 of 2 - None of these are brand new, just ideas whose time has arrived. As we take a few days to celebrate a game we still love but used to love more, lets see it for what it is. And try to make it better.
Bill Pucko is a career journalist, an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He has worked for more than 30 years in television, radio, and newspapers in Rochester. He is a sports columnist for Messenger Post Media, co-founder and editor of Bylinesports.com, and producer and host of a high school sports show on WBGT.