Thumb Wars: All-Star Games

Love Them
What’s not to like about All-Star games?

It’s a chance to see the greatest players in the world, on center stage, playing in the same game together

In a World Series game, or even during the regular season, you won’t see Roy Halladay stare down Jose Bautista or Justin Verlander try to throw a fastball by Prince Fielder. But in an All-Star game, it could happen in the first inning.

The NBA All-Star experience has everything fans could ever want. It’s a fast-paced, all offense game with a heavy dose of slam dunks, specifically alley-oops.

In Major League Baseball, however, the All-Star Game actually matters, as the winning league has home field advantage in the World Series. And the games have been exciting of late. Since the rule was instituted after the 11-inning game in 2002 that ended in a tie, seven of the eight games have been decided by two runs or less.

And even though they are only All-Star Games, they have still had memorable moments. Who could forget Torii Hunter leaping over the center field fence to rob Barry Bonds of a home run in 2002?

Moreover, these contests  have other festivities. From Air Jordan to Vince-sanity, the NBA Slam Dunk contest has had countless memories.

But this is about baseball.

The Home Run Derby is in some ways more popular than the actual game. And with good reason. It’s arguably the most exciting play in baseball — the home run — again and again.

There’s something amazing about watching someone hit a baseball 500 feet out of the park — and then taking a pitch and doing it again. Bobby Abreu hitting 41 jacks in the 2006 derby: incredible. Josh Hamilton putting on a show in 2008 with 28 homers in one round: amazing. Ken Griffey, Jr., turning his cap backwards and displaying the most beautiful swing while winning a record three derbies: unforgettable.

It’s also worth noting the Home Run Derby curse, with winners often losing their power in the second half of the season. In 2002 Paul Konerko hit 20 homers before the All-Star break but only seven after. Abreu hit 18 before the 2005 break and six after, while in 2006 David Wright hit 20 before and six after.

That’s actually kind of funny.

And the fact that this year each league has a team captain (Fielder and David Ortiz) who select the rest of the squad. Fielder picked his own teammate Rickie Weeks who, to put it lightly, is not exactly known as a home run threat. That’s just hilarious.

The best thing about the MLB All-Star Game, though? If the score is tied after nine innings, the game, with all its sluggers and aces and superstars, could go on forever.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

Hate Them

The main point here is that the All-Star games are essentially exhibitions — and unless John McEnroe faces off against Serena Williams in Battle of the Sexes II, games that don’t count really don’t interest people anymore.

I’ll ignore the NBA this time around because there’s still something remotely fascinating about watching somebody Lebron James’ size striding up and down the court dunking on everyone.

Their whole weekend works pretty well so I’ll move on to some of the more glaringly bad All-Star games attempts.

First off, a look at the NFL’s Pro Bowl. To put it simply: nobody tries in this game. Football is a full-contact, maximum effort sport. So when the front seven doesn’t even attempt to touch the quarterback and the corners don’t play tight, the whole game essentially turns into pitch and catch. Sure, the throws look good and the players are fast, but it’s not really football anymore.

Also, it’s never the best players playing anyway. The players from Super Bowl participants are excluded for obvious reasons and half the starters opt out due to injuries.

However, unlike the next offender, the NFL at least doesn’t take the game too seriously. They’re essentially giving the players a week’s vacation in Hawaii with the only catch being they have to not try at football for a few hours.

The failures of the Pro Bowl look rather mild in comparison to those of baseball’s mid-summer classic. The thing that’s truly annoying, and a little pathetic, about the MLB All-Star Game is that they’re trying so hard to make it mean something. The “This time it counts” ad campaign really is unintentional comedy at its best.

To start, compared to other sports, home field advantage in baseball is almost non-existent — the “advantage” is marginal at best. So the thing that’s supposed to count barely does. And of course, since the game counts, the players in at the end of the game should be the least deserving players who snuck onto the back-end of the roster.

That makes sense.

Second, if it’s supposed to count, then the best players should play. That does not mean Derek Jeter, the third worst out of 11 qualified AL shortstops (by Wins-Above-Replacement), should be a starter. It also does not mean that the fans, the manager, and the players should omit Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, the second best overall player in the NL by that same standard.

The only thing MLB’s game should get credit for is attracting so much media attention for consistently making the most egregious All-Star selections and snubs, year after year.

Nice job.

– Eric Lee