As Major League Baseball’s best come together this July in Miami to face off in the All-Star Game, the contest will undoubtedly have a different feel. The Midsummer Classic will no longer determine home-field advantage in the World Series; instead, it will be decided by regular-season records.
This decision came with a slew of other changes surrounding the game. On top of changing the home-field advantage rule, each team will now only have 32 players (down from 34) and managers will no longer select the reserves for the teams; those will be determined by the commissioner’s office.
The most important change is obviously the change to the home-field advantage. Since 2003, the All-Star Game has held unprecedented importance because the league that wins the game secures home-field advantage in the World Series. Unlike the NBA, where players come together for entertainment purposes and have no real incentive to win, the MLB All-Star setup was a way to try to get the players to care about the game.
In theory, making the All-Star Game worth something was a great idea which would raise fan and player interest – however, the idea was a failure. I have watched this star-studded event all my life and just like players in the NBA, the MLB’s All-Stars are clearly never playing their hardest despite their so-called “incentive” to win.
The anxiety about being injured during the game, paired with the sheer number of players who make the team every year, without failure, turns the contest into what appears to be a fun scrimmage between buddies with frequent substitutions of players and pitchers.
On top of this, many players refuse to care about the event simply because by the All-Star break, they are painfully aware that their team is not going to make the World Series. Why should they care who wins? Every year it has been more and more apparent that these players simply aren’t willing to risk their careers for the game.
With this in mind, the game’s importance varies from player to player. Having home-field advantage in the World Series can be a huge component of the series, especially if it comes down to seven games, but under the old rules, it’s decided by a bunch of guys who played in mid-July with no incentive to put their body on the line. It’s simple: players who are not in World Series contention should not affect players who are. I, personally, am thrilled that the Major Leagues has finally caught up to what we’ve all known for a while.
With the elimination of this, frankly stupid, rule, the Major League is trying a new approach to incentivize players: earning money. The winning team will split $640,000 dollars between all 32 players. If home-field advantage in the World Series can’t convince players to care about the All-Star Game, I doubt this miniscule fraction of their salaries will have much effect on their play, as nearly all of these players are already millionaires.
I do appreciate, however, the Major Leagues attempt to still reward the team that wins without putting phenomenal weight on a game that is supposed to be fun and relatively harmless. There is still a chance the money could fire up the competitive spirit for some of the players, but for the most part, these guys seem to just want to enjoy their time off.
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