Thursday, July 12, 2007

The All-Star double whammy

Why are the baseball All-Star game ratings dropping? After all, when MLB decided that the league that won the All-Star game would have home field advantage in the World Series, after the tie-game fiasco of 2002, it expected game intensity to increase and ratings to improve. No such luck. Only one All-Star game had the sought-after intensity, and only on one side -- the 2003 game in which the American League scored four runs on the top two relievers in the NL (Wagner, Gagne) to win; Mike Scioscia managed the game like it was the playoffs, Dusty Baker did not.

Even then, the All-Star game could not renew its luster. The home-field switch meant nothing in the 2003 World Series because the Yanks became only the third team since 1979 to return home for game six, whether up OR down 3-2, to lose the Series (the 11 others won). That home-field advantage has meant nothing in the past three years either as the World Series has degenerated into one-sided walkovers (two sweeps and a 4-1).

The main culprit is interleague play, which has stripped the World Series and the All-Star Game of their uniqueness as the only times the leagues clashed head to head in games that meant anything. Another is AL domination (10 wins and a tie since 1997).

Worst of all is the players' view. Attending the All-Star Game used to be a high honor. Now, if the player is unused or improperly used, it's an inconvenience (see Pujols, Albert), or a dishonor (that's the local media reaction to Michael Young's night on the bench Tuesday). Reconfiguring that thought process requires more than just interactive displays, family friendly venues and extra ESPN Zones.

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