Dan's Dugout: All-Star Game Once Had Integrity • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: All-Star Game Once Had Integrity

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NEW YORK — The baseball All-Star Game used to have meaning and integrity.

Players, coaches, and managers picked the starting lineups but were not allowed to vote for teammates. Home-field advantage in the World Series was not awarded to the winning league. There was no Home Run Derby, no All-Star Selection Show, and no FanFest.

In recent years, however, the once-proud event has degenerated into a money grab. Everything is commercial – especially the flawed voting system that encourages fans to vote 35 times for hometown favorites.

What happened to picking the most deserving players, not to mention the one-man, one-vote system that used to be the hallmark of democracy?

Willie Mays often led off All-Star Games for the NL

Willie Mays often led off All-Star Games for the National League

The quality of National League players was so good that Willie Mays often batted first for the Senior Circuit.

Every year, fans wondered whether Hank Aaron or Roberto Clemente would play right field. Another good battle was Eddie Mathews versus Ken Boyer at third base.

All cities, all teams, and all players were equal when it came to picking the All-Stars. The system was so sacrosanct that even the Russian hackers wouldn’t intervene.

It’s not that way today, with results of the fan voting issued weekly – and influencing future voting trends.

Teams trumpet their own players, beating the bandwagon for a bunch of underperformers who don’t deserve to represent their league.

In fact, Major League Baseball would do well to junk the rule requiring rosters to be representative of every team. Why should players from the Philadelphia Phillies or San Diego Padres, for example, take up spots better occupied by better performers?

Future Hall of Famers dominated NL All-Star lineups in the '60s

Future Hall of Famers dominated NL All-Star lineups in the ’60s

Another factor to consider is recent performance. Players producing All-Star stats this year should have priority over those riding on past records.

During the ‘50s and ‘60s, when baseball was at its best, starting pitchers routinely worked three innings. These days, managers whose pitchers are chosen don’t want them to go more than an inning.

For a game that is so conscious about promoting itself, Organized Baseball would be wise to copy the other sports and make sure the youngest fans can see the ending.

A weekend day game would work best, of course, but a 6:00 start would also help. Nothing drags on more than a game that starts at 8:37 so that FOX can showcase one of its silly sit-coms first.

Aaron Judge will start for the American League Credit: Cesar Diaz/Latino Sports

Aaron Judge will start for the American League
Credit: Cesar Diaz/Latino Sports

This year’s All-Star Game will have a few new faces, notably Rookie of the Year contenders Aaron Judge (Yankees) and Cody Bellinger (Dodgers), but will be minus some failure figures unable to play because of injury: Mike Trout (Angels) and Madison Bumgarner (Giants).

It will also be played in a ballpark with a dome, which is good, but occupied by a team on the verge of destruction by fire sale, which is bad.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, a New York art dealer rumored to be the next Ambassador to France, is trying to make his inflated payroll lighter for any prospective buyer.

With both Florida franchises struggling, it seems obvious that the Sunshine State is suitable for little more than spring training. But sometimes lessons are learned strictly by trial and error.

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About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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