Marisa Miller Jon Hamm and Andy Richter at the MLB Celebrity All Star Game

Marisa Miller Jon Hamm and Andy Richter at the MLB Celebrity All Star Game

Rob: In this day in age with all the players bowing out of the game and the inter-league play, is there even a reason to have the All Star game?

JMB: The All-Star Game … used to be a big deal when I was a kid, mostly because I didn’t have cable so my baseball watching was limited, and it was the only time I was able to see guys like Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr. and Tony Gwyn in action and not just on baseball cards.  Now, with the prevalence of cable/satellite and multiple sports channels, most people can at least get a peak at the stars outside of the All-Star game context.  I think that’s just one reason the game isn’t as special as it used to be, and when you add in interleague play and players dropping out – it matters even less.  Moreover, players no longer have real “pride” in representing their league (this was a HOTLY contested game years ago) and are fine with not representing the fans who voted for them, which further fuels the “ho-hum” nature of the games.  There is still a reason for the game however, and that’s money – money for the city hosting the event, money for the network showing it in the middle of summer reruns, and frankly there will always be a segment of the fans that will tune in or attend.

Dube: I think so.  I’ve always enjoyed watching it.  Maybe it’s because this was my favorite game while growing and wondering just when my team’s (Milwaukee Brewers) representative was going to play; but I like seeing the guys from different teams joining up on the same side for one night.  It certainly doesn’t have the same luster as it used to, but it’s still a must-see game for me.

Rob: When 15+ guys have decided not to participate, does that lessen your interest in watching, or do you think it gives younger players a chance to shine?

JMB: The dropping of players I don’t think really gives a real opportunity to the so-called “younger” players – even a guy added like Andrew McCutchen.  If anything it just means the fans won’t get a glimpse of the guys they wanted to see, and I say a “glimpse” because the game isn’t managed to “win it”.  The game is managed to try and get every player involved, or at least as many as possible, so you have way to many substitutions and pitching changes that I think real “worthwhile” moments (re Bo Jackson/Nolan Ryan) are going to be few and far between.  If anything the best moments have happened early – Pedro Martinez and Carl Hubbell’s pitching dominance, or big homers from guys like Bo and Reggie Jackson – or late with top notch guys like Stan Musial and Pete Rose still in the game.

Dube: A number of the 15+ is because of legit injuries or the “Can’t play because he started on Sunday” pitcher rule.  I understand the aspect of wanting to protect a team’s star players; but I’d like to imagine a workhorse like CC Sabathia (granted, he only was named because James Shields was starting Sunday as well) could come in for a lefty-lefty matchup and face only that one guy.  I won’t lie.  I think it stinks I can’t see Felix Hernandez nor Justin Verlander against the NL–and the same for Cole Hamels and Matt Cain against the NL.  I have nothing against a guy like Alexi Ogando, but not being a Ranger fan, I don’t have the same anticipation of seeing him as I would a Verlander or King Felix.

Rob: Any egregious omissions from the rosters?

JMB: I can’t help but think its hard to cry a huge foul now with so many players now named, and the fact that there is a “popularity” element to this as well that goes beyond just the current year.  I might have said Andrew McCutchen from Pittsburgh but now he’s on the squad.

Dube: With so many guys being named in the first place, plus replacements, It’s tough to have a true “snub” these days.  Most guys people thought were snubbed, like Andrew McCutchen and Sabathia and even Miguel Montero wound up making the game anyways, granted Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson never found his way on to the roster.  If I *have* to pick guys that still got overlooked–I’d have to pick Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs, Drew Storen of the Nationals as well as Hanson.

Rob: If you had to pick two guys who shouldn’t be on either roster, who would that be?

JMB: It’s hard to say guys “shouldn’t” be there, but I’d say just based on performance that Matt Joyce from TB is there based on an early season hot streak that has just totally fizzled out – over the past two months he hasn’t been even an average hitter.  Also, I think I’d go to an extent with Derek Jeter who is one of the “name” guys who is there because he’s the Yankee SS, not because this year’s stats warrant it.

Dube: For the NL, I’d say Scott Rolen.  He’s had a great career and is still decent with the glove–and I’ll be the first to admit batting average and the counting stats (HRs, RBIs, etc.) should not be the primary focus of “who belongs” but the guy is hitting .241 with an on-base average of .276.  His OPS line is .674, which is not good.  He really deserves it over Aramis Ramirez?  For the AL, I’d like to know what Russell Martin is doing there.  I know AL catching isn’t the strongest position out there, but there are a handful of guys doing better than him.

Rob: How do you feel about the All Star game determining the home field advantage in the World Series?

JMB: I think home field being determined by the all-star game is a pitiful, misplaced band-aid over the real gaping wound of the game being meaningless.  Home field in the series does matter, but its being determined in a game that’s not being played like you would play to win an actual game that mattered.

Dube: I’m not for it.  It used to be on an alternating basis, but I think home-field advantage should be determined by which team had the better record during the year.  There are a number of factors that could make the “regular season” record an unfair way to determine (such as one team playing in an easier division) but I feel it’s better than the All-Star game.

Rob: Were I in charge, I’d have it be a component, but I’d make it partially based on inter-league play records as well. I’d take the number of wins by teams in interleague games, count them towards a tally by League, and then somehow incorporate the final score of the All Star game. Say, if the American League won two more inter-league games than the National League that season, the National League would possibly have to win the All Star game by more than two runs to get home field advantage in the World Series. If there ends up a tie, the league with more inter-league games gets home field advantage, and if that was a tie as well, I’d go with regular season records for the individual teams which qualify for the World Series… and from there I’d look to see if those teams played each other in the regular season, and if not, I’d look to interleague record for those teams. If all those things fail to pick one of the teams, I’d flip a coin.

Rob: Did you watch the Home Run Derby last night? Could Bud Selig have been happier that it came down to a Yankee and a Red Sox player as the final guys?

JMB: I watched some of the Derby, and of course the finals being Sox/Yankees can be seen as “money”, but frankly the derby is still flawed – Ricky Weeks is competing?  Are you kidding me?

Dube: I did until the finals.  I had work the next morning at 6, so I called it a night after the second round. [As for the question about the Boston / New York finals] I really don’t think he cared.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think people (at least in the eastern and central time zones) were calling friends at that hour to suddenly turn on the HR Derby–plus, from past history, it’s not like the Derby winner gets a ton of press.  They may have their “star” status improved a notch, so maybe Cano becomes more of a household name, but the finals aren’t what gets people to tune in.  It’s the beginning rosters. If there were two Kansas City Royals (Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas may show up in the future, but I’m talking about right now, 2011), maybe Mr. Selig would have a wonder.

Rob: The NHL does a skills competition as part of their All Star festivities, do you think anything comparable could work with the MLB?

JMB: To be honest, if I can’t get excited about the derby, I can’t see myself being excited about a “diving catch” competition, etc.

Dube: I was mulling this over at work, “Hey, how about ‘Strikeout Derby'” or some sort of stolen base contest, but then the questions are: How do you pull those off?  What are the logistics for these?  I guess for stealing, you give a guy “X” amount of chances–but then who would be the catcher trying to throw him out and who would be pitching?  Who makes those decisions?  For “Strikeout Derby” how do you even put that together?  Have a guy face a lineup once through?  How is that lineup put together?  Most importantly–will the fans in the stands be entertained with “Strikeout Derby?”  I enjoy great pitching but honestly, after a couple batters, I think boredom would set in.  You could have a “Fastest Fastball” thing and let the guys like a Sabathia or Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman or whomever else routinely hits the upper 90’s throw their heat–but then it comes down to “player protection” and if Sunday starters can’t play in the actual game–there’s no way a team is going to let a pitcher risk something to his arm/shoulder/elbow at such a competition.

Rob: After asking this question, I mulled it a bit myself, and really the only things I could think of would be:

– stolen bases contest, whereby a pitcher, catcher, first baseman and second baseman could all work together to see if they could stop a player from stealing second. It could work similarly to the homerun derby, only I would switch runners after each attempt, and a runner stays in the contest until they’ve been caught a certain number of times, and the defensive/fielding squads rotate too

– batting placement contest, whereby areas would be setup on the field and the player would get points for hitting to a certain spot… almost like a fancy high tech golf driving range. Can you consistently hit it into the gap in right-centerfield? What if you’re right-handed?

Rob: Speaking of the NHL, in the past they’ve changed up the way they’ve mixed up teams, most recently having team captains “draft” squads. How would you feel if MLB instituted something like that?

Dube: I may be old-school on this, but that would take away the luster.  It could be fun seeing whom would draft whom, but I prefer the system as it is.

JMB: I think it could be FUN if that happened, but I can’t see MLB changing things given the popularity of the fan vote.

Rob: Just one year to see how it’s received, I’d try the following: let the fans pick representatives for the All Star game like they do now. The two highest vote-getting pitchers become captains, the one with the higher total picks first. They pick a position and pick which player from that position goes to their team. Then the other captain picks from that position. Then the captain with the fewer votes picks the category and picks a player, and the other captain makes a choice. They go back and forth like that until it’s over, and that’s the team they’ve got. Not a perfect system, but interesting enough to garner some interest… and probably some criticism from the sports-talk media.