The All Star Series

The steady increase in the size of the All Star Game rosters will continue this year as there will now be 34 players on each team. With 34 players, it is likely that each team will have 13 pitchers. At first glance this seems not just absurd, but likely to make the All Star Game resemble a real baseball game even less than it usually does. Similarly, it seems like the steady increase in the number of players cheapens the game a little bit as it will be easier for players to earn a spot on the roster.

While clearly 34 players is too much for one game, even a beer league softball game, the story is a little more complex. 34 players still works out to slightly more than two per team. This is roughly the same proportion as when All Star Game started at a time when there were only eight teams in each league and 18-19 spots on the All Star roster. Limiting the roster to 25, might make more sense for the game itself, but would make the player per team quotient considerably lower than it historically has been. This would mean that fans of many teams would probably enjoy the game less as they might only get to see one of their team’s players rather than two or three.

There is, therefore, some logic to expanding roster sizes for the All Star Game, but it runs into the reality of playing and managing one game. The solution is that if the rosters are expanded so should the game. More accurately, it should be turned into more than one game. This is not a new idea as between 1959-1962 the leagues played two All Star Games, but in three of those years, those games were separated by a few weeks. Given that today there is something at stake, other than pride, in the result of the All Star Game, it should be turned into a best of three All Star Series.

The roster size would remain more or less the same with eight NL and nine AL starters chosen by the fans and the remaining roster spots filled by the manager with, perhaps one or two reserves chosen by an open fan vote. Players elected to the team would not have to start all the games, or even the first one specifically, but would have to start at least one game if the series lasted only two games, and two games if the series went to three games.

An All Star Series of this kind would guarantee that at least two, and in many years three, games would be played giving managers the opportunity to get more players into the games in a reasonable way. Some additional rules, to ensure that managers have to try to bring players into the games would be created as well. These could include limiting pitchers to three innings each, which could be expanded to five innings once a game went into extra innings, not allowing any player to start the all three games of the series, if it went that far, and requiring all starting players play at least three innings.

If the All Star Series was created, almost all of the players on the expanded rosters would get a chance to play and most would get more than just one at bat or a fraction of an inning pitched. Additionally, managers could adjust the lineups to ensure interesting pairings or matchups. If, for example, this year Derek Jeter were voted in as a starter and Robinson Cano selected as a reserve, the manager would have the option of starting both of them in one of the games. Similarly, there would be a greater chance of the high profile matchups, for example Mariano Rivera pitching to Albert Pujols with the game on the line, happening because there would be more innings and games.

The All Star Series would lengthen the current All Star week festivities. The games could be played Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with fan events beginning the Sunday night before the games and continuing on Monday with the home run hitting contest and concluding Friday with the Futures Game. This would likely be a boon for the city hosting the events as fans would stay longer, generating more income for hotels, restaurants and the like.

An All Star Series might, however, create new problems. The All Star Game itself would be diluted and spread over three games. This means that ticket prices would probably come down for the game itself, but with good marketing and promotion it would not be difficult to sell out each game, especially if the idea of All Star Week was promoted to fans. The impact on television would be more significant as it is hard to imagine large numbers of fans choosing to watch two or three games in a row. This would be the biggest drawback and might mean that baseball would have to restructure its contracts for televising the All Star Game, making it less appealing for major networks, but probably more appealing to cable stations such as ESPN. There is also some evidence that the All Star Game is already of declining interest to television viewers so making some changes might be a wise idea from the ratings angle.

The All Star Game is not yet broken, but it is headed in that direction. This is largely the result in the changes in the baseball itself. Interleague play has taken some of the excitement out of All Star Game matchups; expansion has forced All Star Game rosters to expand so that all teams can have some representatives on the roster; more generally, technology has changed so that television events are not as significant as they were a generation ago. Creating an All Star series will not solve all these problems, and undoubtedly will raise new problems. It will, however, also continue to give the All Star Game more meaning as there will still be something, home field advantage in the World Series at stake, will make it a little bit easier for the managers, ensure that more players get to play at least a few innings and make it possible for more fans to see an All Star Game.