Thursday, July 7, 2011


'Twas exactly three years ago today that we tossed up the Five All-Star Games In One! idea over at the Hardball Times. It made a rather imperceptible "thud" on the canyon floor below when it landed, but it's just a fun idea that would make a lot more sense than the present approach (at least to this aberrant mind).
Beware, gentle reader: all this verbiage is yet another
malevolent Malcolm plot to get "Mighty Maicer" Izturis
on the All-Star team.

If you read the article, you'll know the concept, but let's do a quick-run through here for those who are link-averse. Basically, All-Star teams are voted on by division, so there are three squads for each league that play in three-inning games. The two divisions with the best overall won-loss records in their leagues get a bye in the first round: this year, that would be the two East divisions. 

So we'd start AL West-NL Central, NL West-AL Central. The winners there would move on to play the East squads; the winners there would go to the championship round.

Yes, it's possible that two teams representing different divisions in the same league will face each other; it adds some spice. You can still keep Budzilla's inane "winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series" rule.

THE two big reasons for this approach (and we still see it that way three years beyond the mast...) is 1) too many deserving folk get left behind under the current system and 2) this is a helluva lot more fun for the fans, who essentially get five mini-All Star games in one. We wrote about this in greater detail in the earlier essay--all of what was discussed there still holds.

So here is a quickly-eyeballed look at the Divisional-based squads. (The players in each league who eere elected or named to the league-based All-Star teams are shown in red.) We wind up with twice as many All-Stars, and while lots of people will knee-jerk that this is "watering down" the idea of All-Star, I submit that the 25-man roster concept first applied to a game with 16 major league teams; to keep the proportions the same in the present day, there should be at least 50 on the team. A 50-player team is not feasible, but three divisionally-based squads of 18-19 players will work, and it's not that much of a stretch quality-wise.

Keep in mind that the operative phrase here is "quickly-eyeballed." There will unquestionably be quibbles available to those who wish to do so...I simply picked players based on various statistical shortcuts accessible at Forman et fils.

One objection to this approach has to do with the unequal number of teams in divisions (AL West, NL Central). We'll just have to work around that for now.

Sergio Romo--K'ing 13 per nine innings, and his
beard doesn't look like a dead squirrel painted black...
The AL Central poses an interesting question for the strategies possible in three-inning All-Star "mini-games." Due to the relative paucity of quality starting pitchers in the division, it's possible to load the team up with a group of relievers (as has been done above, before the "objection, your honor!" cadre rears its tousled head when seeing non-SPs in the SP columns...) and play more of a one-inning-at-a-time strategy. 

Over in the NL, it's clear that Bruce Bochy loaded up his squad with players from his own team (a time-honored but world-wearying tradition), but jeez, Bruce--Brian Wilson over Sergio Romo? Are you watching your own games?? And as much as we all love Tim Lincecum, he's just not having an All-Star season, so we need to make room for some of those Arizona pitchers, whether we want to or not.

It would be a hell of a lot of fun for the fans and the players if the All-Star game got turned into a five-ring circus.

Ye Olde "local/global" juxtaposition-continuum applies here: we don't have anything in the game that gives divisions a sense of shared identity outside of being "buckets" in which teams have been semi-arbitrarily placed in order to create a framework for deciding who goes into the post-season.

Why not create a niche in the game where divisions have at least a bit more meaning than that?

Do it my way, see? And you can have five pieces of cake and eat them all in one night. Maybe you'll have the grand-daddy of all stomach aches the next day--but O what a night it will have been.