Major League Baseball’s All-Star game used to be one of the biggest sporting events in this country. Now? Nobody wants to play in it, Bud Selig still feels need to artificially increase the game’s importance to try and generate interest.So what can Major League Baseball do to get fans interested again? Simple. Get back to its roots and import Japanese All-Stars.
Instead of American League versus National League, baseball would play two All-Star games. On one night, the American League would play an All-Star team from Japan’s Pacific League, and on the other night, the National League would play an All-Star game versus a team made up of All-Stars from Japan’s Central League.
The match-ups are based on the use of the designated hitter. Like the American League, Japan’s Pacific League uses the DH, while the Central League does not.
Reintroduction of the Unknown
Prior to cable TV, the internet, and Major League Baseball’s extra inning package, one of the intrigues of the All-Star game, was the opportunity to see players that you might otherwise only read about in the boxscore of the morning newspaper. If you lived in St. Louis in the mid-80s, how many times did you get to see Don Mattingly or Ricky Henderson, or even George Brett, who played just across the state?
By importing two Japanese all-star teams, we once again get to feel that sense of wonderment of meeting players we have never seen play, albeit on a lesser scale.
Reintroduction of League Pride
Prior to full-fledged free agency, fans felt a stronger sense of pride in the league that their favourite team represented. And the same sense of pride was often felt among the players that often spent their entire career in one league.
By having each league face-off against a Japanese all-star team, there will once again be pressure on representing your league. That is, neither side will will want to be the league that lost to the supposedly inferior Japanese baseball players.
Meanwhile, the Japanese players will be driven to prove themselves as equals. The recipe could lead to fiercely played all-star games of the like we haven’t seen in decades.
Introduction to Millions of Japanese Televisions
Ultimately, the biggest factor in any decision these days is television ratings and money. This is why Major League Baseball will never abandon divisions (thus abandoning unbalanced schedules and increasing the number of games that are not shown locally in prime time due to coast-to-coast road trips).
By importing two Japanese All-Star teams, not only is MLB increasing the number of All-Star games to two, and increasing interest among American fans, but they are inviting millions of Japanese televisions to tune into baseball’s mid-summer classics in a way that far exceeds the appeal of 2-3 Ichiro at bats.
There is Precedent
Major League Baseball has been exporting all-star squads to Japan for nearly 100 years. So why not reverse the direction of travel and just bring the Japanese squads to the US?
In addition, MLB could use the Japanese all-stars in the home run derby, and even introduce a skills competition between the Major League and Japanese all-stars.
Hey, it’s not perfect. But right now the MLB’s All-Star game is broken and all the band-aids in the world won’t fix it. It is time to try something radical.
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