Television ratings for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game (held last Tuesday) were down again this year.
For the past several years, ratings for the Mid-Summer Classic have been in decline. I never dreamed the day would come when people would rather watch reruns — or even worse, reality television — than the biggest stars in baseball.
I have a theory as to why television numbers are down and the blame lies squarely on the doorstep of Major League Baseball in general and former Commissioner Bud Selig in particular.
Much of the lure and appeal of the All-Star Game was lost when Major League Baseball started interleague play.
Believe it or not boys and girls, once upon a time the biggest stars in each league saw each other only in an All-Star Game or the World Series.
There was intrigue because we wondered how a pitcher having a great season in the American League would fare against the best hitters in the National League. The All-Star Game was the only time some players would be exposed to the other league.
I think of all the great players who labored on notoriously bad teams for their entire careers. They had little or no opportunities to play in the World Series.
Ernie Banks never played in the postseason. Ditto for Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins. Even George Brett, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Hank Aaron were limited in their postseason opportunities.
The All-Star Game was the only chance fans in the other league got to see these play.
Granted, we live in an era where cable and satellite television enables people to see players on each team. And with the scourge of interleague play, they get to see a Cubs-White Sox, Reds-Indians, Yankees-Mets, and Dodgers-Angels series.
Okay, they are regular season games and not the dreadful spring or mid-season exhibitions that used to be played. Still, how many of those games are meaningful in the long run.
The Cubs played the Minnesota Twins in July. The Cubs are in the thick of the hunt for a division title. The Twins are counting down to the trade deadline where they will try to cash in on prospects.
Where was the draw of interleague play?
How many people are holding their breath waiting for that huge Toronto-Washington series? How about the Mets and Rays series? Let’s not forget the all-important showdown between the Rangers and Padres.
Interleague play should be special.
It shouldn’t be as common as a regular season game with a team from another division.
There should be some meaning to it. There should be something on the line — like a world championship.
I enjoyed the Cubs and Indians series earlier this season but in reality it meant no more than a series with the Giants or Braves.
Other than an argument about if the National League should adopt the DH rule — and they shouldn’t by the way — it produced nothing more than a simple early season win or loss.
When the Yankees play the Mets or the Giants play the A’s, it should be in the postseason.
Granted, it’s rare that such natural rivals face other in the World Series.
That’s exactly why the All-Star Game should be a showcase as the only interleague play outside of the World Series.
In short, if you want people to watch the All-Star Game, make it mean something again and I don’t mean the Bud Selig-generated home field advantage in the World Series nonsense.
Give people something they won’t see any other time of the year.