AAA  Jul. 13, 2014 6:37 AM ET
Time to make All-Star game relevant
Bob Blubaugh, Carroll County Times, Westminster, Md. (MCT)
McClatchy/Tribune - MCT Information Services
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There was a time when the Major League BaseballAll-Star Game was relevant without having to attach some trumped-up significance to it.

In the days before free agency, players took pride in trying to prove whether the National League was superior to the American League, and vice versa. That meant something to the likes of Bob Gibson and Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente, who played hard for as many innings as possible to try to win the game.

In the days before cable TV and the Internet, fans rarely had the opportunity to see players from outside of their home markets. It meant something for a kid in Maryland to be able to watch Nolan Ryan or Tom Seaver or J.R. Richard pitch, and Mike Schmidt, or Rod Carew or Bill Madlock hit.

It was must-see TV. There were All-Star Game viewing parties.

That time is long past, of course.

Players switch leagues on a regular basis and hold no particular allegiance to the AL or NL. Consumers can watch every single at-bat by Mike Trout, every single pitch thrown by Clayton Kershaw if they choose.

There's no real allure to watching 70 or so players -- and let's face it, nearly half don't deserve to be called all-stars -- get together to play a handful of innings before retiring to the clubhouse.

Commissioner Bud Selig tried to restore the relevance by giving the winning league home-field advantage in the World Series. But the World Series rarely goes seven games and most players in the All-Star Game know their team won't be in the Series anyway.

There's a simple way to get people interested again but it would take the type of outside-the-box thinking that MLB is not exactly known for, which is why the All-Star Game is essentially the same today as when a sportswriter dreamed it up in 1934.

The All-Star Game would immediately become more important to both players and fans if it became a "United States vs. The World" event.

Nationalism is a powerful motivator, whether it's the Olympics or the World Cup or the Ryder Cup. Attach a country to a sporting event that we might not otherwise care about and suddenly it's compelling.

Beyond that, it would have the makings of a great game.

Less than 30 percent of major leaguers were born outside of the United States, but they are disproportionately good players. As of Friday evening, 27 players on the All-Star rosters were foreign-born. Ten hail from the Dominican Republic alone.

Imagine a lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Jose Abreu, and Yasiel Puig with starting pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish and Johnny Cueto, and Koji Uehara and Francisco Rodriguez coming out of the bullpen, all playing in front of an entergized fan base.

Those players would likely take a lot of pride in wearing a "world" uniform that reads "Venezuela" or "Cuba" or "Japan" across the front, and trying to beat America. Many corners of the world would unite against the U.S.

Maybe it would seem a bit manufactured the first year and the American-born players might be slightly less into it initially, but let the United States lose a few times and see how serious the players would get.

This could even be a step toward a meaningful World Baseball Classic. Perhaps once every four years, instead of a one-game All-Star break for this game, it could be a two-week, 16-team world tournament.

This idea isn't out of left field. The NHL has experimented with similar concepts and the notion of turning the All-Star game into an us-against-them contest has been advanced before in baseball.

The time has come. In its present state, the All-Star game is a dinosaur. The level of play remains higher than the NBA's or NHL's version, in which defense is frowned upon, and it's certainly more interesting than the farce the NFL calls the Pro Bowl. But just barely.

It was a great idea -- in 1934. It's time to bring it up to date.

Reach staff writer Bob Blubaugh at 410-857-7895 or bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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©2014 the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.)

Visit the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.) at www.carrollcountytimes.com

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