Unlike the NBA All-Star game with its comical defense and orgy of alley-oops, or the abomination that is the NFL Pro Bowl, the MLB All-Star game is almost exactly the same as every other baseball game, except this one features the best players in the game.
Baseball is not a sport that can be played at half-speed, or casually. Maybe it’s because the game itself is already slow. But this is what makes the MLB All-Star Game so awesome.
Theoretically, it should be amazing to watch all of the best NBA players on one team competing against each other. Or imagine a full-speed, full-contact Pro Bowl where the best players are actually trying. Those would be great, but the fear of injury is too much to allow for an actual game to happen.
Baseball is different. The risk of injury is not greater in the ASG than it is in any of the other 162 games played each season. Baseball is also an individual sport and a team sport combined. Whereas in football a great running back may never be noticed because of his awful offensive line, in baseball, great players often put up huge numbers on bad teams.
Take Giancarlo Stanton for example. Though he won’t be playing in the ASG this year due to injury, he’s one of the most exciting players in the league and puts up monster numbers, but he plays for the Marlins. Most people don’t get to see him play day-in and day-out. The ASG is the perfect opportunity to watch Stanton face off against the best pitchers in the league, with the added bonus of not having to watch a Marlins game.
NBA, NFL, and NHL All-Star games end up with unrealistically high scores as defense greatly suffers during these exhibitions, but the MLB All-Star game has just as good of a chance to end 2-0 as it does 13-10.
Who could forget Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a home run in the infamous tied game of 2002? It’s still one of Hunter’s most iconic plays, and it was in a game that didn’t even “matter”. What made it so great was that it was a legitimate play. It wasn’t some obscene alley-oop like in the NBA All-Star game that has the feel of a video game. Hunter used to make those kind of great plays all the time, but fans of National League teams may not have gotten to witness one live until watching the ASG that year. It brings the excitement of the best players in the league to fans everywhere.
Baseball is one of the most regional sports. Most fans tend to watch their teams, but not nationally televised games. Local TV numbers are huge and many teams are getting massive TV contracts but the TV numbers of nationally televised games aren’t necessarily big.
I’m a big Rangers fan, but I’ve still never watched Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant play. So I’ll be tuning in to the game to watch these exciting young stars try and duplicate what they’ve been doing all year on a national stage. And I’ll know that what I see won’t be the result of a lack of defense, or a game played at half speed. If Bryce Harper blasts a home run, or if Chris Sale strikes him out, I’ll know that both competitors were giving it their all and the result was a real result. The same can’t be said for any other All-Star Game and that’s why the MLB All-Star Game is the only one worth watching.