Mark Madden

Mark Madden

The Super Genius of Pittsburgh Sports.Full Bio



Josh Bell went out in the first round of the Home Run Derby. He should have had Nick Kingham pitch.

Tonight is the MLB all-star break's main event, namely the All-Star Game itself. Bell will DH and bat sixth for the National League.

The popularity of all-star games is a fraction of what it was. But the all-star format works best with baseball (and always has) because it's a non-contact sport. The danger of injury is relatively minimal, so you can just go out and play.

Basketball comes under the same heading, but playing defense takes more effort than the NBA All-Stars can muster. (Same goes during regular-season games.)

The MLB All-Star Game drew its all-time worst TV rating of 5.2 last season.

Its all-time high was a 28.5 mark in 1970. Perhaps they could reinstate Pete Rose and tell him to run over Ray Fosse again.

The last time the game's rating cracked double figures was 2001 (11.0).

TV is saturated with sports. That's part of it.

TV is saturated with baseball. That's also part of it.

But what used to make the MLB All-Star Game special doesn't exist anymore. Inter-league play combined with free and easy player movement to see to that.

The All-Star Game used to feature unique match-ups. Once per year, and often even less frequent.

It was the only place to see Carl Hubbell face Babe Ruth.

When that happened in the 1934 game, the New York Giants left-hander struck out Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin consecutively. Five straight Hall-of-Famers.

It was an iconic moment. Back then, it could only happen in an All-Star Game.

When I was a kid, the All-Star Game was a baseball fan's only chance to see Rod Carew hit against Tom Seaver, or Roberto Clemente bat vs. Vida Blue, or Hank Aaron face Jim Palmer. Those were big-time showdowns. They were pondered and debated. We couldn't wait.

Now, the MLB All-Star Game has nothing to offer that can't be seen in a given regular-season game.

The players used to want to prove which league was superior. Now, they don't care. So why should we?

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