Monday, July 7, 2008

Letter to Bud Selig

I wrote a letter to Bud Selig a few years ago with some ideas on how to fix the all-star game. In his letter back to me, he said he'd discuss it with his baseball people. Since, the changes haven't been made, I thought it would be time to post the letter, almost in its entirety. I updated a couple lines to bring it up to date from the 2005 I sent it (I didn't know about win shares back then, if they existed). But, most of it is the same.

Dear Mr. Selig,

I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss some of my opinions about what is happening with the great game of baseball. Specifically, I’d like to discuss the All-Star Game. This seemed especially prudent since the last two have been some of the best since the great game of 1999. (The standard to which all other games will be compared) However, there were several problems that I feel detracted from the enjoyment of the game. So, I just had a couple comments about the game, and the events that led up to the game, that I wanted you to hear.

I’d like to mention some of the things that went right with the last couple All-Star Games, starting with the “This time it counts” change that was made. Personally, I like the idea of making the game count. I see no problem with deciding home field advantage in this manner. Some people think it’s unfair to award such an important thing to the winner of an exhibition game, but is it really less fair than the previous method? I like the idea, and I hope it stays. I also like the way the last couple managers managed the game. They left the starters in the game for a good chunk of the game, which is a lot more fun to watch. They didn’t feel the need to play everybody on the team. It’s about time. I hated watching the game knowing that by the 5th inning, anybody I wanted to see would be out of the game. I think these games showed how much more fun and exciting it can be if the true stars play as much as they can.

That being said, there are a few things I would change concerning the game. Right off the bat, I have a problem with the whole “every team needs a representative” idea. Why? As a Red Sox fan, I’ve been through both sides of the arguments. I remember the last couple years when the Sox had as many as 7 players on the team. I also remember when they had just the one required player. Obviously, I’d prefer a Red Sox player be on the team and play all nine innings. But, I know that’s not always possible. So, if my choice is to have the best players play three innings so Scott Cooper can bat once, or see the stars play 9 innings, I’ll take the latter. Plus, adding one player from every team means you have to leave off much more deserving players from other teams. Is it really fair that someone gets to be an All-Star just because he’s the best player on a horrible team? Where’s the entertainment in that?

I also have a problem with the fan voting. I think it’s a silly exercise that results in poorly assembled teams. The way it’s presented is that the fans pick who they really want to be in the game. But, in reality, most of the fans that vote at games haven’t a clue what they’re doing. I, as a Red Sox fan, have less exposure to what goes on in the National League. When I vote for the NL teams, I pick the name I know best, or maybe an ex-Red Sox player. It’s not because I really want them on the team, it’s just that I need a name. Sitting in the stands, you realize that that is what most people are doing. They ask each other, “Who’s good?” or, “Who’s your pick?” Obviously, using another selection method wouldn’t deprive anyone of what they really wanted. Also, with the fan vote, you get a lot of “popular” votes. Lots of Yankees get voted for because people know them. That’s hardly fair. If we really want the team to be of deserving stars, we can’t let the fans do the voting.

I was always told that you shouldn’t complain about something unless you have a better idea. Luckily, I do know how to fix the game. Taking a cue from how the Ryder Cup chooses its teams, a vast majority of the team should be selected using raw numbers. Here’s my plan:

1. Leave the Rosters at 30 players per team. I know it’s more than a regular roster, but it’s an exhibition. You will need an extra pitcher or two to account for innings limitations.

2. Get rid of the need for one player from each team. It weakens the roster, and doesn’t add any enjoyment to the game.

3. Use the DH in both parks. There’s no need to see an American League pitcher stand there in a exhibition game and watch three strikes go by. The DH spot can be used to get some of the bench players into the game.

4. Allow for a selection of a starter and a back-up at every offensive position, including the AL DH. That makes 16 roster spots in the NL, and 18 in the AL. Add the selection of 10 pitchers from each league. That fills 26 NL spots, and 28 AL slots.

5. Use a statistic to select the team. Something along the lines of Bill James’s “Win Shares” or Total Baseball’s “Total Player Rating”. That statistic should rate the best players using the numbers from a two-year period. For instance, for the 2005 game, use stats from June 2, 2003 to June 1, 2005. This statistic would be used to select starters and back-ups at each position, including pitchers, as well as select 2 NL DHs. Using the two year period does two things. It requires players to be true All-Stars before they make the team. It also limits the veterans who are good for so long, but have really struggled. If Cal Ripken has two off years, he doesn’t deserve to still make the team. That creates the need for step 6.

6. With the two remaining spots on the rosters, we allow some fan voting. Call this the “Cal Ripken Spot”. Starting after June 1st, when the stats are locked, fans are allowed to vote on two people in each league they just have to see on the team. So, if fans want Cal Ripken to be on one last All-Star team in his last year, this is their chance. If the fans really want to see hotshot rookie Dontrelle Willis, this is their spot to vote him in. This way you really do get the best of both worlds. You get a team of players who actually deserve to be there, but the fans can still have the joy of voting and a chance to see undeserving players they want to see.

As you can see, this system solves all kinds of problems. It takes the selections out of the hands of the managers and fans. That way, only deserving players make the team. The fans don’t vote in the players on their hometown teams. Joe Torre can’t “reward” the Yankees for winning the World Series. (I always thought the shiny ring was the reward) This system makes the game better. It makes the selections more of an honor, and makes performance more important than pinstripes. It also allows hidden stars to join in the spotlight. Just because a player plays in a smaller market, and doesn’t get the same exposure as a Brave, doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to start an All-Star team. This system would allow anyone good enough the chance to start, whether they play for Boston or Kansas City.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to use your “best interests of baseball” powers to implement this plan in time for next season. If not, I can’t wait for the first use next summer.

Thank you so much for your time. Thanks for everything you’ve done to help this game.

Section 36

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