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Reimer: MLB tried to make the All-Star Game fun again –– and kind of succeeded

Alex Reimer
July 12, 2017 - 11:06 am

Major League Baseball and Fox Sports apparently heard the cries about the All-Star Game lacking excitement and star power. In return, they gave us Alex Rodriguez walking around the infield and awkwardly interviewing players prior to the top of the second inning. 

The broadcast gets an A for effort, though several of the spots fell flat. When Tom Verducci summoned Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon prior to his at-bat against Chris Sale, for example, the bearded leadoff hitter didn’t exude a lot of charisma. 

“I’m going to swing hard in case I hit it,” he said, when asked how he would approach his matchup against Sale.  

Coming off the lowest rated All-Star Game ever, it was clear the Midsummer Classic needed a shakeup. For the first time in 14 years, the outcome of the contest no longer determined home field advantage, which is a step in the right direction. All-Star Games should be about showcasing star players, not baseball strategy. 

But then in the second inning, National League manager Joe Maddon pulled Max Scherzer –– and his blistering fastball –– for journeyman reliever Pat Neshek. The sidearmer represented a change of pace from Scherzer, but didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment. It was a classic example of baseball shooting itself in the foot. 

Perhaps the most enjoyable gimmick were the on-field interviews with outfielders George Springer and Bryce Harper, which took place while the game was going on. The segments dragged on for too long, but featured some enjoyable exchanges, such as when Harper asked Joe Buck how he thinks Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will fare this season. 

The Nelson Cruz-Joe West photo was designed to go viral, and that’s exactly what happened –– with Deadspin and other websites picking up the story within minutes. Placating to social media might be lame, but it’s a necessary evil in today’s world. The picture was shared thousands of times, making the stunt a success. 

The game itself was well-played, but apparently not captivating enough to keep the sold out crowd at Marlins Park in its seats. The stadium emptied out prior to the top of the 10th inning, so most fans missed Robinson Cano’s go-ahead home run. It must have been a deflating scene for baseball executives, who did everything they could to make this year’s All-Star Game a primetime event worth sticking around for. 

The game’s 6.5 overnight rating, a slight improvement over last year’s record-low 6.4, is an appropriate result. MLB got nominally rewarded for its efforts, but outfield interviews and infield chats with A-Rod won’t propel players to superstardom –– especially if they don’t play along. 

The gimmicks themselves were more memorable than the content they produced. The All-Stars were given every chance to shine, but most of them just put their heads down and went about their work –– as baseball players are seemingly wired to do. 

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