Baseball now has a pitch timer, ghost runners in extra innings, shift rules, taxi squads, and extra players for doubleheaders.
A sport once beholden to tradition has changed considerably in the last few years and largely for the better.
In that spirit, it’s time to improve the All-Star Game. Here are a few thoughts on some changes that would make the All-Star Game and All-Star Weekend a better experience for fans:
Change the format: To capitalize on the success of the World Baseball Classic, the All-Star Game could be Team USA vs. Team World instead of American League vs. National League.
That sounds great, but that may not be easy to pull off. There were 39 US-born players in the original 64 players chosen for the team this season with 25 from six other countries and Puerto Rico.
How to balance the rosters would be the question. Having some American players choose to represent the countries where a parent or grandparent is from might work. Or open the World roster to prospects. It’s worth trying to make it work.
The other option would be to designate two captains (as the NBA does) to select the rosters via a draft the day before the game.
It would be interesting this season if Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. picked the teams with the help of the managers from the World Series.
“That would be interesting to me,” said Kenley Jansen, the lone Red Sox representative. “I think shaking things up would be good. Let the players have fun with it.”
The American League vs. the National League had its day and that day has passed. Now that the game is again an exhibition and doesn’t decide home-field advantage for the World Series, fans should vote for the best players regardless of league.
Teams now play 46 interleague games a season, only six fewer than they do in their division. The lines between the leagues have faded and that should include the All-Star Game.
No more mandatory picks: The idea that every team should have an All-Star does not benefit the game in any way and is an outdated concept. Including players such as Elias Díaz (Rockies), Michael Lorenzen (Tigers), and Brent Rooker (Athletics) only denies more worthy players of a spot.
Good for Rooker that he was named an All-Star. He has been with four organizations since 2017 and is having an unexpectedly decent season for Oakland after being claimed off waivers. It’ll surely be a nice experience for his family, too.
But Matt Chapman or Alex Verdugo would have been better choices. Just pick the best players, not the best player from a bad team.
Move the draft: It was a worthwhile experiment to shift the amateur draft from early June to All-Star Weekend. It also failed.
Having the draft in the same city as the All-Star Game and trying to make a television event out of it just doesn’t work. The draft gets completely overshadowed.
With precious few exceptions, amateur baseball stars are largely unfamiliar to the general public and disappear into the minors once they’re selected. It’s not comparable to the NBA or NFL.
Delaying the draft for a month also hurts the development of players who could be 20 games into their professional careers by now. Most high school and college players are done with their seasons by the first week of June.
Waiting for the draft slows the process for them and for college coaches who have to see if any of their recruits are selected.
It also has created an unnecessary burden on front offices. Teams once worked hard on draft preparation in May, wrapped up everything in June, then there was a little break until the trade deadline.
Now the draft is held just as the trade deadline action heats up.
“You don’t get any time to reset,” a National League executive said. “The timing is bad for everybody.”
MLB announced on Thursday that seven players would attend the draft in person, three who played in high school. That’s it, just seven.
The draft should be held in conjunction with the College World Series in Omaha, which was the plan for 2020 until the pandemic hit.
“Placing the draft in the competitive atmosphere of Omaha will bring greater exposure to the event and give future professional players a more rewarding draft day experience,” commissioner Rob Manfred said at the time.
He was right then. The draft would be a big event in Omaha. It’s a nuisance at the All-Star Game.
Have players wear their own uniforms: One of the attractions of the All-Star Game over the years was seeing the uniforms of so many teams on the same field. Now MLB produces caps and jerseys for the game specific to the host city.
It’s a silly marketing ploy, a case of trying too hard. The jerseys aren’t aesthetically pleasing and it robs the game of a cool tradition.
It would be better to have batting practice jerseys honoring the host city then once the game starts the players wear their usual uniforms with an All-Star patch on the sleeve and one on their cap and maybe gold numbers.
Red Sox need surge in the second half
The Wild Card standings are hopeful in the sense that the Red Sox are only a few games away from a spot. But they’re also deceptive because the Sox would have to climb over the Blue Jays and Yankees to get there while holding off the Angels, Mariners, and others.
In the end it will come down to what degree they can maintain a competitive rotation given all the injuries.
Other teams say Chaim Bloom is going down every road looking for rotation help. Of course that is true around the game and with only a handful of teams selling, it won’t be easy.
But even a No. 4 or No. 5 starter — say Rich Hill from the fading Pirates or Oakland’s JP Sears — would add energy to a clubhouse loaded with players who have their own questions about what direction the team will take.
Last season’s hybrid approach was a disaster. The Sox stayed over the salary cap, got worse and didn’t really change the path of the organization. They can’t do that again.
The Sox went into the weekend third in the American League in runs scored with a chance to get even better. Can they outhit their weak pitching and defense? Maybe.
The “expected” production from Triston Casas could soon intersect with his actual production, although his slow-motion defense remains an issue. Trevor Story’s return should have a big impact as well.
It remains curious that the Sox aren’t considering bringing Story back as a designated hitter first. Wouldn’t having another righthanded hitter on the roster be beneficial?
Rafael Devers is pushing his on-base percentage up and has resigned himself to the idea that he has to take some walks and trust in his teammates. Masataka Yoshida’s power hasn’t translated yet but reliably gets on base twice a night.
Since 2018, every team with at least 800 runs has finished with at least 84 victories except the 2019 Rangers and Rockies.
So there’s hope.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ The Sox have stuck with Adam Duvall, giving him at-bats in the hope he will regain his timing after two months on the injured list and become an offensive force. There have been a few positive signs in recent games.
That has put the onus on Alex Cora to juggle the lineup, sitting Casas and Jarren Duran at times and playing Justin Turner in the field. Casas actually sat against righthander Jon Gray on Wednesday.
Duvall can carry the team if he gets hot — or hit his way into becoming trade bait. But the Sox can’t wait indefinitely. Duran has earned the right to play everyday.
▪ Former Red Sox infielder Mario Guerrero died earlier this month. He was 73.
Guerrero was obtained from the Yankees in 1972 as part of the ill-fated trade that sent Sparky Lyle to New York for Danny Cater.
Guerrero played 159 games for the Sox over two seasons then was traded to the Cardinals in 1975 for reliever Jim Willoughby, who was a key member of the bullpen for three seasons.
Guerrero was a character. The March 1, 1975 edition of the Globe contained news that Guerrero had not yet arrived in spring training and was apparently considering joining a “musical religious sect” in the Dominican Republic.
Guerrero stayed in baseball. He retired as a player after the 1980 season and worked with his brother, famed DR scout Epy Guerrero.
▪ The Red Sox renovated the press box and broadcast booths at Fenway Park before this season. As part of that process, the team displayed some photos, plaques, and other memorabilia.
That included copies of the Hall of Fame certificates given to the last four writers from the Boston chapter who won the BBWAA’s Career Excellence Award: Peter Gammons (2005), Larry Whiteside (2008), Dan Shaughnessy (2016), and Nick Cafardo (2020).
Thanks to Abby Murphy of the Sox and Jon Shestakofsky of the Hall for helping to make that happen.
As baseball takes a break, here’s where things stand for the awards races:
MVP: It’s very clearly Shohei Ohtani in the American League. He had a 1.444 OPS in June. To put that in a historical context, no player had done that (with a minimum of 125 plate appearances) since Joe DiMaggio had a 1.487 OPS in July of 1937.
Along with DiMaggio, only fellow Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (six times), Lou Gehrig (twice) and Rogers Hornsby (twice) have had a higher OPS in a month than Ohtani. Those all came from 1920-37.
Ohtani has a 1.033 OPS at the plate and on the mound has held opponents to a .635 OPS. What he is doing defies comparison.
The National League is not a complicated call, either. Ronald Acuña Jr. has become the player the Braves have long envisioned. He’s a leadoff hitter with power who’s stealing bases at will and playing high-caliber defense in right field.
There’s also growing maturity, too. Acuña passed on the Home Run Derby in the interest of staying healthy.
Cy Young: It’s a good race in the American League with Ohtani, Gerrit Cole, Nathan Eovaldi, Kevin Gausman, Shane McClanahan, and Framber Valdez all possibilities.
Cole has finished second twice and fourth twice. He’s overdue for some hardware.
Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen leads the National League race and is a good bet to hang on with Clayton Kershaw dealing with a sore shoulder. Atlanta’s Bryce Elder, at 24, could make a run. But the Braves will be careful with how he is used.
Rookie of the Year: Texas third baseman Josh Jung has the stats but his lofty batting average on balls in play (.346) is a bubble that will pop at some point. That could open the door for Masataka Yoshida, who should be able to maintain his consistency if not get even better as he further learns the pitchers.
In the National League, Arizona outfielder Corbin Carroll is an easy call. His speed and power have changed so many games for the Diamondbacks.
Manager of the year: Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde finished second last season. If the Orioles overtake the Rays, which is not out of the question, it would be hard to deny him.
Bruce Bochy was the perfect choice for Texas. But that team is more of a reflection of the wise choices general manager Chris Young has made. As Nathan Eovaldi noted, Young’s background as a player has allowed him to merge team-building principles while acknowledging the importance of analytics.
“C.Y. gets it,” Eovaldi said.
Torey Lovullo should run away in the National League voting if the Diamondbacks win the West. But again, he’s very much a partner with GM Mike Hazen.
Eovaldi spent a lot of time reconnecting with people at Fenway Park when he was in town with the Rangers last week. Eovaldi loved his five seasons in Boston (the longest he has been with any team in his career) and hoped to work out an extension. He instead landed in Texas for two years and $34 million. It’s been great for his family to live closer to their home in the Houston area but he misses the intensity of playing at Fenway Park. “It’s just different,” he said. “I loved being here.” Eovaldi has a 2.83 ERA over 18 starts and has averaged just under 6⅔ innings. But it goes beyond that. “He’s awesome. He’s one of the best I’ve had,” Bochy said. “Always in a good mood and brings great energy to the clubhouse, not just when he pitches. A terrific teammate. We talk about how he leads by example all the time.” … At 35, Craig Kimbrel got what he wanted and is now closing for the surging Phillies. Manager Rob Thomson opened the season with a closer-by-committee but Kimbrel went into the weekend with a 1.13 ERA in his last 24 appearances with 10 saves in as many chances. Opponents hit .111 against him in that stretch and struck out 40 times in 81 at-bats. Kimbrel (407) and Kenley Jansen (409) are duking it out for seventh place on the career saves list. Kimbrel leads the majors with 10 pitch-timer violations, something that could bite him in a big spot … The MLB Draft kicks off at 7 p.m. Sunday with lefthander Thomas White of Phillips Academy potentially a top-20 pick. He’s the best lefty in the draft but could drop a bit because of signability concerns. White, who the Yankees have followed closely, is likely to be available when the Red Sox pick at 14 but indications are they will stick to recent form and take a shortstop or second baseman. Maryland shortstop Matt Shaw, a Worcester Academy product from Brimfield, is a solid possibility. Boston College outfielder Travis Honeyman and Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) righthander Alex Clemmey could be second-round choices with Clemmey having a shot to move up … Credit to MLB for matching up Mookie Betts against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first round of the Home Run Derby. Vladdy Jr. is 5 inches taller and 65 pounds heavier than Betts. That should be fun to watch … If you’re wondering what his fellow players think about Fernando Tatis Jr. having tested positive for PEDs last season, that he was not elected to the All-Star Game in their voting says it all. More than fans or even the often-moralistic media, players look down on that level of cheating … Adam Wainwright fell to 3-4 with a 7.66 ERA and 1.99 WHIP through 11 starts after getting hit hard by the Marlins on Tuesday. He was placed on the injured list the next morning with shoulder inflammation. Wainwright, 41, has allowed 17 earned runs on 24 hits over only eight innings in his last three starts, his struggles emblematic of the Cardinals’ collapse this season. The goal now will be to get Wainwright to a point where he can rejoin the rotation. He is two victories shy of 200 for his career … Happy birthday to Mike Andrews, who is 80. The second baseman played for the Red Sox from 1966-70. He was the starting second baseman in 1967 and made the All-Star team in 1969. Andrews was traded to the White Sox before the 1971 season in the deal that brought Luis Aparicio to Boston. Andrews then won a World Series with Oakland in 1973 and retired in 1975 after playing a season in Japan. He began working for The Jimmy Fund in 1979, became director in 1984, and remained with the charity until retiring in 2009, playing a leading role in it becoming a fund-raising giant in the fight against cancer.