Bud Selig's Super Special Offseason Panel of Everyone But Players and Umpires had some ideas about improving the All Star Game, and the higher-ups at MLB have listened! Starting this summer in Anaheim, the following four progressive changes will be made to the Midseason Classic:
- Starting pitchers who pitch the prior Sunday will be dismissed from the team and replaced
- If a player gets injured mid-game, the manager can replace him with any designated positional player
- The designated hitter rule will be used in every game, not just those in AL cities
- Roster expansion! Teams will now carry 21 position players and 13 pitchers, up one from last year
The first two get a big fat "meh" out of me, so let's focus on the last two instead. Carrying the DH rule over to National League parks during an exhibition game may seem like an inconsequential change right now, but what does that move portend for the future? Perhaps this is just the first step to introducing the DH to every World Series game, or to take it one step further, maybe this means that the DH rule may soon be used during the regular season in the National League.
I'm ready now to have both leagues use the same darn rules, and letting NL teams utilize the DH not only increases the job prospects for aging stars like your Barry Bondses and Carlos Delgadi, but it might level the playing field that has recently made the AL the far more dominant league. Having the DH available in an All Star Game won't force the managers to pinch hit for pitchers constantly but it might foretell a sea change in the entire game.
As for roster expansion, the advantage I see to having more players qualify for the All Star Game is a cheapening of the honor. Why is that an advantage? Because if certain baseball writers consider expanded rosters to cheapen an All Star appearance, perhaps they won't use appearances (or lack thereof) as a crutch anymore when evaluating a player's Hall of Fame qualifications.
It makes no sense for a writer to use All Star Game votes when considering a players' entry into Cooperstown; we fans are the ones who vote players in or keep them out, and we don't always use the best statistical measures to evaluate those votes. Nor should we! It's a fun exhibition and we should want to choose our favorite players. Baseball writers shouldn't lean on those votes for Hall of Fame-worthiness, and with All Star Game rosters a full six players larger than they were just a few years ago, maybe they won't anymore.