Each week Jays From the Couch takes in the beauty of the MLB landscape and tries to imagine how Blue Jays Fans might see things. This week JFtC has a few ideas about how MLB can re-invent the All Star Break and wonders if Alek Manoah might experience backlash from his on-field and on-mic performances during this week’s All Star Game.
Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
* Since 1933, the best players from the American and National Leagues have gathered together to play an exhibition game in the middle of the Major League season. Created as an additional revenue stream for the owners under the cloak of showcasing the best players in the game, the event has been a source of entertainment and memorable moments for nine decades now. Gone are the days of gritty, embittered renewed rivalries between the two major leagues on the field and here to stay are glitzy, made-for-tv events that would make a Hollywood producer blush. Within the context of this new reality, let’s bat around a few changes that can be made to the 3-day All Star Break festivities that will make things easier on and more enjoyable to fans, players, owners, and advertisers
MONDAY SKILLS COMPETITIONS
Let’s be honest-more fan focus has shifted to the participants and results of the Home Run Derby than will ever be placed on the All Star Game in the future. The Home Run Derby is the perfect recipe for ratings success: athletes applying sheer strength to bat-to-ball skills; drama and hype heaped on the results by media observers; and hey, “Chicks Dig the Long Ball.” Skills competitions are an easily translatable formula for showcasing all that is special about playing the game of baseball and for turning those athletic feats into a tasty treat for the casual fan and viewer. Hence using the Home Run Derby as the primetime center piece
Using the Derby as the center piece of a prime-time skills buffet, MLB can invite representatives from each of the 30 teams to participate in a Grand Slam of Skills. To maximize the star quality of the live Home Run Derby, the 3 other skills competitions can be taped earlier in the day and shown in edited form in between rounds of an expanded 16 man Derby. This gives players advancing to next round a chance to recover and prepare while keeping the audience captive at home and in the stadium by replaying the events earlier in the day. Kinda like how the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys give out the “important-not really” technical awards before the primetime telecasts to avoid losing the casual viewers while keeping the hard-core fans tuned in to see an abbreviated report of the results.
For example: Pitcher Command Performance- MLB is advancing the idea of automated strike zones as a way to enhance the fan experience. Well, here is the perfect opportunity to spotlight how the technology can work. Rather than using a pitcher’s bullets in a meaningless inning of an exhibition game, pitchers can use this competition in place of a scheduled between-appearance bullpen session. Utilizing the newly introduced PitchCom technology, be asked to place a randomly called pitch from their arsenal within a zone inside the automated strike zone. Fastball up and in, slider down and away-earning points for strikes within the automated zone and bonus points for pitches that land in a designated zone. Tie breaker could be average velocity of 10 pitches and 4 “balls” would eliminate you. The radar gun generates excitement, but command within the strike zone makes you an All-Star.
Fielding of Dreams- Balls are launched to AL & NL representatives at each position and the competition continues until one player either misplays or cannot get to a ball. For outfielders and catchers, the balls would be launched skyward and for infielders on the ground.
Run For Your Life- An AL & NL relay team is put together to run from the batter box to first base, first to second, second to third and third to home. Some baserunners are quicker out the box than others so they would take faux swings and break for first. The fastest baserunner would be the anchor and score from third.
MLB FUTURES TUESDAY
Be honest-do you really care of the All Star Game itself is played? Shift the focus from MLB players who really don’t want to play an exhibition game to the exhibition of the skills and personalities of the stars of the future. “Let the Kids Play” has been the mantra of the Commissioner’s Office and the players for some time now. Move the Futures Game to the prime-time slot currently given the All Star Game and incorporate first round draft selections within the game coverage. Fans will get a concentrated dose of the players in their favorite teams’ farm systems while sharing the cheers and tears of the first round draft experience. Give the fans the vote for the hitter and pitcher they want to see represent their teams in the Futures Game; perhaps make the ballot choices the rookies from each club at each position.
WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?
Naturally negotiated bonus clauses would need to be considered and accounted for. Move the All-Star selection process to the start of the World Series (in another made-for-broadcast event). MLBPA players and each MLB manager will fill out a ballot in an effort to reward the truly deserving players over the course of a 162-game schedule and away from popularity contests and hot starts to a season.
* The expanded use of microphones for players on the field and in-game conversations with players has proven to be a wildly successful outcome for players and fans alike. Even crotchety baseball purists like me thoroughly enjoyed the observations of players in real time and the revelations of player personalities in the midst of competition.
No All Star shone brighter than Alek Manoah of the Toronto Blue Jays. The fiery competitiveness of the 24-year old second year rotation anchor did not come as a surprise to those who watch him on a regular basis. But the genuineness of Manoah’s reactions to a strikeout and the pure joy that came across during his between-pitches conversation with Fox analyst and kindred spirit John Smoltz was a revelation to millions of fans watching at home.
During the Saturday start against division rival Boston Red Sox, an unwelcome by-product of the Manoah All Star performance may have surfaced. Manoah shared some carefully chosen words with Bobby Dalbec after striking out the Boston first baseman to end the sixth inning. Toronto’s starting pitcher turned and faced the Red Sox dugout after his initial barking, which prompted interim manager John Schneider to come out and restrain the 24-year-old. Tensions always run high when Toronto faces off against Boston and the Sahwx no doubt were still smarting from the record-setting 28-5 drubbing the Jays put on them Friday night. But coming off his highly publicized and universally praised bravado on display during the All Star Game on Tuesday, perhaps we witnessed a glimpse of opponent backlash that may occur going forward.
Manoah was quick to jokingly dismiss the heated exchange in post-game interviews as a disagreement over products each player endorsed. Manoah is always refreshingly honest and brashly confident-these are just a few of the reasons the Blue Jays fan base has fallen in love with him. But Toronto baseball history is full of instances where players wearing their competitive hearts on their sleeves often generated resentment and hostility in opponent dugouts and fan forums. Jose Bautista. Roy Halladay. Robby Alomar. Dave Stieb. And ironically former Red Sox turned Blue Jay Roger Clemens.
Alek Manoah has powerfully broad shoulders that can shake off criticism and opponent sniping with aplomb. But it also provides a larger space for targets to be affixed and placed within their crosshairs. Reactions to Manoah will always be a factor whenever he takes the mound. But it will be interesting to see if future encounters spill out of the dugout and if opponents seek revenge against teammates if tensions grow in intensity.
Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
HEAD ON OVER TO THE JAYS FROM THE COUCH VS ALS STORE AND GET SOME GREAT SWAG THAT YOU WILL LOOK GREAT IN AND YOU CAN FEEL GREAT ABOUT.
YOU CAN ALSO HEAD TO OUR JAYS FROM THE COUCH VS ALS FUNDRAISING PAGE TO MAKE A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION DIRECTLY TO ALS CANADA.
THANK YOU FOR VISITING JAYS FROM THE COUCH! CHECK US OUT ON TWITTER @JAYSFROMCOUCH AND LIKE US FACEBOOK. BE SURE TO CATCH THE LATEST FROM JAYS FROM THE COUCH RADIO
Jersey born, Pittsburgh resident, baseball lifer. Staff Writer jaysfromthecouch.com. Host THE ON FEK CIRCLE on JFtC YouTube Channel. Regular guest on Jays From the couch Radio Podcast. Established WPPJ Rock-a-thon benefit, which has been broadcast annually since 1981 and has raised for than $500,000 for the Early Learning Institute of Pittsburgh. IBWAA member.