MLB should follow NHL's lead
It's not often that I think the major sports should look to the National Hockey League for advice, but I have to admit Gary Bettman may have stumbled onto something this year with the way he is running his league's All-Star Game.
In case you don't know what I am talking about - and judging by their television ratings you probably don't - the NHL changed the way its teams are selected for the All-Star Game. Instead of it being just the same old Eastern Conference versus Western Conference format, captains were chosen and selected their teams from a pool of pre-chosen players, ala fantasy style.
If anything, the NHL has generated a little interest in an event that otherwise the average sports fan wouldn't have been able to find on their television dial. Let's be honest, people are still going to have trouble finding it (Versus by the way), but at least they might try to locate it now.
I'm sure there are some purists out there who have a problem with the way it is being run. These are also the people, though, who downplayed the impact of the Winter Classic, or for that matter, the microwave.
I don't know. I think it's a great idea and one Major League Baseball should look to implement. Think about it. How many baseball fans participate in fantasy baseball? I'm guessing about 80 per cent of fans 35 and younger are in some sort of fantasy league or have at least taken part in one.
By the way, I have no way to back up that 80-per cent claim. It's just an informal study I did here at the TSN home office in Hatboro, Pennsylvania.
It makes so much sense for baseball. If this style was such a huge hit for the NHL, imagine how big it would be for baseball.
I know MLB has hung its hat on the fact that the game now "counts," meaning the winner gets to host the World Series, but I think we could overlook that for a year. It's ridiculous anyway that a game that features players from losing teams just to fill a quota has any say in what happens in October.
Just go back to having the team with the best record having home-field advantage. This isn't nuclear science, people.
Again, the whole "It Counts" campaign was a good idea for maybe a year, because it was different. Now it is just played out. It's time for something different and a fantasy draft for the MLB All-Star Game would be ideal.
The time is ripe for a change too. Last year's television ratings for the game were the lowest since Nielsen began tracking numbers in 1967.
And if you think the players wouldn't be into this you are wrong. It was actually a pair of former players in Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake, who drummed up this idea for the NHL.
This isn't something that has to happen every year. Make it a one-time deal. But at least think about it. I know of all the major sports All-Star games, baseball's is probably the most competitive. But, that's not really saying much. It's kind of like being the tallest Ruddick.
Major League Baseball loves to cram Derek Jeter down our throats, so you make him a captain. Make Albert Pujols the other captain and away we go. How fun would it be to watch each captain, especially Jeter, pass up on the opportunity to pick Alex Rodriguez? Is there any doubt he would be the last player chosen?
You know the networks would battle each other for the rights to air that draft. Trust me. It would be a huge deal.
The National Hockey League may not get a lot of things right, but it is right on the money with this format, regardless of how many people will watch in the end.
Bettman has laid the groundwork, now Bud Selig and Major League Baseball need to take this ball and run with it. In the end, aren't these events for the fans anyway?
© Copyright (c) The Sports Network