MLB just sent out a release announcing several changes to the All-Star Game, beginning with this year’s Mid-Summer Classic in Anaheim on July 13. The changes were recommended by commissioner Bud Selig’s Special Committee for On-Field Matters, and agreed to by the Major League Players Association. That means they are official, and it’s hard to argue with any of them. Notably, there was no change to the rule giving the home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star Game (which has been the American League every year since the rule was instituted).
Here are the changes that will go into effect this year:
–The designated hitter will now be utilized by both teams, regardless of whether the All-Star Game is played in an American League or National League ballpark. The National League’s starting DH will be selected by the NL All-Star manager, while the American League’s starting DH will continue to be selected by fan balloting.
What this does is remove the need for the managers to pinch-hit for the pitcher every time their turn comes up, which is what has been happening in years the game was played in NL parks. It eliminates the rare occasion when a pitcher has to bat. I’d be hard-pressed to imagine anyone having any issues with this, even those who like the NL-style game. This is an All-Star Game, and people want to see hitters hit and pitchers pitch.
–Any pitcher selected to an All-Star team who starts a regular-season game on the Sunday immediately preceding the All-Star Game will not be eligible to pitch in the All-Star Game and will be replaced on the roster. The pitcher who is ineligible to play in the All-Star Game will be recognized as an All-Star, will be welcome to participate in All-Star festivities, and will be introduced in uniform.
This serves two purposes — one, it eliminates a difficult annual issue for managers, who want to protect pitchers’ arms but also want to use their best players. And it also will help keep teams from coming up short on pitching because they have hurlers on their roster they can’t use.
–Rosters will be expanded from 33 players to 34 players, consisting of 21 position players and 13 pitchers. Last year’s 33-man rosters consisted of 20 position players and 13 pitchers.
This could be part of baseball’s never-ending quest to avoid the embarrassing tie that occurred in Milwaukee in 2002 when they ran out of pitching at the end of the 11th inning. But since it doesn’t expand the pitching staff, I wonder if this was something that the union requested in bargaining so that more players could be recognized.
–In addition to the existing injured-catcher rule, one additional position player who has been selected to an All-Star team will be designated by each All-Star manager as eligible to return to the game in the event that the last position player at any position is injured.
Again, think back to Milwaukee.
(Photo from the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco by Associated Press)