As baseball’s finest stars collected in Seattle, a sense of excitement reverberated across the MLB and its fans, in eager anticipation of what was to come with the 93rd All-Star Game. The All-Star Game is intended to be a fun event that caters to baseball’s hardcore audience but also tries to bring in new fans, showing off the best of what the sport has to offer. The MLB was able to accomplish much of what it set out to do during the 2023 All-Star Game, but that is not to say that the event was without its shortcomings, holding it back from being a true spectacle.
What the 2023 All-Star Game Got Right and What It Got Wrong
What the All-Star Game Got Right
At Last, a “New” Winner Was Crowned
For the first time since 2012, the National League emerged victorious over the American League, led by a go-ahead two-run homer from 32-year-old, first-time All-Star Elias Diaz of the Colorado Rockies, who went on to win All-Star Game MVP.
— MLB (@MLB) July 12, 2023
For context, the last time the National League won the All-Star Game, Melky Cabrera was the game’s MVP, and like Diaz was also a first-time All-Star. Now, the outcome of the game is not something that can necessarily be controlled by the MLB, but the “new” winner taking home the All-Star game trophy is refreshing, especially after a more than 10-year drought. Just think, it’s been over a decade since half of the MLB’s teams and their fans have taken home the honor of being All-Star Game champions.
While the honor of being All-Star game champion may seem futile, it reinvigorates a whole section of baseball’s passion for the event, as the National League proved they can once again prove themselves against their counterparts, which will lead to more people who once didn’t care, now tuning into the All-Star game in anticipation of what will happen. Now, the level of competitiveness of the game has risen considerably with this victory by the National League, as the question of who will win the game isn’t so much of a done deal as it previously may have been.
Young and Exciting Players Were Highlighted
Now more than ever, baseball is full of exciting, young talents who bring a level of flair that has been previously unseen. Those players include Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves, Corbin Carroll of the Arizona Diamond Backs, Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners, and Adley Rutschman of the Baltimore Orioles, all of whom took the field during Tuesday’s game. Baseball has long struggled to market its players to a wider audience, but with so many incredible stars on display in Seattle the MLB had a perfect opportunity to feature them, which they did.
While some are against the mid-game on-the-field interviews of players, saying that they distract from the game and are unnecessary, in reality, they feature the player in a very notable, unique way and humanize them in a sense, bringing the average viewer and the player closer than normal. Rodriquez and Carroll both participated in being “mic’d up” allowing for fans who may have been previously unfamiliar with the two players to get to know a couple of baseball’s brightest stars.
When playing baseball in his neighborhood growing up, @JRODshow44 learned how to hit the ball the other way because he was hitting too many home runs off of his neighbors' houses 😅😅 pic.twitter.com/Oi4RDr4k7i
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 12, 2023
It also helps that players like Rutschman and Rodriguez were featured the day before in the Home Run Derby, along with the eventual winner Vladimir Guerrero Jr., another young star, who plays with the Toronto Blue Jays. The future of baseball is super important, especially now, as the league needs to attract a large audience that will make people tune in for games regularly. This generation needs its Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, or Barry Bonds, iconic figures who are still talked about to this day. If the MLB continues to push their younger players to the forefront as they did at the All-Star, giving them greater opportunity to become baseball’s next legends, they will see greater success.
Nobody wants to watch a stale baseball game with poor hitting, lack of hitting, and no intrigue, but luckily 2023’s All-Star Game was plenty thrilling. The game started strong with a couple of leaping catches at the wall for the first two outs, one caught by Adolis Garcia who put his body on the line to snatch a shot to right field hit by Acuna.
Adolis Garcia starts the All-Star Game with style! pic.twitter.com/tHsJaM2O9b
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 12, 2023
Following that up Acuna’s former teammate Freddie Freeman hit a flyball to the left side of the outfield, where similarly Randy Arozarena made a catch while crashing into the wall. The players cared about the game as they put their bodies on the line to make defensive plays as touched on earlier, hit towering home runs like Yandy Diaz did in the second inning to give the American League an early 1-0 lead or as Luis Arraez, did steal second base off of one of the best catchers in the league, Jonah Heim.
Yandy Diaz makes it 1-0 AL! pic.twitter.com/FBHg5AV2yW
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 12, 2023
Diaz’s home run in the 8th which gave the National League the lead was an incredible moment that capped off an awesome night of play. What separates baseball’s All-Star Game from other sports is that the players truly commit to the game on both sides of the ball, playing hard on both offense and defense, something that cannot be said for other sports.
What it Got Wrong
During the period from 2003-2016, the All-Star game had a legitimate meaning outside of fun or bragging rights. The winner of the game would get a home-field advantage in the World Series. Now, the game has no actual stakes and is simply played for the love of the game. While this is great, it leaves a little bit to be asked for. It also doesn’t help that the American League vs. National League matchup has gotten a bit boring with the introduction of interleague play in the regular season in 1997, losing the novelty the match-up once had.
Ideas have been discussed among fans to spice up the game itself, by splitting the teams based on where the players are from, creating a USA vs. the World game or even doing what the NBA does by selecting captains and having them select the players on their teams through a draft. These options could shake up an All-Star that could be seen by some as getting stale and bring a new level of spectacle to the event.
Viewers Were Historically Low
Down by 7% from last year, this year’s All-Star game had just 7.01 million people tune in to watch the festivities, a record low for the event. It seems fewer and fewer people have had the urge to watch the game, so the question turns to what is turning people away from watching and what can baseball do to bring people in, not turn them away. Though there are flaws, there is a lot to love about the MLB’s All-Star Game, people just don’t seem to care.
The MLB needs to make people care and they did well by doing that in featuring their players during the All-Star Game, showcasing them at their most fun and exciting. This marketing of players needs to continue as the regular season progresses, going full force and showing people outside of baseball why the sport is so special.
Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels is a generational talent who will pitch seven innings one night and the next hit a skyrocketing home run. He and others need to be talked about more by the mainstream sports audience because they are missing out. There is so much talent and the All-Star Game isn’t having low numbers because baseball fans don’t care about it, it’s because not enough people care about baseball in general.
To bring the All-Star Game back to full force, the MLB must first take a look at itself and be better at consistently marketing its players, advertising the most exciting parts of the game, and appealing to a younger audience. Once people begin to care about the actual MLB, the people tuning into the All-Star game will see a significant bump, they just need to know to tune in.
Main Image: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports