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STRIKE ZONE BLOG: All-Star game -- exhibition or real? Selig blew it

I think we can agree that baseball's All-Star Game is the best of the four major sports.

With the exceptions of the starting pitchers working deep and the mass substitutions, baseball's All-Star Game looks like a regular season baseball game. Can't say that about the NFL's Pro Bowl and the NBA and NHL all-star games.

No one plays defense in those other three.

In baseball, the hitters don't want to strike out and the pitchers don't want to get shelled.

It's an exhibition game, yes, but the players want to prove they belong ... to a point.

With Pete Rose knocking over Ray Fosse at the plate in the 1970 game as one of the few exceptions, the players play at just a notch or two under 100 percent.

But, tonight's game in St. Louis, tonight's exhibition game, will decide which league gets home field in Game 7 of the World Series.

That's right, the biggest game of any baseball season, Game 7 of the World Series, is directly tied to a mid-summer exhibition game.

Way to go Bud Selig.

It was the commissioner, embarrassed by the fiasco in his own park in 2002 when both sides ran out of pitches and the game ended in - gasp! - a tie, who decided that the All-Star Game will count.

Yeah, that fixed the problem.

So last year the two sides played forever in the Bronx. Scott Kazmir was the last pitcher used by the American League, and he Rays didn't want Kazmir to pitch. Neither did Kazmir.

And Kaz is determining which league gets home field in Game 7 of the World Series?

If you want this game to count than you have to change the rules.

You have to make it less of an exhibition game. That means the starting pitcher has to pitch deep. Heck, if Roy Halladay can give you nine innings, great.

You need relief pitchers used to pitching in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and one or two lefties to come in and get a tough lefty.

So, no longer do you need to send a bus load of starters, just two so you can use one in long relief.

Also, say good-bye to all the closers. You only need one since he''ll be pitching the ninth and only if you have the lead.

Say good-bye to all the starters at the other positions who serve as backups. Now you need guys like the Rays Willy Aybar, a switch-hitter who can pinch-hit and play several positions. You need guys accustomed to coming off the bench in the late innings.

In other words, you'd want to put together a roster that resembles a real major league roster.

Problem is, it's no longer an All-star Game.

So, back to having it an All-Star Game, a night of stars.

Set it up so you have enough players to 11 innings. That's two extra innings to break a tie. If not, it goes down as tie. Everyone wins. The players all played, the fans got to see all the stars and they were able to get home before 3 a.m.

As for home field in game 7? The old way worked just fine with the leagues alternating every year. You went to spring training knowing what the deal would be should you reach the playoffs. No one seemed to complain before.

Awarding home field to the team with the best record isn't always fair, because a team from a tough division may not have the best record even though it is the best team.

Award home field to the team with the best Interleague record is one idea, but what if one team played a weak Interleague record while it's opponent faced the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays? Doesn't seem fair.

But neither does leaving the biggest game of the year in the hands of a mid-season exhibition game.

There are plenty of things in baseball that need fixing: Testing for performance-enhancing drugs, big market vs. small market, ticket prices, the late start of World Series games.

The All-Star Game wasn't on that list.

So, wouldn't you know it, that's one Selig decided to fix.

Nice.

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