A staple of nearly every sports league is its All-Star Game. It gives fans a chance to see their favorite players perform on the field all at once, and is a critical marketing element. For Major League Baseball, the problem is that they’ve tied the game’s outcome to home field advantage in the World Series.
With an increased focus on how MLB has chose to market the Mid-Summer Classic, it’s time to cut the cord on making the game count. Call it what it is—either a full-blown marketing campaign designed to increase traffic at MLB.com, expand the league’s Twitter presence—whatever, it’s marketing aspect has overshadowed the ability to say for certain that the “best” players are playing rather than the most “popular.”
Case in point, the “final vote” selection for 10 players that the fans get to pick online or via text messaging. There were 19.1 million online votes for the 10 candidates as of Tuesday where voters can vote repeatedly. That mark was 13.7% higher than last year through 42 hours. The league has said that 40 million votes have been cast and “the expected late flurry of votes forthcoming.” As mentioned, social media has now been added into the mix. This morning the league announced that using Twitter and hashtags will, for the first time, be counted as votes.
Major League Baseball should be applauded for its marketing prowess, but fails when the outcome of the game is tied to the World Series home field advantage. You have two conflicting elements in play here: the marketing of the league’s most popular players that may or may not be the best players. With each club barking through their Facebook and Twitter feeds; email campaigns, as well, it’s not about getting the best players in, but a way to market players and the league. Clubs tout, “Come see your All-Star player” in ticket campaigns, and players have had bonuses tied to being voted or elected to the All-Star Game.
Is this how we want home field advantage to be determined?
It’s time to remove that aspect. It’s been an experiment that has gone on too long. At what point does “marketing” interfere with “competitive players?” One could argue, it already has.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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