For a variety of reasons, the MLB All-Star Game no longer carries the importance or meaning that it once did. Once upon a time players were part of a team, imbued with a sense of loyalty based upon long years of service to the same team and league. With interleague play, free agency, and rising salaries, players have become much more like mercenaries. Players switch leagues and teams with regularity and the old feeling of allegiance has mostly faded as it’s sometimes harder to work up a good rivalry for an exhibition game when the opponent is made up of former and future friends and teammates.
From the fan's perspective, the blending of the leagues and the advent of access to highlights and games of all the teams and the star players on them has taken away some of the special feeling of the All-Star Game. No longer is the Mid-Summer Classic the only time to get an in-game look at some of the other league's best players. No longer is there any particular league pride, and more and more fans would actually rather see the other league win than a division rival.
Think about it: Wouldn't you rather see the Detroit Tigers win the World Series than the Phillies or the Braves? The All-Star Game was created with a mindset of telling the stories of the best players in the world, but that’s also what MLB Network is for.
That’s why it’s not a good idea to place a special importance on the game. Since the fight is gone, forcing a perception of caring about the outcome on the fans and the players makes the whole thing feel a little fake. That’s not what the All-Star Game should be about. It should be about a celebration of baseball, its best players, and its best stories. It would be great if it was also about the best broadcasters, but that’s an argument for a different day.
A baseball fan would be overjoyed to watch Matt Harvey pitch to Mike Trout whether it’s the bottom of the ninth of game seven of the World Series, or a pickup game on a Tuesday afternoon on a little league field in South Dakota. You don’t need to force meaning onto something like that to make it awesome and appealing.
Home field advantage in the World Series is not a tangible prize. None of the players know if they're going to be in a long World Series, many aren't sure they'll make the playoffs, and many others know they have little shot at it. Whether or not the league champion is at home for game seven is such a minor concern. Placing any importance, particularly such a small one, is not fair to the whole event because All-Star Week can still be a great time for celebrating baseball and its best players.
There aren't any great answers for how to determine the home field advantage, but it’s pretty clear that using the All-Star Game is gimmicky at best and just plain stupid at worst. Whether MLB goes back to rotating, awarding it to the league not hosting the All-Star Game, or uses the combined head-to-head records of the five AL teams versus the five NL teams that make the playoffs, anything’s better than the current system. It’s time to stop forcing some kind of intangible meaning onto what should be a celebration of this great game and its elite players.