MINNEAPOLIS—Major League Baseball’s first All-Star Game was held in 1933. Who knew that Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward’s idea would be such a hit? Eighty-one years later, MLB is still putting on All-Star Games, and it’s fair to say the idea has caught on. Being an all-star means something, at every level.
High school players have two national all-star games now, and they get to play in big league parks and go home with plenty of sponsored gear. Scouts like them too, because they get to see the best against the best. Summer college leagues have them as showcases for scouts and a way to honor players.
In pro ball, all the full-season minor leagues hold all-star games, except for the leagues that play each other, such as in the Triple-A all-star game, which launched its combined game in 1988. Then there’s the Futures Game, with the game’s best prospects in big league yards.
At Baseball America, we try not to play favorites. We rank everything, though, so here’s my list of all-star games across baseball’s vast firmament.
1. MAJOR LEAGUE ALL-STAR GAME: Still the best after all these years, even if fewer people are watching. I do view the current All-Star Game as an anachronism, in that it’s set up as a showdown between the leagues, even though MLB has done all it can in the last 20 years to dissolve league identities.
For me, the U.S. versus World set-up used for the Futures Game would work better in the major league game. The game’s talent certainly ebbs and flows, but a World team with players from Japan, Latin America, Canada and other points of the globe would make the game more interesting, while also playing into baseball’s marketing efforts to grow the game (and its revenues) internationally.
2. FUTURES GAME: The Futures Game is such a cornucopia of BA delights that it’s hard to beat, but Mike Trout only played in one. He’ll be playing in MLB All-Star Games for years. If I needed a tiebreaker, Trout is it.
But the Futures Game keeps growing and keeps getting better, though playing it on the last day of the first half continues to suck energy away from the game. Fans in the stadium still get more geeked about the celebrity softball game than the Futures Game.
Imagine how good the draft and Futures Game could be if they happened on days when the MLB schedule wasn’t full of games. Perhaps one day, the Futures Game could move to the Monday of all-star week, leading into the Home Run Derby, with its own derby during BP to allow one or two minor leaguers to tee it up with the big leaguers. Think Joey Gallo wouldn’t have spiced up the big league derby? You know the answer already.
3. UNDER-ARMOUR ALL-AMERICAN GAME/PERFECT GAME ALL-AMERICA CLASSIC (Tie): We’re tied in with Baseball Factory, which helps put on the Under Armour game, and I prefer it because I’ve attended. Watching many of the nation’s top rising prep seniors in Wrigley Field is just too cool. The Perfect Game All-America Game also attracts great players and is in San Diego, a great park without Wrigley’s history.
4. CAPE COD LEAGUE ALL-STAR GAME: I’ve only been to one, in 2006, but the industry buzz on the Cape all-star game is too strong to ignore. Whether it’s played in Fenway or in one of the league’s usual venues, it’s a must-see event for scouts.
5. TRIPLE-A ALL-STAR GAME: Triple-A gets a bad rap, but the quality of play in Triple-A is higher than the average fan realizes. That gives it an edge over other minor league all-star games. This year’s event was in Durham, which brought it close to home for BA.
The problem is Triple-A rosters usually take a huge hit between the time they are announced and when the game is played, as players get called up to fill big league rosters.
6. CALIFORNIA-CAROLINA LEAGUE ALL-STAR GAME: It’s a fun idea to have the two Class A leagues square off as they have every year but one since 1996. The quality of prospects involved is usually pretty high. With the Double-A game having gone by the wayside, this game has more prospects than any minor league all-star affair besides the Futures Game. Wouldn’t it be fun for the South Atlantic and Midwest leagues to square off with their top prospects in an all-star game? I know I’d go.
The MLB All-Star Game may have lost some juice over the years. But the proliferation of games shows all-star idea has not.