Today’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game might be a mid-season boon for marketing, but it is losing its appeal with fans.
The game does have its value; deciding the home-field advantage for the World Series. But ratings have been declining over the years. Last year, the All-Star Game dropped to a ratings low point of 6.8, compared to the record high in 1970 of 28.5.
The Atlantic asks: What went wrong?
A single event, occurring 20 years ago, might be the cause of today’s fan dismissal of the game. The controversy surrounding the 1993 Camden Yard All-Star Game—a 9-3 American League victory that was seen as the most thrilling game in its history—resulted in the way managers approach future All-Star events.
The white hot Orioles-Blue Jays rivalry came to a head, when Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston refused to play popular Baltimore pitcher Mike Mussina, who warmed up to the delight of the crowd. After the American League loss, Mussina and the team was booed off the field, while Mussina waved to cheers—even though he hadn’t thrown a single pitch.
Gaston was showered with criticism for days over his decision—even to the point of fearing his safety. Orioles president Larry Lucchino told reporters he was “outraged” by the decision.
The 2002 All-Star game made the situation even worse. The game ended in a 7-7 tie, when AL manager Joe Torre and NL skipper Bob Brenly literally had no more players to put in after 11 innings. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig called the game, and the results are being felt to this day.
Managers are now under intense pressure to play every player, afraid of getting the heat Gaston felt in 1993. And according to the Atlantic, the game has suffered for it.