Dennis Eckersley was an All-Star in three different decades, and he remembers how the game was a source of pride for everyone involved. Each side really, really wanted to beat the other.
Does Major League Baseball still have that? Do the players still take the All-Star Game seriously?
“You know something? I do think they take it seriously,” Eckersley said on The MoJo Show. “I think there was a time when the guys came in, played a couple of innings, got an at-bat and then supposedly they were on their jets and on their way out. Whether that was true or not, I don’t know. But I think it’s changed.”
That could be because home-field advantage in the World Series is up for grabs.
“I do think (that’s) helped,” said Eckersley, a six-time All-Star. “Do I think it should be the reason for who gets home-field advantage? No, I think the team with the best record should, but I don’t know if they can work that out. But at the same time, there’s a lot more All-Stars picked. That’s not such a bad thing.”
No, it’s not – but if a guy from your team is elected, you want to see him play. If the game has to be won, though, a manager needs to treat it as such – even if it means a lot of players don’t get an opportunity to play.
Isn’t it a bit odd to have to straddle the line like that?
“Yeah, it truly is,” Eckersley said. “It’s kind of silly. Let’s just have this be an exhibition.”
Looking at baseball overall, the lack of offense in the game is glaring. Entering the All-Star break, teams were averaging 7.71 strikeouts per game – the highest All-Star break rate in baseball history.
“It’s incredible,” Eckersley said. “It’s a different philosophy of hitting. And then add to that the bullpens – kids coming out of the bullpens throwing so hard. Ultimately, are guys giving away at-bats? Is this about slugging? Is this about having a better OPS? It plays to it. Nowadays, guys don’t care if they hit .220 as long as they slug. And if they slug, you’re going to punch out. Or they’re (just) trying to (raise their OBP), so then you’re going to take more pitches (and) you’re going to get deeper into the count. Next thing you know, you got two strikes. Next thing you know, you’re punching out. It’s not a big deal. It’s not an embarrassment anymore to punch out. And the guys that are punching them out – it’s not like it once (was). To me, it’s an embarrassment. It used to be you tried to put the ball in play. I don’t like it – and it’s getting worse each and every year.”
Part of Eckersley’s solution: Put the DH in the National League.
“I’m an American League guy,” he said. “I wish they (had the) DH in both leagues, especially with the dominance of pitching lately. There’s no excitement. Shutouts galore. To me, there’s just no run-scoring. Obviously the days of the PEDs and all the power and the home runs is gone, but if you take the DH out of it, to me, you’ve got nothing. I know the old school traditionalists don’t play that – and it probably will never happen – but they need more offense in this game. And the only way they’re going to get it is with a DH.”