Major League Baseball’s mid-summer classic has always been the favorite All-Star showcase among that of the four major sports—baseball, basketball, hockey, and football.
If you go by the fan voting totals, NHL fans voted 35 million times this past year for their favorite players to participate in the NHL’s All-Star Game. For perspective, the Kansas City Royals’ nine-man starting lineup alone received over 98 million votes.
In the NBA, only four players received more than a million votes, with no one coming close to even 2 million. In baseball, St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Holliday’s 6.7 million were the lowest of any starter while Toronto’s Josh Donaldson topped everyone with more than 14 million.
Meanwhile, in the ever-popular NFL, the Pro Bowl rosters are made up of one part fan voting, one part player voting, and one part coach voting. Much like with the NBA though, the highest vote-getter (Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers) had just over a million tallies.
But the Pro Bowl, which is played the week before the Super Bowl, is a poor example.
Because of the high likelihood of injuries, the NFL really can’t have a mid-season game. Although it’s an honor to be chosen for the roster, the game itself—played the week before the Super Bowl—is a watered-down version of the real thing with new rule changes (mostly designed to limit any hard tackling) an annual part of it.
It’s not even an NFC versus AFC format anymore as the NFL used captains to choose the sides.
The NBA meanwhile, suffers from the zero-defense policy that must have been handed out some time ago. This past year’s game was won by the West 163–158, in which both teams easily out-paced the NBA’s highest-scoring team (the Golden State Warriors) at 110.0 points per game.
The NHL’s All-Star Game has a similar defensive problem, as the game was won by a score of 17–12 this past season.
But baseball doesn’t have that problem. You can star at the plate, on the mound, or in the field without bumping, checking, or tackling the opponent. Thus, the All-Star competition level is easily the greatest, and some of the highlights live on for years.
Take Reggie Jackson’s 500-foot bomb that hit the transformer on the roof of the old Tiger Stadium in the 1971 classic. Although plenty of us weren’t around to witness it some 44 years ago, the replays live on.
Who can forget Barry Bonds being robbed of a home run by Torii Hunter in 2002 or Pedro Martínez striking out five of the six batters he faced in 1999 at Fenway?
Even though interleague play has dampened some of the novelty that is baseball’s All-Star Game, it remains the best because of the competition.