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How Major League Baseball can expand the All-Star experience

Sure the Home Run Derby will still have the spotlight, but a full-on Skills Competition could be exciting.

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Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

It’s the All-Star break. Even though it’s past the actual halfway mark of the season (81 games), it’s generally considered the halfway point of the season.

After these next couple days of baseball silence, everything starts to heat up and gain traction. Teams looking to make a run will start getting desperate and teams looking towards the future will reap the benefits. Trade deadline, buy, sell, plenty of these conversations to go around.

I generally forget about the All-Star Game almost instantly (exception being in 2013 when Joe Nathan was called for the save over Mariano Rivera, still upset about that).

Personally, the game is the least exciting part about the All-Star break, I care more about the Home Run Derby than I do anything else. Even though the game counts for home field advantage in the World Series, no one seems to take it seriously. Look no further than Justin Verlander’s comments after his 2012 All-Star game start:

"I know this game means something," Verlander said. "But we're here for the fans, and I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 [miles per hour] and hit the corners. Just let it eat, and have fun."

Even the players going to the game know not to take it seriously. No offense to the guy, but if the game was supposed to be taken seriously there’s no way Eduardo Nunez should be on the roster. While I think it’s ridiculous that the game counts, if the league insists on continuing this charade there are ways they can expand the experience and not seem ridiculous at the same time.

One thing the league can do is take a page out of the NHL and NBA’s handbook and turn Home Run Derby night into a Skills Competition night.

MLB could take their own rules of the Home Run Derby where participants need not be All-Stars (this year’s winner Giancarlo Staton was not a participant in the game) and expand it to players that don’t necessarily belong in the actual game. This way every team can still have a representative, but the “integrity” (for whatever that’s worth) of the game could be less compromised.

It’d allow for just the best players to play in the game, and allow for everyone to be in on the fun. Or, since I love the thought of All-Star Eduardo Nunez, they can do the right thing and make the game not count, but they could still add some more skills competitions and expand the experience.

Obviously, the Home Run Derby would remain the “golden goose” but there’s more to the NBA All-Star Game than the Dunk Contest, isn’t there? Personally I think these are just some of the possible games MLB could add to make the All-Star weekend more exciting:

Pitch Accuracy

This could be MLB’s version of the Shooting Accuracy contest in the NHL. Similar to how the shooters are supposed to hit four targets in the net of a goal, something could be set up around the plate, highlighting but not limited to a “strike zone,” and give different pitchers different targets to hit.

Set it up as a bracket style tournament, seed the players based on strikeouts and go round-by-round until the finals. The targets get smaller and smaller as the rounds progress until a winner is crowned. This could actually be something Michael Pineda might win!

Hitting Accuracy

If the Home Run Derby is the Dunk Contest, and the Pitch Accuracy contest could be the Shooting Accuracy, then the hitting accuracy game could be MLB’s Three-Point Contest. This contest could be set up at different areas of the field, including potential home run spots, with a dartboard-like ring system and the participants have to hit it as close to the bullseye as possible.

Speed Contest

Pretty simple. Get fast players, have them start at home plate, run around the diamond back to home plate as fast as they can. Fastest time wins. Although, if the league wanted to bring in the league’s slowest, that could also work. Would not object to seeing Mark Teixeira run around the bases at full-speed. But likely just setting up for Jorge Mateo to steal the show.

The Catcher’s Cannon

See which catchers have the best arm by throwing out potential base-stealers. Like the Home Run Derby, the catcher can choose their pitchers (doesn’t have to be an actual MLB pitcher), but the baserunners are assigned. Throw out the most runners to advance.

The Greg Golson Outfield Assist Competition

Need I say more? Okay maybe don’t name this after Greg Golson (or do) but outfield assists, as boring as they sound on paper, can be exciting. Sure would be fun to see what Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig can do here.

I’m not necessarily advocating for all of these, but surely some of these can be added to bring more excitement to the festivities. I never really watch any All-Star Game in any sport, perhaps baseball’s if there’s nothing else to do, but I generally make it a point to tune in to any and all skills competitions. Even in basketball, which I’m generally not the biggest fan of, it’s definitely fun to see the smoothest three-point shots or the most jaw-dropping dunks.

It’d certainly be more exciting for Yankees fans, I think, to be able root for the team’s favorite players in more than just the game. Especially in years like this where there’s no viable Home Run Derby candidate.

What do you think? Should MLB expand the All-Star festivities to create a Skills Competition night or is the Derby enough? What competitions would you like to see? How else could MLB expand the experience and make it more fun? Maybe bring in Didi Gregorius to just victory tweet for the winning tweet? Have Brandon McCarthy live tweet the whole thing? Tell us in the comments!