The All-Star Game Incentive?

(Photo: Loren Javier)

The Tigers (bravo!) and Giants are in the World Series, with possibly 4 of 7 games to be played in San Francisco. The majority of games will be played there because the extra game (if necessary) goes to the team representing the league that won the All-Star Game. The purpose of the rule (adopted in 2003) is to offer players and managers an incentive to provide more effort in the All-Star Game. I’m doubtful that this incentive matters much. First, with large teams each player is to some extent a free-rider — why risk injury, why strain yourself, if your efforts have little effect? That is especially true if by July you realize that your team has no chance of making it into the Series. Second, and even more important, I doubt that any player or manager’s effort is very responsive to this kind of incentive.


This World Series puts the All-Star Game incentive to the ultimate test. Tigers ace Justin Verlander admittedly dogged it in the All-Star Game, giving up 5 runs in the first inning. (

That obviously shows at least some big leaguers don't take the incentive seriously. However, if the Tigers lose the World Series (particularly in a Game 7 on the road), the media and public shaming of Verlander would create a different incentive -- avoiding the ire of the public -- that could be more potent than the home field advantage carrot.


In regards to Verlander "dogging" the All Star game, the complete opposite is actually true. If you look at a majority of Verlander's big time games, he often gets over-excited and proceeds to throw his faster pitches, the upper speed fast ball which is normally reserved for the later innings, immediately. This immediate throwing often results in a loss of control and comfort on the mound, to which he gets shelled. When Verlander plays the calm, collected game and works himself into the faster pitches, he is a lights out pitcher. Verlander himself has said that he was attempting to throw the electrifying stuff too early.


Whether dogging is the right word or not, Verlander admittedly went out to "put on a show" and not to do the more subtle things he does to win.


You're right, this was a stupid idea from the outset. It was put in place because the previous All Star game both teams ran out of pitching in a tie game in extra innings and the managers didn't know what to do. Commissioner Bud Selig was in the stands and pronounced the game a tie. Many fans were mad because baseball games don't end in ties, and consequently, if this game was so meaningless that it could end in a tie, why bother?

So, here's your overreaction, which is still in effect (and the few that care point out how dumb it is every year).

Proof that politicians do not have the monopoly on dumb decisions made in the moment that have endless inertia because it would make them look stupid to get rid of it.

Steve Nations

Agreed. And if Italian scientists can go to jail for not predicting an earthquake (or not correcting an idiot government bureaucrat who said all is well) then Selig and the MLB brass should go to jail for foisting this stupid idea on us.


It's not an incentive for the PLAYERS and MANAGERS. It's an incentive for the FANS.

The point is to counteract the fans' distaste and disinterest in the all-star game and all-star games in general. It's an incentive for the fans to show interest and to actually watch the game or give a crap about it.

After all, those are the only people MLB cares about incentivizing here.

Richard Piacenza

All Star games in professional team sports began as just another payday for the players. Not that long ago, players had to supplement their incomes with offseason work, personal appearances, as professional sports incomes and endorsement deals were limited. The Pro Bowl in football, the All Star Games in basketball and baseball became important from a participation standpoint, but, from my personal experience watching these games for the past 40 years, were never important to the players, as demonstrated by the level of intensity and quality of competition of the games.

Now that player salaries are sufficient to sustain most players and the risk / reward ratio skewed to not reward exceptional, if any, effort during all star games, I don't see a great future for all star games.

So, I would agree that there would be little incentive to make all star games important to the players of team sports, before, today, and in the future.



While I don't think that the added incentive changes the players behavior much, if any, I think that just having any incentive at all is enough to make the game at least somewhat meaningful to baseball fans. Every year people complain about the fact that the NFL's Pro Bowl is an absolutely meaningless game and that there is no point in watching it. The Pro Bowl really just comes off as a formality to the more meaningful act of being awarded a spot on the roster. Without the added incentive it seems the All-Star game would be relegated to the same level of pointlessness.


"Second, and even more important, I doubt that any player or manager’s effort is very responsive to this kind of incentive."

Um, why? Are you going to offer a rationale for your doubts? Or just presume we'll take them without such? Geez...


You see, baseball salaries are for the regular season. A superstar makes only a small percentage more in the playoffs so they would rather not defer their luxurous vacations by playing more games. After all, if they want a world series ring, all they have to do is buy one on eBay.

This is obvious to an economist.


Their contracts are also fully-guaranteed. Why play *ANY* games after signing on the dotted line?

And, as is the problem with most economists, they wrongly assume that humans are motivated solely by money.


While it is silly to decide home-field advantage based upon an otherwise meaningless exhibition game, in this instance the argument is moot. San Francisco was the better regular season team and would have had home-field anyway. Besides, both ballparks are "pitcher friendly," although the dimensions in San Francisco's outfield may require some getting used to. Basically, home-field advantage, while it does exist, is greatly exaggerated, particularly in the post-season.


The all-star game was lost by the Tigers ace (Verlander), and won by the Giants ace (Cain), with plenty of help from Giants hitters Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera (who has since been caught using performance enhancing drugs, but that's a topic for another day). Now these two teams have made the World Series, and the All-Star game has been shown to matter quite a bit. It is fitting that the teams that gave the most notable contributions are now reaping the benefits (and disadvantages in the case of the Tigers) that they earned.
After that 8-3 blowout against Verlander in game 1 of the World Series, I think players on competitive teams would be smart to give it their all in the all-star game!


This is one of Bud Selig's many dumb ideas. During his tenure, baseball has shifted from a model of efficency (single round playoff as a practical solution to expansion) to gimmicks designed to milk more money out of the market (multiple playoff rounds, small divisions, one game play-in, interleague play). The all star game was popular in my father's childhood, but I had at best mild interest if several players from my team were involved. Selig put in the dumb rule to attempt to revive interest in a once popular event that had lost popularity. A logical solution would have been to award home field advantage to the team with the best regular season record (which likely would have flipped the result of the 1987 WS). Selig lost me with interleague play. I have ceased caring about or following baseball since 1997. All of his dumb ideas since then have further validated my decision.


Normally, I would agree with you that the all-star incentive is a little silly. It was especially silly in the first year with the "This Time It Matters" campaign. However, as the MVP was a Giant, and the losing pitcher was a Tiger, this year the players who made a difference in the All-Star game represented the teams that were affected by the outcome.


Yes, but it matters to fans, and thus makes the game more fun to watch.