Sports And Money: MLB All-Star Game Is Big Business

by July 8, 2015
The Reds' Great American Ball Park. (Via Flickr.com user Wally Gobetz)

The Reds’ Great American Ball Park. (Via Flickr.com user Wally Gobetz)

The MLB All-Star game is coming up next week in Cincinnati. And, with the game now more meaningful than an exhibition, each season is bringing its own drama.

Last year, it was the dramatic salute that now-retired Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter received in his 14th All-Star game.

This year, it’s the way Kansas City Royals fans flooded the Web with votes for their players. At one point, it looked like seven Kansas City ballplayers were going to make the AL’s starting lineup.

The game ended up with four, but many throughout the league are calling for reforms to the online voting process. (More on this in a second.)

Before the events begin at the Reds’ Great American Ball Park, I’ll be offering business angles that can inspire your story ideas. Let’s start with how the game is played.

Format

Unlike other professional all-star games, baseball’s actually counts for something. The best players from the American and National Leagues face off for home-field advantage in the World Series.

For instance, if the AL team wins the All-Star game, its representative team in the Fall Classic will play four games at home in a seven-game series.

That’s a significant financial advantage, in terms of ticket sales and advertising revenue, assuming the series goes that long.

But it also behooves MLB to put the best teams it can on the field, given that the stakes are so high.

So, when it looked like the Royals were going to dominate the AL lineup, other fans and league officials alike were not too happy.

Although the Royals are the defending AL champs, their voting dominance meant other players might not make the starting lineup. That could affect TV ratings for the main game, not to mention surrounding events such as the Home Run Derby, which generates valuable buzz for MLB.

There wasn’t much that could be done about the ballot stuffing — this year, at least. Fans can essentially vote for their favorite player as many times as they want.

Catcher Salvador Perez, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon, and shortstop Alcides Escobar wound up as Kansas City’s four starters in this year’s All-Star game. The rest of the lineup was filled out by fan votes, player selections and coaches’ choices.

There will be a second fan vote in each league for a final player — a situation that is seeing teams like the Reds and Detroit Tigers team up. You can see the nominees here.

Over at ESPN, Jayson Stark offers a number of solutions. The best, in my opinion, is from a MLB player who chose to be anonymous.

“Fans wouldn’t begin voting until July 1. Before they vote, the players and the All-Star coaching staff would choose an entire roster of deserving All-Stars. This could guarantee in advance that nobody who had no business being on the team in the first place would be elected to start the game.

From July 1 until the weekend before the game, fans would vote on which players — just from that roster — should start. Fans could vote as many times as they want, and they could even elect the starting pitcher — and closer too, for that matter.”

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with two more business angles to watch. Meanwhile, for story ideas, see how your local team is getting ready for the All-Star game.

Is it joining forces with another team to promote players for the final vote? Are its gift shops selling all-star merchandise? Are your all-stars being featured in commercials?