The 2023 MLB All-Star Game was eventful, featured by transcendent talent and ended on a low note. His notes weren’t so sweet.
This season’s Midsummer Classic averaged a record 3.9 and 7.01 million viewers, down 7% from last year’s records of 4.21 and 7.51 million, according to Sports MediaWatch. The MLB All-Star Game has now set a viewership record in five of the last seven games (2016, 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023).
This year’s edition of the game saw the National League snap a nine-game losing streak with a 3-2 win at Seattle Mariner’s T-Mobile Park. Heroism came in the eighth inning when Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Díaz hit a two-run homer to take a 3-2 lead.
Díaz, playing in his first career All-Star Game at age 32, was named the game’s MVP.
The previous days in Seattle also saw a high-profile MLB draft, with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking on LSU phenom Paul Skenes with the No. 1 pick, and Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. following in his father’s footsteps with a victory in the Home Run Derby.
It was a fun week in a season that saw early viewership win out in Year One with the pitch clock’s faster playtime, but that apparently didn’t translate to domestic viewers. It should be noted that MLB is not unique when it comes to declining All-Star ratings.
Can MLB do anything about the All-Star Game?
The MLB All-Star game is unique among All-Star games in that it is the only one that, for lack of a better term, actually works.
The NFL’s Pro Bowl has suffered for decades due to the reluctance of everyone involved to play a dangerous game every time players step onto the court, while the NBA and League All-Star Games NHL had no incentive to try defense. All three leagues fiddled with the formula — or in the NFL’s case, ditched holding a game altogether — but with little success if you judge the outcome by the ratings.
MLB has never had these issues because a) pitching an extra inning isn’t a big deal for pitchers and will often coincide with their pitching day (American League starter Gerrit Cole described his outing on Tuesday as “lots of adrenaline for a bullpen day”) and b) no batter wants to strike out and no pitcher wants to give up a homer on a national stage.
The MLB All-Star Game has always been the best All-Star Game as far as the actual competition goes, but it’s now a double-edged sword if the league deems the odds unacceptable. He can tinker, but no mechanic can fix a car when the real problem is a jagged road.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred can certainly give it a try, though any major change risks devaluing a game that has more legitimacy than any of its peers.