PITTSBURGH - Here's how to restore the luster of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game:
Invent a time machine and make it 1973 again.
The game has become a yawner, and there's no going back to the days when it mattered.
The rivalry between the American and National Leagues - to whatever degree it once existed - has been diluted by interleague play and frequent player movement.
Mickey Mantle only visited National League parks for World Series and All-Star games. Today interleague play routinely sends the New York Yankees to places like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
Players like Mantle and Ted Williams not only spent their careers in one league, they stayed with one team. If a star moved from league to another, it usually happened late in the player's career, as it did with Henry Aaron.
There are still one-team players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but they're rare. Seems like every time someone goes into the Hall of Fame, there's a question of which team will be represented on his plaque.
The All-Star game has turned into a social event for the players, and a marketing opportunity for MLB.
Do events like Fan Fest, the Futures Game and Home Run Derby enhance the experience or detract from the actual game? Every year there's some new wrinkle to separate fans from their money. The All-Stars will be wearing caps with a special commemorative logo. No surprise that those limited-edition caps will be available at your favorite retail outlet.
It's a different world, and the All-Star game occupies a different role.
The Pirates' success has led to more national broadcasts of their games.
Now some people in the front office are lobbying to get the Pirates on ESPN's Sunday night game.
Be careful what you wish for. The Sunday night showcase might be a nice ego stroke, but it's a huge inconvenience for ticket buyers. A lot of people buy Sunday games because they start at 1:35, which means it's possible to get home at a reasonable hour.
That isn't possible when a game starts after 8 p.m. Inflicting that sort of radical switch on a customer isn't good business.
Hard to believe anyone over 12 could really care about the Home Run Derby, but Pirates announcers Greg Brown and Bob Walk worked up some righteous outrage over Pedro Alvarez's initial exclusion from the contest.
Their extended rant included suggestions that Pirates fans let David Wright hear about it during the Mets' weekend visit. Wright is the National League captain who chose the contestants.
People don't need authorization to be angry. It's not a stretch to think that some loon would want to take it beyond booing and create possible security issues.
Put it this way: If someone from the Pirates had slighted a Mets player, how would the Pirates' front office react to Mets announcers suggesting New York fans should unload on the offending party?
The team-employed announcers lead cheers for the Pirates as part of their job description. They don't need to orchestrate boos for others.
John Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org