Since the infamous All-Star Game tie in 2002, Major League Baseball’s slogan for its Midsummer Classic has been “This time it counts.” In 2012, though, the game may count but MLB’s usual social media rules do not.
Major League Baseball announced last week it would allow players participating in the All-Star Game — scheduled for Tuesday, July 10 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City — to use social media while the game is being played. There are some restrictions: players can only use laptops set up in the dugouts and can only make social media posts once they are lifted from the game.
Still, such policies are far more lenient than usual: as part of the collective bargaining agreement signed following last season, players are not allowed to post on social media such as Twitter and Facebook during a regular season or postseason game.
Bending its social media rules is just another modification MLB has made as it tries to generate interest in a game that has no trouble drawing fans to the ballpark but plenty of difficulties in maintaining its television audience. The MLB All-Star Game is regularly played to robust crowds, and with almost four weeks to go before this year’s game, tickets are going for a minimum of $285 on StubHub.com. In addition, tickets to All-Star Game festivities such as the Home Run Derby and the “Futures Game” — a showcase for up-and-coming minor leaguers — are also available on the resale site.
However, while the MLB All-Star Game remains the crown jewel of all-star games — the only one to receive a midweek prime time slot on one of the major networks — and often grabs a larger share of the TV audience than events such as the NCAA Tournament and Kentucky Derby, it also regularly sets new records for low television ratings.
Last year’s game had an overnight rating of 6.9 percent, down from the 2010 record low of 7.5 percent. It was the fifth time in 10 years the All-Star Game recorded its lowest ratings ever. In addition, the 2012 overnight rating was more than 50 percent lower than the 1998 rating.
Tapping into the widespread popularity of social media is another attempt to stem those erosions. Last year’s Home Run Derby was a popular topic on Twitter and generated almost 5,000 Tweets per second, which made it at the time one of the top 10 events in the history of Twitter.
The most notable — and polarizing — effort to bring some urgency and attention to the game happened after the 2002 All-Star Game, which was declared a tie when both teams ran out of pitchers following the 11th inning. Since 2003, the winner of the All-Star Game has earned home field advantage for its representative in the World Series. However, even with home field at stake, managers still treat the game like an exhibition and begin frequent substituting as early as the second inning. MLB almost endured another embarrassing moment in 2008, when both teams were down to their last pitcher before the AL won in the 15th inning.