?By tying home field advantage in the World Series to the outcome of the All-Star Game, baseball is hoping to lend an air of gravitas to its midsummer classic. That's going to affect Fox's coverage; the network is treating the July 15 event as more of a game and less of a spectacle. Fox will continue to mike the bases and outfield walls, but there will be no in-game interviews—a staple of All-Star Games past.
?Of course, whether Fox can goose the All-Star Game's declining ratings will hinge on who plays and who doesn't. The unveiling of the lineups always yields reminders that the nomination process is basically a popularity contest. Consider: Hideki Matsui was voted in even though he's in his league's top 10 in just one major offensive category (RBIs, with 64). The Yankees' outfielder was boosted largely by Internet voting, which amounts to slightly less than half the votes cast. In the final week of voting, which is limited to the Internet, Matsui nabbed about 730,000 votes—roughly three times as many as Garret Anderson and Vernon Wells combined—moving him from from seventh place to second among AL outfielders. Matsui received strong Internet support from Japan, where he is a national hero. Another Japanese star, the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki, was the AL's top vote-getter, though deservedly so. "We want our reach to be as far as possible," says baseball spokesman, Matt Gould, of Internet voting, which began in 1995. Stuffing the All-Star ballot box is nothing new. In '57 the Reds got seven starters elected by preprinting players' names on ballots that were then inserted in newspapers; in the late '80s A's fans used nails to mass-punch ballots to help get their players on the team.