Funny you should mention the All-Star Game. In 2009, taxpayers pumped $225 million into renovating the sixth-oldest ballpark in the major leagues—with the Royals themselves generously contributing 1/10th of that amount—and three years later, shazam! Home Run Derby for everyone!
Note: this is not a coincidence.
Much like the NFL's Super Bowl, the All-Star Game long has been the long orange vegetable in MLB's carrot-and-stick approach to public stadium financing: Empty your civic coffers, and the Lords of Baseball will bless you with the only baseball game that can end in tie. Fail to do so, and your beloved club will be moved to Washington, D.C. Only guess what? Montreal balked, the Expos bolted for the District, the nation's capital coughed up $611 million for a ballpark that opened in 2008, and we still haven't hosted the freaking All-Star Game. (In fact, the New York Mets were just awarded the 2013 contest).
Dear baseball: are you trying to lose your Congressional antitrust exemption?
Fortunately for Washington sports fans—and there's a phrase you don't hear very often—we finally, mercifully don't need the National and American League's best competing in an exhibition game that kinda-sorta matters in order to witness good baseball. Despite a slew of injuries, the Nationals are legitimate playoff contenders. Better yet, they seem positioned to enjoy an Atlanta Braves-like run of sustained success. The organization's once-barren farm system has been restocked. The big league club is loaded with good, young pitching, the key element of consistent competitiveness. After recovering from Tommy John surgery, much-hyped Stephen Strasburg looks a bonafide ace, a better, craftier pitcher than the fireballing phenom who struck out 14 in his Nationals debut.
Oh, and speaking of hype: Bryce Harper. The one-time Sports Illustrated coverboy—remarkable because Harper was, in fact, a boy when he appeared on the magazine's cover—has been called up ahead of schedule, and is actually playing better in the bigs than he did in the minors. Harper has a cannon arm. He plays with Pete Rose hustle. He steals home. He gives himself stitches. He's a little brash, a lot charismatic and all of 19 years old. He just might be baseball's Next Big Thing—and in a town that traditionally makes a mockery of promising newcomers and hard-charging insurgents, both athletic (pretty much any Washington Redskins free agent) and political (pretty much every elected official), a little hope and change that actually sticks would be a welcome development.