Meaningless Fun: MLB Readies For All Star Game
July 3, 2017

This time it counts. For absolutely nothing. And that's not a bad thing. In recent years, the winner of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game determined home field advantage in October's World Series, No more. To steal a former slogan of the Marysville Gold Sox, it's not just baseball, it's just fun.

The mid-summer game, and now all of the festivities that surround it, have always been meant as a pause from the so-called “pressures” of a pennant race. The best the game has to offer, with a pre-interleague idea to maybe show for one night, which league has the better players, but more importantly, to just have a good baseball game.

The fans get to choose the starting position players, and why not? Last year's National League team was stocked with Chicago Cubs. They were a good team that went on to win the World Series. This year, the fans voted no Cubs to start, and with good reason—the team is mired in mediocrity. The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in the league, but no starters were voted in from LA. Corey Seager just missed out to Cincinnati's Zack Cozart at shortstop, but statistically, Cozart is having a better year. Seager is a reserve on the team, and so is rookie sensation Cody Bellinger, who probably wasn't voted a starter because he came up late, and also has split time between first base and the outfield. Third baseman Justin Turner is one of the finalist for that last spot—drama extended to the fans to drag things out for one more week, which is still fine. Turner would be the best hitter in baseball, but missed some time with injury, and doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify. Fans don't get to choose the pitchers, but Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen made it. Alex Wood (9-0, 1.83 ERA) was snubbed, for now, but don't be surprised to see him in south Florida for the game as an injury replacement.

The team with the best record in the American League is the Houston Astros, and they are well represented. Infielders Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa will start up the middle, and George Springer will be in the outfield, and probably lead off. The darling of the American League is Sacramento area native (Linden, to be exact) Aaron Judge. He'll be there, as well he should be. The fans also selected Angels outfielder and former MVP Mike Trout. He can't go because of injury, so Boston outfielder, and top vote-getter of non-starters, Mookie Betts will take his place. The fans were paying attention this year, and while voting for Trout might have been wishful thinking, they were astute enough to select Toronto's Justin Smoak at first base, and Cleveland's Jose Ramirez at third. Neither are household names, but both are having great years. Kansas City's Salvador Perez will start behind the plate, and fans get to vote for an American League designated hitter, and elected Tampa Bay's Corey Dickerson.

Expect those starters to get about three at-bats, and then for the American League, look for the following to appear: Gary Sanchez, Yonder Alonso, Starlin Castro, Jonathan Schoop, Francisco Lindor, Miguel Sano, Michael Brantley, Avisail Garcia, and Nelson Cruz. AL Manager Terry Francona has the following pitchers to use, assuming they don't pitch in the regular season game this coming Sunday: Yu Darvish, Lance McCullers, Jr. and Dallas Keuchel (all Astros), Michael Fulmer, Corey Cluber, Chris Sale, Ervin Santana, Luis Severino, and Jason Vargas, and relievers Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Craig Kimbrel (probably in that order in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings).

Over in the National League, with no Cubs or Dodgers in the starting lineup, you've got an infield of Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Cozart, and Nolan Arenado. Charlie Blackmon, Bryce Harper, and Marcel Ozuna in the outfield, and San Francisco's Buster Posey behind the plate. Backing them up? Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, DJ Lemahieu, Josh Harrison, Seager, Jake Lamb, Bellinger, Michael Conforto, Ender Inciarte, and Giancarlo Stanton. On the mound, there are starters Zack Greinke, Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Robbie Ray, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, with bullpen help from Wade Davis (the only Cub), Brad Hand, Greg Holland, Jansen, Corey Knebel, and Pat Neshek.

Starting pitchers could be named in the next few days, with a possible Kershaw-Sale matchup. Kershaw's turn in the rotation comes up on Sunday, so a tough call for Dodger manager Dave Roberts. It's drama, it's theater, and this year, it's just fun. Nothing on the line but a good show. Play ball.

Don't doubt that derby drama: Despite more back-back-backs than a millipede has legs, the Home Run Derby is always a good show. This year's participants have been announced. For the American League, they are... Aaron Judge (27 homers) and Gary Sanchez (13, but has been injured) of the Yankees, Mike Moustakas (23) of the Royals, and the Twins' Miguel Sano (20). Cody Bellinger (24) of the Dodgers, Charlie Blackmon (18) of the Rockies, and Justin Bour (18) and reigning champ Giancarlo Stanton (21) of the host Marlins make up the National Leaguers. I don't think you have to be a Dodger or Yankee fan to root for a Bellinger-Judge final.

All the teams' men: Every year, the debate comes up about whether baseball should require all 30 teams to have at least one player represented at the All-Star game. Dodger broadcaster Rick Monday was asked that question by his radio partner Charley Steiner on Sunday, and Monday replied that the best players should be sent, and if one team or another was not included, so be it. I whole-heartedly disagree for one reason. If the All-Star rosters were only 25 on a team, that would be fine, but those rosters have been expanded greatly. Brad Hand has a 2.47 ERA, has two saves, 53 strikeouts in just 43 innings, and is the only Padre. What's the big deal? And who's to say he's undeserving.

Saturday was July 1, and I was thinking then that this year, which has not been a good one for me, is half over, and hopefully could only get better. That night (and I got a phone call the next morning), my co-worker Rita Stevens was out with her husband at a concert at the fairgrounds, and afterward tripped and fell face-first into a concrete bumper in the parking lot. She's in the hospital, and no word yet on the full extent of her injuries, but needless to say, she's pretty messed up. Get well soon Rita!

View All Commentaries