In the early months of summer and slightly after the midway point of the season lies Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. The Midsummer Classic is a once meaningless but now slightly less meaningless showdown as well as the “let’s watch this because there’s nothing else on TV” event of the summer. The game has been played annually since 1933 to showcase the top talent from both leagues, yet increasingly it serves as an important reminder that actual baseball games that count are played in April through July.
For the league’s biggest stars, the All-Star game is an opportunity to garner national attention, improve brand value, and thrive on a big stage not normally afforded until the postseason rolls around. For the best players stuck on teams in their divisional cellar, it’s an opportunity to show the rest of the country what they can do and hopefully, impress a team enough that they’ll entertain the possibility of a trade. So far the trade game has been pretty lame for us hot stove junkies, but that will change rapidly once the second half commences as contenders surge and pretenders fade.
And for Ariana Grande, it’s an opportunity to maliciously lick some of the finest cuisines that Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati has to offer. Although the pop singer will not be singing the anthem as originally planned following her unpatriotic outburst, I believe America did benefit from her untrained-canine-like behavior. We were able to see firsthand how a spoiled, self-involved being operates when the reality cameras aren’t rolling and the paparazzi doesn’t find their activities interesting. It’s too bad Ariana doesn’t appreciate donuts or America. All we can really say to her now is, EW!
Quick history of the venue: located in Hamilton County Ohio, Great American Ballpark is situated right on the Ohio River, facing neighboring Kentucky. The park opened in 2003 and suffered through seven straight losing seasons before the Reds bucked the trend with a 91-win season and division title in 2010. Since ’03 the Reds have posted just three winning seasons, and failed to advance past the NLDS in any of them. In advance of hosting the All-Star game, the park added two new bars for fans to drink their sorrows away and several new concession stands.
My favorite features of this park are the two Power Stacks in right-center field that alight in flames when the Reds strike out an opposing batter. One of the stacks caught on fire earlier this season after the propane line feeding the flames failed. The stacks also emit fireworks when the Reds win a game. You have to think this would make it a great venue for a WWE pay-per-view.
Which pitchers should start the game for the AL and NL?
In the National League, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, and Gerrit Cole are deserving of the nod. Scherzer’s epic 24-inning scoreless streak in late June came amidst the Nationals’ starting staff’s even more impressive 48-inning scoreless streak. Scherzer one-hit the Brewers on June 14 and struck out 16 before recording a no-hitter in his next start on June 20. To cap it off, Scherzer added five and one third more hitless innings in his next start, before finally surrendering a hit. With a league-leading 0.80 WHIP and mind-boggling 143/14 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the former AL Cy Young winner is running away with the race his first year in the NL.
Cole deserves credit as well, having won ten games so far this season. The 22-year-old in his third year in the big leagues is already on his way to setting career highs across all major categories. Greinke continues to outpitch his teammate and defending NL MVP Clayton Kershaw, posting a microscopic 1.48 ERA through his first 17 starts.
Besides the usual suspects Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez, the American League staff features a stacked cast of worthwhile characters including aces Dallas Keuchel, Sonny Gray, and Chris Archer. It’s tough to choose one of these dominant hurlers, though I’d lean towards Keuchel, who has been a workhorse for the Astros, one of the American League’s biggest surprises. He leads the majors in innings pitched and the AL in ERA, just a half-season removed from earning a Gold Glove. To top it off, he was named the AL pitcher of the month in both April and May.
Which reserves deserve to start?
Making his second consecutive All-Star appearance, Todd Frazier is deserving of the honor to start at third for the National League. Nolan Arenado will have to settle for a pinch hit role and provide Gold Glove-caliber defense off the bench. First base is always a stacked position, and a quadriceps injury for slugger Miguel Cabrera means that other hitters will be forced to pick up the slack. Albert Pujols will replace Miggy on the roster, but it’s Mark Teixeira who is really playing at an All-Star level. At the designated hitter spot, Prince Fielder is neck-in-neck with Jason Kipnis for the American League lead in hits. If it wasn’t for Nelson Cruz’s monster first half, Fielder could have earned top honors.
Why is A-Rod not playing?
It’s not because he would turn it into a “circus,” which he would. It’s not because he’s lied to the commissioner’s office over and over, which he has. A-Rod won’t be participating in the All-Star game because baseball doesn’t need him. From a roster standpoint, Cruz and Fielder are arguably having better seasons as DHs, and at third base Josh Donaldson is a favorite to win MVP. Why let A-Rod show up or even outplay the league’s brightest stars as his career winds to a close?
Some are arguing that Brock Holt’s addition to the reserves is unfair to A-Rod, and there’s some fairness to that, but honestly I’ve had enough of him and other fans have too. It’s time for baseball to let go of A-Rod, let him focus on his team and his milestones, and collect his monstrous paychecks before he rides off into the sunset.
Who are the favorites for All-Star Game MVP?
Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout, and Donaldson are top five in the majors in Wins Above Replacement value, and all are candidates to win MVP. Assuming pitchers give Harper something to hit, his ferocious start to the season has to make him the favorite. Though I could see Goldschmidt mashing a long home run or two, and earning MVP honors. It’s been a rough last few weeks for Donalds, but Donaldson always has the potential to make a spectacular play in the field, so he can’t be counted out.
Who will close it out?
When it’s all said and done, I think the National League will win this year. After Twins closer Glen Perkins closed out the American League win in his home park last season, I’m applying that same formula to 2015 and assuming that flamethrower Aroldis Chapman will toe the rubber if the NL enters the late innings with a lead. Remember it was Chapman who pitched last for the National League in last year’s game.