This is the no-name All-Star game. For decades, the Major League Baseball All-Star game was a highlight of the summer calendar, the best All-Star game of the major sports in the United States.
It was a gathering of greats, of household names, of not only the finest players in the sport at the moment, but players who measured themselves against the greatest in history.
All-Star let down
Not this year. Perhaps the sport is in transition. Perhaps fans did not know how good they had it before. But perusing the list of All-Stars – who may well be most deserving because they are having the best season amongst the choices available – it’s hard not to feel let down.
Put it this way: Is it must-see TV to spend your Tuesday evening watching how Derek Norris or Kurt Suzuki (who will represent the American League, in case you didn’t know they play in the AL) fare at the plate against the best pitches of Tyson Ross, Tony Watson, or Henderson Alvarez (who throw in the National League)?
Would you cancel a barbecue for this game? Probably not. Attendance at a baby shower? Well, let’s not get crazy.
Over the years, the Major League All-Star game has transcended the sport in the sense that even the most casual fan wanted to see all of the big names in the sport collected on the same diamond at the same time.
Where are the top-tier names?
Maybe there are not many big names left, as opposed to a list of merely good players, but the average fan, never mind the casual fan, might not even know everyone on these teams. When it comes to glamour choices, the outstanding veteran player on the American League squad is Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers first baseman. Although he is a young star, Mike Trout, the Angels outfielder, comes in second. After that? Well, there is definitely a drop-off in Q rating. Second baseman Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners may be the next-most universally known player on that side.
The starting pitching for the National League, featuring Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals, is a starry position, plus reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates.
But here’s betting that many fans might flunk a quiz simply trying to name the team that Josh Harrison (Pirates), Devin Mesoraco (Reds), or Charlie Blackmon (Rockies) play for. The NL does have some budding young stars who seem likely to have longevity, from Giancarlo Stanton of Miami and Jose Abreu of the Cubs to Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona and Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers.
Still, for a random comparison, the All-Star game rosters of both leagues from 1964, 50 years ago, included Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Al Kaline, Luis Aparicio, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Joe Torre, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Ron Santo, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Bill Mazeroski, and Billy Williams.
Does this mean this year’s All-Star game will not be well-played? Not at all. But will it be sexier than a Sunday night baseball game between arch-rival Yankees and Red Sox? Not really.