Can The National League Finally Win The All-Star Game?

The short answer to the question in the headline: no. Not if the spirit of George Steinbrenner – undoubtedly flying over the stadium – has anything to say about it. ↵

↵Tonight will be the 81st All-Star game and it sure feels as though the American League has won the last 75 or so. In reality, the National League has not won an All-Star game since 1996 and has yet to win a "this time it counts" game to give their representative in the World Series that coveted home field advantage. (For what it's worth the American League is leading 4-3 in World Series titles since home field has been determined by the All-Star Game). ↵

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↵The American League keeps winning, but at least it's been close. Since 2003, the American League has won the All-Star game by a total of 12 runs, and that includes a 9-4 victory in 2004. Since 2005, the last five contests have been decided by a total of six runs, and that includes a contest in 2008 that lasted 15 innings and I'm pretty sure they were pulling people out of the stands to pitch. Brad Lidge, who took the loss in that game, warmed up 63 different times. It's documented. ↵

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↵So, more in depth than just dismissing the National League as the inferior of the two leagues (coming from someone in a NL city, mind you) let's look at the rosters to see if they actually have a shot. ↵

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↵Starting Lineups
↵Here's the starting lineup for the AL: Ichiro, Jeter, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, Robinson Cano, Carl Crawford. ↵

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↵Here are the NL starters: Hanley Ramirez, Martin Prado, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, David Wright, Ryan Braun, Andre Ethier, Corey Hart, Yadier Molina. ↵

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↵Let's be honest, there may be line-ups in the American League better than the NL All-Star lineup. Sure, Prado's only in the lineup because Chase Utley is hurt, but anytime you have two Brewers in the staring nine, no matter what Bud Selig may wish for, your chances of winning cannot be good. ↵

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↵One could make the case that the NL 3-4-5 of Pujols, Howard and Wright are better than Cabrera, Hamilton and Guerrero but I'm not sure I can even finish this sentence without thinking that argument is ridiculous. If we took it by position on the field, I'd rather have Hanley Ramirez than Jeter at shortstop, sure. But in keeping with the lineup, there's nobody I'd rather have leading off than Ichiro (note: people have suggested that Joe Girardi tweak his lineup to let Derek Jeter bat leadoff in light of the recent passing of George Steinbrenner). ↵

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↵The 6-9 hitters for the American League seem like All-Stars. The last four hitters for the NL seem like two Brewers, a catcher having a bad year and Ethier who, fine, is really really good. And my consistent ripping of the Brewers is not to suggest Braun and Hart aren't having good years because they are. It's just that their team is nine games under .500. The only other starter in the game playing for a team below .500 is Ichiro. And, well, he's Ichiro. ↵

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↵Bench
↵There are 15 members of the American League bench and 17 pitchers. In the National League there are 14 pitchers and 15 bench guys. Add those to the 20 starters and we have 81 All-Stars this season. That's more than ten percent of the league. And that doesn't include someone like Billy Wagner who didn't make the team, didn't win the fan vote but then was asked to be an injury replacement and declined. It's almost embarrassing at this point not to be invited to the game there have been so many people named to the rosters. ↵

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↵Rather than go through each bench player-by-player, let's just suggest that any bench that has Alex Rodriguez, Torii Hunter and David Oritz is probably going to be a little better than a bench with Omar Infante, Michael Bourn and Marlon Byrd. That said, the NL does have three Reds on the bench (though thankfully no more Brewers) and if there's a big spot late in the game where the NL needs to drive in some runs, hopefully Joey Votto is around to get the call to the plate. ↵

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↵Pitching
↵This is where the National League is finally better than the American League, due in large part to the fact that half the American League pitching staff is hurt. With Mariano Rivera out, the National League has the better closers (take your pick of Heath Bell or Jonathan Broxton over anyone the AL can throw out there late). ↵

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↵David Price is a deserved starter for the American League, but the NL has both Ubaldo Jimenez (pictured below) and Josh Johnson who are having Cy Young-caliber years. Then there's the likes of Roy Halladay who would have roughly 35 wins if he had any semblance of run support. And, oh yeah, Tim Hudson, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, in addition to a host of specialty relievers to come in later in the game if the situation dictates. As odd as Manuel's choices were for his bench, his pitching staff is top notch. ↵

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↵Verdict
↵You know what? I'm changing my mind. The NL pitching staff looks too darn good on paper to vote against. And, with Yovani Gallardo on the DL, no Brewers! I'll take the NL to break the streak, finally. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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