The outcome of the MLB All-Star Game doesn’t really matter, especially since it is no longer tied to home field advantage in the World Series. We are more than two decades into interleague play, so there is no more novelty about seeing the National League and American League playing each other.
But that doesn’t mean the midsummer classic isn’t fun. There are plenty of reasons to enjoy the All-Star Game.
I am a sucker for any event that calls for every player to be introduced along the foul lines. You see this every opening day, and for each team’s first home game in every playoff series and in the World Series, as well as the All-Star Game. This signifies an importance to the event itself, and the spectacle of seeing all those players lined up always provides at the very least a cool visual.
Every player gets their due. Sometimes they are cheered, sometimes they are booed, with both reactions equally appreciated. In 2015 in Cincinnati, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was booed by rival Reds fans and he loved every minute of it.
The lineup introductions can also produce different moments, like in 2014 when National League All-Star Jeff Samardzija was traded to the American League a little more than a week before the game. He was not allowed to play in the game itself, but did get to wear this nifty “All-Star Game” cap during intros.
Getting to know the players
In what might be the lightest week on the sports calendar every year, baseball has two nights with basically the entire stage to itself. There are no MLS games and only two WNBA games on Tuesday, so baseball is the main if not only avenue for sports fans to get their fix.
The jocular nature of the Home Run Derby has several players enjoying the festivities while on the grass, often with their families, a side of these players we don’t often see.
Generally in-game interviews detract from the broadcast, but during the exhibition that is the All-Star Game they are more appropriate. Again, it’s another opportunity to introduce these players to a bigger, national audience.
Given that there are seemingly endless annual articles on how baseball is suffering and/or has trouble marketing its players, anything that promotes the players is a good thing.
Just think how much better this event would be if MLB brought back the skills competition!
At its core, baseball boils down to a one-on-one battle between batter and pitcher. The All-Star Game is full of stars, and lends itself to so, so many of these great matchups.
Just look at that American League lineup! The first inning will have Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve and Mike Trout for sure, and if anyone gets on they have the 58 combined home runs of J.D. Martinez and Jose Ramirez waiting next. They will face two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, starting his third All-Star Game.
“It’s probably the closest thing you get to the post-season in terms of like the atmosphere and the intensity and everything,” Scherzer said Monday. “A lot of times, I’ve always looked at pitching in the All-Star Game as a prelude to how you pitch in the post-season, sometimes how you might have to pitch on two days’ rest out of the pen, only throw one inning and then you have to go face the best hitters.”
The matchups can be hilarious, too. Just ask John Kruk, who faced Randy Johnson at Camden Yards in 1993 and lived to tell about it.
Roster rules dictate that every MLB team has at least one player in the All-Star Game. This can often lead to snubs of more deserving players, but the rule serves a purpose. Baseball in many ways is a regional game. Fans like to see their players and teams.
So while on a national level it may not seem super exciting that Tigers pitcher Joe Jimenez or Pirates reliever Felipe Vazquez are All-Stars, there are fans in and around Detroit and Pittsburgh who will care.
In addition to the teams, the international representation is important, too. This year there are 24 All-Stars — a third of the total rosters — who were born outside the United States, with seven different countries accounted for in Washington D.C.
The All-Star Game produces big moments. For me, I distinctly remember Fernando Valenzuela striking out a record five consecutive batters in 1984, matching the record of Carl Hubbell, who fanned five straight Hall of Famers in 1934.
There was the aforementioned Johnson/Kruk at-bat, and I still get goosebumps thinking about Ted Williams surrounded by all the All-Stars in 1999 at Fenway Park. And I’ll never forget “Bo Jackson says hello!”
But there was no bigger All-Star moment I can remember than Reggie Jackson’s home run off the freaking roof at Tiger Stadium in 1971.
Jackson had a Hall of Fame career and won five World Series. His nickname is Mr. October, for goodness sakes. But this All-Star home run was Jackson at his physical peak, with absolute swagger. Just look at his reaction.
This moment was huge for me, and I wasn’t even alive when it happened. But the highlight was shown every year, and it was ingrained into my baseball soul. If you’re lucky, there will be a moment tonight that burrows its way into your heart, too.