The Red Sox have baseball’s fifth-best record. Washington, just ahead of them, might have the worst bullpen on a contender in your lifetime. (They’ve lost six games they led entering the ninth in 3.5 months. The Sox lost seven the last 3.5 years.) Cleveland’s surging, Milwaukee and Arizona still appear above their station, but that’s not the point.
If someone told you they had a “fix” for the 2017 Red Sox, you’d likely balk. They have leaned heavily on Drew Pomeranz and Mitch Moreland, guys who’ve never posted full seasons near their current level. The offense is painfully inconsistent. The bullpen’s been otherworldly top to bottom, prone to regressions like, well, like Sunday’s.
The 2017 Red Sox are good, though. Playoff good. On a 91-win pace, and looking at second wild-card contention even if they’re just .500 the rest of the way. This team doesn’t need a fix. It needs a tweak.
Exactly how I feel about the All-Star Game.
If you’ve not heard or forgotten, your reminder: Last year’s ASG was easily the lowest rated ever. Ratings have dropped by half in 15 years, and by two-thirds in 25. The median viewer age last year was almost 55, higher than even baseball’s usual 53. (The NBA, for comparison, is 37).
Thus the parade of medicine men with quick fixes. I chuckled a couple days back when Nick Friar wrote here about “the flaws within the fan-vote system” because I wrote similarly a decade ago, before Nick was born. (Mine had graphics too. We’d print anything then).
At least before this year, the goofy connection to World Series home field made complaints about the “best” being left out fair to note. Now, with a true exhibition again? Let Royals fans elect their whole team to play the NL mascots. Let the fans get what they want, in the only All-Star affair that even remotely resembles a genuine game.
It does not, however, highlight baseball. It does not show the game at its best.
It shows the game at its most bloated. Its least essential. The only thing it truly salutes is pitching changes.
Sixty-four players will be on the benches in Miami on Tuesday night, not even counting injured All-Stars and pitchers ineligible because they started on Sunday. A year ago, 60 played, including 19 pitchers. Nineteen being one more than made up each full league roster in 1933, when the first All-Star Game was billed as a one-off “Game of the Century.”
What we will see on Tuesday, those of us who bother, is a salute to lineup card Tetris. To quantity over quality. Over scarcity. Not new, of course, nor unique. Look at what hockey’s done to outdoor games: “You like one a year? Cool! Here’s six!” College football and bowl games. And on and on.
It’s lost annually in the declarations that we’ve grown past anyone caring about seeing the game’s stars play each other in one game. The All-Star starter hasn’t finished three innings since 1994, and hasn’t done it regularly since 1988.
We haven’t seen it for years.
Here’s a smattering of names who played last July in San Diego: Wilson Ramos, Odubel Herrera, Aledmys Diaz, Eduardo Nunez, Michael Saunders, Will Harris and Starling Marte. Heck, throw in Drew Pomeranz.
How many tickets you think have ever been sold to watch any of those guys play? How about Brad Hand? Chris Devenski? Brandon Kintzler? Corey Knebel? Ender Inciarte? Pat Neshek? They’re all 2017 All-Stars.
The Game of the Century! The Midsummer Classic!
(Did I just name all the middle relievers? I probably just named the middle relievers.)
Are there good players there? Of course. Guys who’ll win you a baseball game? Sure. Who deserve the plaudits in the midst of a career-defining year? Absolutely.
Great. Have an All-Pro team akin to football’s. Ideally at season’s end, but if you like the spotlight of football-free July, have an awards ceremony before the Home Run Derby on Monday night. Introduce everyone on the lines. Make some more skill challenges, as hockey and basketball do. Dare I say it, spare us a little bit of the celebrity softball game if you have to.
But on Tuesday night? Clear the stage. Give us the guys in the promos. The guys who sell jerseys. The guys Rob Manfred would fall over himself to see face off in the World Series come October.
Give us the Stars, with a capital ‘S.’
Contact Jon Couture at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @JonCouture