Still not very good at writing headlines.
Let’s talk about the All-Star Game, and the Padres, for a moment.
I think we all agree the idea of deciding World Series home-field advantage based on the results of an exhibition game is ridiculous. No other major sport does business this way. Baseball should have the non-wild card team with the better record host WS Game 1. Or, they should return to the AL hosts this year, NL next, AL the year after concept that worked great through the 2002 season.
The All-Star Game is a couple of things. It’s a 4-day break from playing for most players during the summer. It’s a chance for the best of the NL to play the best of the AL. Most importantly, it’s a chance for the best players to be recognized on a national stage regardless of team affiliation.
I’m sure most players welcome the rest. Even those in the ASG get Wed/Thurs off to recuperate. The allure of AL vs NL has dimmed significantly since 1997. Before 1997, the only way most NL fans would get to see marquee AL players live was via the World Series or an All-Star game. Most because in some cities fans could go cross-town to see an opposite league game. I guess you could throw in the first 3 innings of any spring training game too. With the advent of first occasional, now permanent, interleague play, we get to see all the other league’s teams on a 3-4 year recurring basis.
So what niche does the ASG fill?
The chance for each team to send a representative to a game played on a national stage. For about half of MLB franchises, this is their only opportunity to showcase players nationally. Only during the playoffs are every game broadcast at a national level regardless of who’s playing in them. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball games are chosen based on which games will draw the most viewers. Teams appearing on SNB more than once include the usual suspects. Yankees. Red Sox. Rangers. Cardinals. Giants. Angels. Tigers. Braves. Not a lot of diversity in that mix. Plus, given Fox’s propensity to devolve Saturday’s ‘Game of the Week’ into regional action, even when the Padres/Dodgers game gets picked up (like it did on June 22) only 8% of the country sees it.
So for teams like Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Miami, and San Diego, the ASG is a great chance for one of their best players to show off his skills, and to generate some positive buzz about their franchise and their roster.
Positive buzz. San Diego is in desperate need of some positive buzz. Overall the team has lost 15 of 17, been no-hit at home, and had its fans drowned out in their own ballpark by the vocal opposition. Recent Padre performance at the ASG hasn’t been great either. The most notable thing to happen over the past 5 years is Heath Bell’s slide on the infield grass.
Positive buzz, thy name is Everth Cabrera. The Padre shortstop is having his finest season. It’s probably too much to ask for Everth to have a 17-pitch at bat, steal second and third, and score the winning run. It’s probably too much to ask that he make some defensive play (like the ‘catch-Forsythe’s-bobble-in-front-of-him-and-throw-the runner-out-at-first) bordering on the miraculous that turns the momentum of the game. Let’s not ask for that. If Everth plays like he has this whole season, that’s positive buzz. At least ahead of his trade to the Cardinals for Michael Wacha*.
It’s been 5 years since a Padre reached base in the ASG and 24 years since a Padre stole one. Let’s just hope for the former, and maybe we’ll see the latter.
*We’re dreaming here. Cabrera isn’t going anywhere and the Cardinals aren’t parting with Wacha.