With players bailing from Tuesday’s All-Star Game at a record pace because of back spasms, groin strains and injuries yet to be announced, it’s difficult to remember who’s in and who’s out.
The allure of playing in the Midsummer Classic has gone the way of the NBA’s slam dunk contest. Mike Trout, Justin Verlander, Josh Hader, Jose Altuve and others sent their regrets for various reasons. Starling Marte stole home Sunday at Wrigley Field before the New York Mets announced he wouldn’t play in the All-Star Game.
Still, many fans will tune in because that’s what we’ve done since we were kids and ,well, it’s too late to quit.
Here are a few things to know about Tuesday’s telecast from Dodger Stadium, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Fox-32 and Fox Deportes.
Which players are must-see?
Only three: Aaron Judge, who leads the majors with 33 home runs and is entering free agency; Shohei Ohtani, the greatest hitter/pitcher combo in baseball history; and Juan Soto, who reportedly turned down a 15-year, $440 million extension offer from the Washington Nationals because it’s under market value.
As of this writing, none of the three has pulled out.
Locally, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who homered to end the Field of Dreams game against the New York Yankees last August, makes his starting debut for the American League. Anderson’s career arc — including having to overcome the shooting death of his best friend, Branden Moss, in 2017 — is known by Sox fans but deserves a retelling for a national audience.
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and his brother William, an Atlanta Braves catcher/DH, also will be featured attractions. Only four other sets of brothers have started in the same All-Star Game: Mort and Walker Cooper, Dixie and Harry Walker, Joe and Dom DiMaggio and Sandy and Roberto Alomar. It also could be Willson Contreras’ last hurrah as a Cub.
Cubs outfielder Ian Happ and Sox closer Liam Hendriks, a last-minute replacement, are the other Chicago All-Stars. Sox starter Dylan Cease, a deserving candidate, was snubbed.
Why aren’t fans allowed to pick All-Star pitchers?
The decision was made by MLB honchos when fan balloting began in 1970. The powers that be decided fans were not smart enough to pick deserving pitchers but followed the game enough to choose the eight position players. It’s an archaic rule that makes no sense and hopefully will be changed whenever Theo Epstein takes over.
Some undeserving pitchers certainly might be selected, just as some undeserving position players get in every year because of name recognition. That’s a perk of stardom — getting into an All-Star Game is akin to a Hollywood celebrity getting into a nightclub through a side door. And once you’re in, you’re in.
Do I need to mute Joe Buck again?
The longtime Fox broadcaster will be unable to call the All-Star Game because he left for ESPN last winter. So Twitter trolls accusing Buck of disrespecting their favorite team will be scarce. He also won’t be there to ask any mic’d-up outfielders about being trade bait at the deadline, as he did with Kris Bryant last year.
Joe Davis is the new voice of the All-Star Game. He’s the Dodgers play-by-play man and a Midwest boy who grew up in Pottersville, Mich., listening to Len Kasper and Pat Hughes call Cubs games.
Davis was recruited to Beloit College by alumnus and NBC Sports Chicago reporter K.C. Johnson. By the way, Davis also is very good at his job and deserves a listen without judging him against Buck.
Unfortunately, John Smoltz remains in the Fox booth, so keep the remote handy in case he filibusters about the state of the game.
Are players wearing their regular jerseys?
Mostly. After last year’s inane decision to wear league jerseys instead of players’ usual team uniforms, the white and gray jerseys of the National and American leagues will have the player’s team letter in gold on the front. It has something to do with the Oscars. Don’t ask.
Will there be any celebrities at the game?
Longtime Dodgers fan Larry King died in 2021. But this is a good opportunity for MLB to honor King, the Babe Ruth of celebrity baseball fans.
No Gen X or millennial celebrity has picked up King’s torch, a bad omen for the national pastime. Still, many Hollywood celebrities are expected to be on hand, including popular recording artists and actors who will elicit the following response from middle Americans watching at home: “Whozat?”
Over/under on mentions of the Field of Dreams game?
The early line is 12½. The second game, scheduled for Aug. 11 on Fox, features two of the worst teams in baseball: the Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. It needs all the hype it can get since you really can’t replicate the moment Kevin Costner walked through the cornfield before the White Sox-Yankees game, much less Anderson’s walk-off home run into the corn.
Why not play two games?
Former baseball stats guru Peter Hirdt once suggested to Tribune baseball columnist Jerome Holtzman that MLB stage two All-Star Games. The fans would vote for one, and the players and coaches would vote for the other. Many players, of course, would be selected for both. Everyone would be happy.
I’d update that idea and make it two seven-inning games, perhaps with a between-games show. Starters, of course, could be used only once. Before fan balloting began in 1970, MLB staged two All-Star Games from 1959-62 to help the players association fund its pension plan.
Will Dusty Baker and Brian Snitker manage to win?
Hard to imagine Baker doing otherwise, but even he knows getting in as many players as possible is on the All-Star agenda. Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA agreed in the 2017 CBA to remove the so-called Bud Selig rule, which gave the winner home-field advantage in the World Series, and finally made it a true exhibition game with nothing at stake.
A better idea would be giving teams a financial incentive to actually play — and win — and letting managers use real strategy instead of trying to make every player and team’s fans happy.
Maybe then we wouldn’t see players dropping out like flies.
If it doesn’t matter to so many stars, should I still watch?
Of course. You’re a baseball fan. That’s what you do.