On the 2021 All Star Game

Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first.

Those uniforms should be collected, brought to an isolated area, burned, cast into concrete, dumped at the bottom of the ocean in an undisclosed location, and never spoken of again.

Their utter blandness is terrible not just from a sartorial standpoint, but from a marketing one. The ASG is supposed to show off the game’s “best and brightest”. But how can you do that when everyone looks the same? In a regular game, it’s okay for everyone on a team to wear the same uniform. You’ll be given plenty of chances to see them and have the announcers talk about them. But in the ASG, a player may be in there for just one inning or one at-bat. How can you show off any player when everyone looks the same? You don’t want fans to be wondering “Who is that guy in right field?” At least when they are wearing their own team’s uniform, fans can ask “Hey, who plays right field for the Cubs?” and narrow things down somewhat.

FOX did OK with their coverage. There wasn’t much jingoism, wallowing in nostalgia, or network self-promotion compared to other major baseball events they cover. In-game interviews were modest (on both the network and player sides), and didn’t distract from the game. They did keep my pet peeves, though – no player name graphics at the introduction (more important this year with those garbage uniforms) or mention of the umpires (which even the radio teams on local broadcasts do).

It’s not hard; they could do it in the 70s!

For the record: Home Plate Umpire – Tom Hallion, First Base Umpire – CB Bucknor, Second Base Umpire – Chris Guccione, Third Base Umpire – Lance Barrett, Left Field Umpire – David Rackley, Right Field Umpire – Adam Hamari

I am going to count it as a FAIL that their replays of Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s home run all looked at his swing. Not one ever showed the ball going into the bleachers with the fans’ reactions. At least we were spared the inundation of graphics about pitch speed and location, launch angle, and exit velocity on every pitch.

The game itself was pretty average. The AL jumped out to an early lead, but the NL fought back often enough to keep things interesting even if they couldn’t get the runners home. There was a nice catch in the outfiled, and another crazy play that erased a runner. It was worth watching even to the late innings, where you were wondering “Seriously, who are those guys?”

And speaking of “Who are those guys”, it was frequently mentioned that the game had forty-one first time All Stars. A good part of that was because so many big name players decided to opt out of participating. Yes, I can understand that if you’re on the IL (Mike Trout) and can’t play, there’s really no point in showing up. But if you’re otherwise healthy, and just want the time off (Jacob deGrom)? Come on! You shouldn’t be allowed to call yourself an All Star if you decide you can’t be bothered to be there for the game. If you’re voted in by the fans, that means they want to see you. Return the honor by being there. You can ask that the manager not put you into the game (like Gerrit Cole), but show up for the introductions!* I gather that many players have clauses in their contracts giving them a bonus if they’re picked for the ASG. I would recommend that the bonus is in effect only if the player is actually at the game in uniform.

Being an Old, I can’t help wonder how many of these hot young stars will be around in a couple of years, or even repeat as an All Star. Before the game, baseball honored Henry Aaron – who had been to a record TWENTY-FIVE All Star Games (OK, a couple of years in there, baseball had two ASGs in a season). I note that the last time a player with double-digit All Star appearances was in a game, it was 2016 (Miguel Cabrera). Yadier Molina was picked as a replacement for the injured Buster Posey this year, making it his tenth All Star selection – but he decided not to show. It really shouldn’t count, then. I also note that back in 2013, the Mets’ Matt “The Dark Knight” Harvey was picked to start the ASG. That was his first selection to the “Midsummer Classic”. So far, it’s his only one – after injuries and surgeries, he’s basically washed-up. He’s currently trying to hold down a roster spot for the Baltimore Orioles.

Shohei Ohtani was given the win, and Vlad Guerrero Jr. took home the MVP Award. No big deal on either; since pitchers spend so little time in the game, and there’s a good deal of luck involved, they are both pretty arbitrary. The mentions will look nice on their baseball cards, and their friends and families will be happy for them.

Big props to Chris Bassitt of the Oakland A’s. He’d pitched on Sunday, and was therefore allowed by custom to sit out the ASG even though he’d been selected. His reasoning? He said he wanted to pitch in the game because he never knew when he might get the chance again…. I hope he gets many more chances.

 

* In 1989, the Phillies’ Mike Schmidt decided to retire in May, saying he didn’t think he could perform at the level the fans expected. He was still voted in as the starting third baseman for the NL – and he was at the ASG in uniform for the player introductions!

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