Earlier on Tuesday, Joe Posnanski discussed the 2012 MLB All-Star Game and all-star games in general to devise some kind of meaning. His thought was that as the internet, television packages and social media make it possible to keep up with superstars, even if they aren’t in your city or aren’t on your local broadcast and as a result, events like the All-Star Game become less meaningful. Baseball, for one, has tried to attach more meaning to the game by making it “matter” and granting home field advantage in the World Series to the winning league.
Whether that aspect is good or not for the game isn’t what I’m worried about, but with a fan’s perspective, the All-Star Game still matters, but not always for the game itself. It’s an event. There are days of build up within a city (and if you’re in the Kansas City area, you know this by now) as the focus of the baseball world lands on them.
Yes, interleague play brings teams into town that would normally never play in Kansas City unless there was a World Series matchup. In the 1980s, when Mike Schmidt ambled up to the plate at then-Royals Stadium, it was his first time swinging about in Kansas City. The All-Star game used to be a chance to showcase both leagues and match them up when they otherwise wouldn’t. That aspect has faded with the changes in the game. Free agency further blurs the lines between the leagues, in 2013, there will be an interleague play going on all season long and eventually, the designated hitter will exist within both leagues.
Regardless, that doesn’t take away some of the mystique of the All-Star Game.
The NFL’s Pro Bowl is awful. There isn’t any defense. Teams play under entirely different rules, and now, in an effort to keep it relevant, much less interesting, the league has it before the Super Bowl ends the NFL season (rather than after as in the past which made it meaningless) and had to get a promise from players to make it competitive. The NBA isn’t too far off with its game, and it resembles an AND1 Tour more than a smooth game of strategy and competitiveness. The NHL has a great skills competition but the game doesn’t draw the attention the others do.
But baseball holds some of that magic still. Players lined up along the baseline in their own uniforms, weird matchups you’ve never seen. In the past, it was the first time many National League hitting stars would face star American League pitchers.
Some of those unique matchups will still happen year to year, but exhibitions like the All-Star Game also give a city a chance to see players they’ve never seen in person too. While some of the pool of NL stars has passed through Kauffman Stadium in the past, many haven’t, and many of those who haven’t are big names who would bring a special buzz to the evening.
These are the players the Royals have played in the past who’ll be in the All-Star Game on July 10 but who’ve never played at Kauffman Stadium:
- Chipper Jones
- Stephen Strasburg
- Joey Votto
- Craig Kimbrel
- Jose Altuve
- Andrew McCutchen
- Joel Hanrahan
- Ian Desmond
- Ernesto Frieri (who’s eligible in the Final Vote for a spot on the AL side)
Not too bad, huh? The Royals faced Strasburg before he had Tommy John surgery, but it was in Washington. There’s a chance that, even for just an inning, Kansas City natives could see the phenom on the mound for the first time.
Chipper Jones was just named to the NL side and in his last season, he makes his first trip to Kauffman. This is a player who’ll end up in the Hall of Fame stepping onto our grass. Sure, fans all over the country have seen Jones on ESPN, TBS, in the playoffs, the World Series, in other All-Star Games. But they’ve never seen him at Kauffman Stadium.
But how about one step further. Here are those players who have never faced the Royals at all and never at Kauffman:
- Bryce Harper*
- Yu Darvish*
- Mike Trout
- Aroldis Chapman
- David Wright
- Buster Posey
- Pablo Sandoval
- Cole Hamels
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Matt Kemp (who won’t be in the game but will be in the Home Run Derby)
*eligible for the Final Vote
Look at that list. Harper and Trout are two players who might be chasing 3000 hits in 20 years and hitting the Hall of Fame in 25. Wright has been one of the most consistent hitters since he’s been in the league, Stanton is a mythic beast of a slugger who’s already busted a couple of scoreboards this year with home runs and Darvish and Chapman aren’t far removed from the international baseball headlines while their performance matches the hype.
That’s a solid collection of talent that’s on display for the first time ever at Kauffman Stadium.
Maybe we’ve all seen them on TV and the internet. Maybe even on the road. But this is right here in the Royals backyard. There will be stirring in the bullpen and 40,000 heads turning to see who it is. A batter will go back to the dugout and the crowd will wait to see if perhaps this is their first look at Bryce Harper in person (assuming he wins the Final Vote).
To me, that’s still pretty special.