Last year, the prevailing All-Star story line was no-shows – the long list of marquee players who didn’t participate for various reasons. It was all encapsulated by the sighting of Derek Jeter, who had asked out of the game ostensibly to rest his right calf, strolling in South Beach with Minka Kelly.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but commissioner Bud Selig responded by working out new rules in the CBA that restrict what constitutes an excused absence. Pitching on Sunday before the game no longer automatically qualifies as one, so more big-name pitchers should be on hand at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium on July 10. More big-name players should be there, period, because they’re not getting out on just a whim this time.
That doesn’t mean the game won’t be missing some big-name talent. Matt Kemp, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki, all of them All-Star staples, are all out with injury, and so are some other standouts.
But I’m hoping that the story line this year will be the emergence of the next generation of superstars. Two years ago, I suggested that Stephen Strasburg, then a rookie, be named to the All-Star team as a way to invigorate the game, which has been plagued by flagging interest and ratings.
Many people scoffed, because he hadn’t been up from the minors for long (though he had pitched sensationally in his short time). But I still think it would have been prudent. The All-Star Game needs to feature the players that fans want to see. That’s why I don’t mind when a past-his-prime superstar gets voted in. Give the people what they want. And as far as I’m concerned, that same sentiment applies to a before-his-prime superstar.
Which brings us back to Strasburg, whose inclusion this year, after a dominant first half, won’t induce any second-guessing. But the guy I really want to see is Strasburg’s teammate, Bryce Harper, who may not have quite the numbers – though they’re still quite good – but has the “it” factor that baseball so desperately needs.
I want to see Harper, 19, showcased with Angels sensation Mike Trout, 20, as the future of MLB.
Here are my 34-man squads for each league (which are mandated to include at least 13 pitchers). As always, don’t forget that every major league team must be represented. And the Cubs, too.