The MLB All-Star Game is just a week away. The symbolic midpoint of the baseball season gives teams a chance to breathe and stars to shine. While the event before the Mid-Summer Classic, the Home Run Derby, arguably has more juice than the game itself, the All-Star Game still is supposed to matter. However, home field advantage is no longer in play. That being said, losing four in a row, and 16 out of 20 is embarrassing for the National League. As a fan of the Senior Circuit, I want to see my boys buck that trend. And they will. The National League is winning the 88th edition of the All-Star Game.
Now let me say how glad I am that the home field stipulation is no more. Pat on the back to commissioner Rob Manfred for that one. It just stinks the knee-jerk reaction ruling by his predecessor came during a 15 year run of American League domination. As the National League has shown recently though, success in the All-Star Game doesn’t necessarily mean you win the World Series. The split since 1997 is 50/50.
So why do I care if the National League wins or not? Shouldn’t I care more that the Dodgers are in first place and could very well enter the break with the league’s best record? I should, but the kid in me wants more. Before interleague play, the only two times a year the National League got their crack at their DH-needing brethren was in July and September. While the current structure of the league has ruined that novelty, I still possess that bug deep down that needs to see the National League be the better representatives of what baseball should be.
The Dodgers’ failures in the All-Star Game play just as big of a role in my desire for the NL to win. I remember Chan Ho Park grooving a meatball down broadway to Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001. Eric Gagne was untouchable until Hank Blalock turned his fortunes for the worse late on in 2003. Hell, even the greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen personally don the Dodger Blue, Clayton Kershaw, took the L in 2015. The psychology of a glorified exhibition shouldn’t carry over into postseason action, but I believe that it did. Losing the plot with all eyes on you makes you more susceptible to doing it again in a game that matters. Look at Kershaw’s postseason resume and tell me he doesn’t need a big showing of any kind in front of a national audience.
But it shouldn’t matter. The Cubs broke the Billy Goat curse after an NL defeat a year ago. Win or lose in July, the Giants won three out of six titles in the mid-2010’s. Since the 2002 tie, the National League has won 8 world titles to the American League’s 7. I keep presenting evidence completely contrary to my opinion, but that opinion doesn’t change. The National League needs to win the All-Star Game.
It is a matter of pride. It is the reason millions of us spam social media to get our Final Vote players into the game. (#VoteJT BTW) Millions of votes get cast on a yearly basis in order to see our clubs represented. Those votes are cast as thank you’s for those players trying their damnedest to put a trophy in their stadium’s halls. Those votes are rewards for being the best in the sport for the better part of that year. That matters. While the game isn’t cutthroat like it was in the 70’s, fans vote for a reason. They want their team to win. I am no different.
This year I am deciding though to put myself out there. Guaranteeing victory is not a game I usually partake in. It most often gets pretty squirrelly, pretty quick. But this year’s All-Star Game has me feeling confident. The NL’s roster is more experienced and better constructed in my humble opinion. Barring late setbacks, they’ll also be fully healthy. Losing Mike Trout and Dallas Keuchel are two huge blows for the American League. Not having the game’s best position player and a front-runner for AL Cy Young is huge. The National League must capitalize on these absences.
So here I’ll cement my statement. The National League will break their four-year All-Star Game losing streak. They’ll win the game handily and a Dodger will be in the mix for the winning run. A Corey Seager wall ball? Cody Bellinger moon shot? Justin Turner opposite field liner? I don’t have the answer there. But come Wednesday morning, the little kid inside me will be pumping his fist with his NL flag flying high.