Even though the All-Star Game is going to be played in Cincinnati’s bandbox of a ballpark (somebody dubbed it the Great American Smallpark), don’t expect a lot of runs to be scored in next Tuesday’s annual gathering of baseball’s best.
This is a venue that should yield plenty of runs, but when both staffs can run out pitcher after pitcher (and reliever after reliever) who can throw from 95 to 102 (Aroldis Chapman), I’m forecasting a 2-1 or 3-1 yawner.
In the old days, managers loaded up on starters with a smattering of relievers. There was a perception back then that relievers were little more than failed starters.
But the way the game has changed, relievers make up nearly half the staffs. We could see closers in the game Tuesday by the fourth or fifth inning. Long gone are days when starters would pitch up to three innings. In fact, managers now don’t want their pitchers to throw more than an inning because they believe the All-Star Game is a wasted start and throws off their rotations.
I look at the regular field starters for both teams and I’m simply not overwhelmed by what I see. Then for the National League you take away perhaps its brightest star because of injury (Gioncarlo Stanton of Miami) and the lineup becomes even more less threatening.
When I see guys like D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies and Joe Panik of San Francisco making the team, it makes me wonder where all the hitting stars have gone.
It’s not like baseball’s salad days of the 1960s when there seemingly was a Hall of Famer at every position. Who’ll ever forget those years when the National League could trot out an outfield of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente, not to mention Frank Robinson played in the NL for about eight years before going over to the American League with Baltimore?
Just look at what the American League has for an outfield — Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Mike Trout, with Trout the only one who’ll ever someday be mentioned in the conversation with the all-time greats of the game. Cain and Gordon, both Kansas City Royals, are nice players, but their numbers are pedestrian considering those of All-Star players of years gone by such as Reggie Jackson.
Look at the teams leading the American League divisions — Kansas City, New York and Houston. It’s because all have top-flight bullpens with considerable depth as they have shortened games to six innings. The Royals’ pen is so strong that they released reliever Jason Frasor on Monday even though he has a 1.54 ERA. He was the odd-man out and his age (37) certainly worked against him. He’s probably being snapped up by another team as I’m writing this.
I really hope I’m wrong and the All-Star Game produces a 7-6 or 9-8 score because offense is what brings fans to the park. Given all the great pitching, though, I can’t see it happening.