Cool cleats. Dinger machines. Max chaos. And Judge (duh): What to watch at All-Star Game
- The 88th Midsummer Classic will feature plenty of intriguing matchups and storylines. Here's what SI's baseball experts are hoping to see.
In advance of Tuesday' MLB All-Star Game in Miami, SI.com asked several of its baseball experts to weigh in with what they're most looking forward to seeing:
Here are five things I'll be watching for on Tuesday:
1. Max Scherzer throwing 99 mph. The National League's starting pitcher tonight has reached 99 once in his past 125 games over four years: at last year's All-Star Game in San Diego. Mad Max is an adrenaline junkie who loves the big stage.
2. Chris Sale facing lefthanded hitters Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. Interleague play and free agency have robbed the All-Star Game of some of its mystery, but this is an old-school treat tonight. Harper and Murphy, both with the Nationals, have never faced Sale, the AL starter whose idol growing up was Randy Johnson. Remember the famous All-Star at-bats between Johnson and lefties John Kruk and Larry Walker? Seeing the sidearming Sale for the first time as a lefthanded hitter will not be for the faint-hearted.
3. Aaron Judge swinging the bat. There's never been a position player in baseball history this big (6'7", 280 pounds) and there's nobody in baseball who hits a ball harder (average exit velocity: 97 mph). The newly crowned Home Run Derby champion is the most compelling player in baseball right now. There are no lines at the concession stand when he hits.
4. '71 Degrees? A record-tying six home runs were hit in the 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit, all of them by future Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench and Roberto Clemente of the NL and, for the AL, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson and, most memorably, Reggie Jackson, whose titanic blast richocheted off the Tiger Stadium roof. In this Year of the Homer, will we see a half dozen dingers again tonight?
5. Bryce Harper's Spikes. The All-Star Game has become baseball's Milan, the fashion launching pad. Now that the game is purely for fun, look for even more swag statements, especially from Harper, who combines respect for the game and an intriguing fashion sense as well as anyone.
After the shows they put on during last night’s Home Run Derby, I’m especially interested to see what the AL's Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, Yankees teammates, do in the All-Star Game itself. I’m also curious to see what Marlins sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour can do for the NL as they try to top the valiant efforts that they put out for their hometown fans in the Derby.
I love the All-Star Game, and when you love something you can't get enough of it. So give me extra innings. Give me managers Joe Maddon and Brad Mills (subbing for his boss with the Indians, Terry Francona) running out of position players. Give me the Twins' Brandon Kintzler and the Padres' Brad Hand going five innings a piece to settle this. Give me rules invented on the fly to put players back in the game. Heck, you can even give me Bud Selig throwing up his hands in confusion somewhere. There have been 11 All-Star Games that went behind the mandatory nine innings, but none since a 15-inning affair won by the American League at Yankee Stadium in 2008, the third-longest such drought in the game's history. I want maximum Midsummer Classic chaos.
And if you can't give me that, just give me a game that isn't decided until the very last batter. The '09 game in St. Louis, a 4-3 AL win, is the last time the All-Star Game was decided by a single run. Last year's contest, a 4-2 AL victory in San Diego, is the only time since that the last batter of the game represented at least the tying run. If it only goes nine, let's hope all nine matter.
I'm looking forward to the All-Star Game being over so we can get going with the second half.
And Aaron Judge, duh.
Given that we’re in a record season for home runs and most of the best power hitters in the game will be playing, I look forward to the Marlins’ home run sculpture — aka The Dinger Machine, aka The Marlinstrosity—going off a ludicrous number of times, assuming they’ll be firing it up when the NL team goes yard. When plans for the sculpture, which is by the artist Red Grooms, were first announced, I thought it was the tackiest thing I’d ever seen. Then I started liking it sort of ironically, because I thought it was funny. Then I went to Miami for the 2013 World Baseball Classic and saw it in person, and now I just love it with complete sincerity. At least for tonight, the more homers the merrier.
With nothing riding on the All-Star Game—the winner being awarded homefield advantage in the World Series was finally and smartly done away with last off-season—the contest is once again just an exhibition, and I would love to see it treated as such. Have hitters bat from the other side of the plate; put a position player in to pitch; swing for the fences on every pitch. Go for broke, the way it's done at the NBA All-Star Game, which is a two-hour highlight reel of three-pointers and dunks. That probably won’t happen, but I’m hoping that a few of the younger players take it upon themselves to lighten up what’s often a pretty dull game.