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National League wins All-Star Game = Giants win World Series

The All-Star Game means nothing if this doesn’t happen

MLB: All Star Game-National League at American League Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the National League won the MLB All-Star game was in 2012. The winning pitcher of that game was San Francisco Giants’ Matt Cain.

11 years of American League dominance later, the National League scratched out a 3 - 2 victory in this year’s Midsummer Classic—the pitcher of record?

Camilo Doval.

We all know what happened in 2012’s World Series—ergo, a Giant win for the National League can only mean one thing for the World Series.

I’m obviously grasping at straws. Excuse me for trying to assign some significance to the pomp and circumstance of these past couple of days. The All-Star Game has been stripped of most of its tangible and/or artificially-generated meaning in recent years—most of it for the better.

The illogical and atrocious idea of the winning league getting home field advantage in the World Series thankfully got canned a while ago (though the Giants benefited twice with the implementation of that rule from 2003 - 2016).

The development of inter-league play over the years to the point in which everyone plays everyone has removed the sheen from the best of the American League facing off against the best of the National. Ted Williams’ quote about the All-Star game being made for Willie Mays is less about the obvious (that he’s the best of the best) but that the best of the best deserves to be seen and enjoyed and relished by both hemispheres of baseball fandom.

The new schedule has put the final nail in the coffin of that “problem.” The local broadcast for every team is able to air the Sho Show at least once this season. That’s a great thing—though maybe not as pertinent when it comes to MLB.TV subscribers having access to every audio and visual broadcast of every game beamed directly to their smartphone.

But what’s better for narrative? History or novelty?

When it comes to baseball, both have their positives, but I suppose I lean towards history. Each player flipping through the indices of their brain: how did I pitch this guy last time we faced? What did he throw to get me out? What worked? What didn’t? What the All-Star game lost with the amalgamation of its once independent leagues is replaced with a more nuanced familiarity that breeds, maybe not so much contempt, as intrigue.

In his scoreless 7th inning, Camilo Doval had already faced three of the four hitters that came up to bat. He had fanned Kyle Tucker at the start of May, fanned Adley Rutschman at the start of June, and then gave up a 2-RBI double to Jose Rodríguez in the 9th inning of a game a week previous.

Doval retired Tucker on one pitch to start the frame and induced an inning-ending flyout from Rutschman that stranded José Ramírez at second after his 2-out double threatened to tie the game for the American League.

The at-bat of the inning, perhaps of the game, was Doval vs. Rodríguez—the Seattle All-Star front of the hometown crowd. The young center fielder had just launched 41 dopamine-hits in the first round of the Home Run Derby the night before. He had spent the recent days playing host to the influx of baseball talent into his adopted city—Rodríguez was the face of the All-Star game and him coming to the plate in a late-inning, 1-run situation had all of Seattle in a tizzy.

Rodríguez had faced Doval before, yes, but in name only. That July 3rd night, the Giants closer lacked velocity and command. He threw two pitches to Rodríguez: one sinker and one slider, one easy take and one hanger. The sinker topped out at 99 MPH. The slider got spanked for extra bases.

What Rodríguez got served in the All-Star game was different. Bases empty with one out already booked on one pitch, Doval dealt five pitches to J-Rod, four of them were cutters and four of them clocked in at triple-digits. 8 of the 16 pitches thrown broke the 100 MPH seal.

Rodríguez waved through an elevated cutter way above the zone and the standing crowd went silent—which is about the most a one-of-nine pitcher can make out of an All-Star experience.

Tranquilo Camilo.

What would’ve been the icing on the cake for Giants fans was if Alex Cobb had done the same thing to Shohei Ohtani.

Alex Cobb came on in the 4th and the first batter he faced was his ex-teammate. Cobb got the superstar into a 1-2 count but, whether from elevated adrenaline or elevated discernment, threw three pitches well out of the zone that Ohtani wouldn’t bite at.

I suppose the outcome fit the style of the understated Cobb. The elder statesman didn’t want the trending strike-out if it meant coming into the zone against one of the most feared hitters on the planet and putting his team in a hole.

A lead-off walk and subsequent wild pitch put the lead run into scoring position with no outs, but Cobb managed the inning, one batter at a time.

He K’ed Home Run Derby finalist Randy Arozarena with a 95 MPH sinker on the outer third of the plate for an unproductive out. AL hits leader Bo Bichette flew out to right, allowing Ohtani to harmlessly advance to third before Yandy Díaz (AL OBP leader who had homered in the 2nd inning) slapped a 104 MPH grounder right into Freddie Freeman’s waiting glove for the final out. So that’s what that feels like…

The two Giants all-stars don’t have had the face-recognition, or “star” quality that deems them marketable by MLB. Cobb and Doval didn’t make an appearance in any quirky, mostly-cringey TV spots ordering some cappuccinos from a stressed Corbin Carroll at the espresso machine. Nor did the Orange-and-Black colors get the love that teams like the Rangers, Braves, and Dodgers (understandably) received with their bevy of all star position players.

Still, the Giants players got their licks against the American League’s best and left their mark on the 2023 Midsummer Classic.

In many ways, the All-Star game is a fashion show more than a baseball game. It’s a two day long series of product placements and propaganda for the business of baseball.

Players don’t wear their own team’s jerseys on the field because that would mean MLB wouldn’t be able to sell their new, incredibly mundane All-Star jerseys. If we wanted to get even more jaded and cynical about it, the uniform decision is a not-so-subtle reminder that all these players are the property of Major League Baseball. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year the players took the field in Stormtrooper outfits to promote another Star Wars miniseries on Disney-plus. On one hand, the All-Star game is a celebration of players and talents, an opportunity to have some well-deserved fun with their families, but whether they like it or not their on-field feats and accomplishments will always serve the greater establishment. The machine is fueled by the flare of individuality—but only after it’s canned-and-commodified.

Big Brother Manfred is watching, always watching.

This was most evident when a organized protest by Oakland A’s supporters in the top of the 5th was artfully excised from the national broadcast, the live “Sell the team” chants subdued by cutting to a mundane interview of Shohei Ohtani in which Ken Rosenthal asked the two-way star whether he “ran” when preparing for his starts.

Stomper was mysteriously AWOL in the league mascot photo, while Oakland itself, seemed to be the city-that-must-not-be-named. The company line was clearly no chatter about the A’s. Mum’s the word. Outfielder Brent Rooker, the only representative from the A’s, got zero attention from Joe Davis and John Smoltz when he replaced Arozarena in left in the 5th. When he launched a ground-rule double past a Mic’d up Juan Soto, it felt like his name was barely mentioned.

There is no more Pete Rose barreling into Ray Fosse at home to score a run (and good riddance to that); nor is it a novelty clash between the greats from the two unique baseball poles; nor a nonsensical home field advantage rule that undermined 162 games of struggle for World Series participants—so what is the significance of the All-Star Game now other than an outlet for the commissioner to sell t-shirts?

That being said, it’s still entertaining...not as much as real baseball obviously, but still decent. But that entertainment comes from its meaninglessness. So I say lean into it!

Why not have it after the season so players aren’t so gun-shy about participating for risk of injury? Turn it into a end-of-the-year Field day. Why not have players compete in potato-sack races and three-on-three basketball tournaments? Dunk-a-big-leaguer for the kids—make it a carnival, it’s already halfway there.