The 2013 MLB All-Star game is here, and for the 11th straight season the players and baseball officials will be able to use the phrase "this time it [still] counts."
Home field advantage in the World Series is on the line whether you like it or not, a byproduct of baseball officials and MLB commissioner Bud Selig trying to make the game as marketable and enjoyable for fans as possible.
This year, a wide number of well-known players are still in the running for starting spots at their respective positions. Conversely, a slew of first-time All-Star candidates will likely emerge alongside them as we see a shift in the talent league-wide.
The voting for this year's Midsummer Classic ends at midnight on Thursday, July 4, so while you still have an opportunity to vote your favorite player into the game, those opportunities are fleeting (h/t MLB on Twitter):
That being said, we'll take a look at the upcoming MLB All-Star selection show, scheduled for Saturday, and preview some of the storylines you should look out for in preparation for the beginning of the road to October.
*For a complete look at the latest on the 2013 MLB All-Star game, check out AllStarGame.com.
All-Star Selection Show Information
What: 2013 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show (game to be played at Citi Field in New York)
When: Saturday, July 6, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Watch: FOX (check local listings)
Current Leaders at Each Position
|AMERICAN LEAGUE||NATIONAL LEAGUE|
|First Base||Team||Votes||First Base||Team||Votes|
|Chris Davis||Orioles||5,468,703||Joey Votto||Reds||3,622,608|
|Prince Fielder||Tigers||3,280,681||Paul Goldschmidt||D'Backs||3,035,114|
|Albert Pujols||Angels||1,140,420||Allen Craig||Cardinals||2,525,399|
|Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1,123,281||Brandon Belt||Giants||1,804,152|
|Mitch Moreland||Rangers||1,007,675||Freddie Freeman||Braves||1,494,604|
|Second Base||Second Base|
|Robinson Cano||Yankees||3,974,322||Brandon Phillips||Reds||3,411,839|
|Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2,838,129||Matt Carpenter||Cardinals||3,186,423|
|Ian Kinsler||Rangers||1,767,806||Marco Scutaro||Giants||3,142,783|
|Omar Infante||Tigers||1,554,514||Daniel Murphy||Mets||1,598,297|
|Jose Altuve||Astros||1,227,462||Chase Utley||Phillies||1,355,750|
|J.J. Hardy||Orioles||3,509,180||Troy Tulowitzki||Rockies||4,072,834|
|Jhonny Peralta||Tigers||2,505,348||Brandon Crawford||Giants||2,383,248|
|Elvis Andrus||Rangers||2,122,770||Jean Segura||Brewers||2,072,083|
|Jed Lowrie||A's||1,491,376||Pete Kozma||Cardinals||1,867,781|
|Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||1,091,707||Andrelton Simmons||Braves||1,192,066|
|Third Base||Third Base|
|Miguel Cabrera||Tigers||5,844,165||David Wright||Mets||4,452,282|
|Manny Machado||Orioles||2,752,627||Pablo Sandoval||Giants||3,610,096|
|Adrian Beltre||Rangers||1,792,809||David Freese||Cardinals||2,376,121|
|Evan Longoria||Rays||1,528,877||Chris Johnson||Braves||1,234,095|
|Josh Donaldson||A's||827,381||Ryan Zimmerman||Nationals||1,072,563|
|Joe Mauer||Twins||3,869,330||Yadier Molina||Cardinals||5,093,645|
|Matt Wieters||Orioles||2,677,959||Buster Posey||Giants||4,674,847|
|A.J. Pierzynski||Rangers||1,441,827||John Buck||Mets||1,446,565|
|Carlos Santana||Indians||1,285,650||Miguel Montero||D'Backs||997,791|
|Red Sox||1,256,505||Brian McCann||Braves||997,322|
|David Ortiz||Red Sox||4,398,197||Carlos Beltran||Cardinals||5,013,806|
|Lance Berkman||Rangers||2,004,388||Carlos Gonzalez||Rockies||2,928,606|
|Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1,688,099||Justin Upton||Braves||2,917,659|
|Victor Martinez||Tigers||1,257,577||Bryce Harper||Nationals||2,902,393|
|Mark Trumbo||Angels|| |
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||2,679,230|
*As of July 2, h/t MLB.com.
Storylines to Watch
Does Yasiel Puig deserve to make the All-Star team?
His stats and impact on the Los Angeles Dodgers certainly say so. Puig is hitting an unearthly .443 since arriving in L.A. in June, smashing eight home runs and 17 RBI during that time frame.
His legend is also growing each time he steps in the box, and that kind of marketability could be huge for the game itself.
He's not on any All-Star ballots because he was a late roster add to the Dodgers this year, but that hasn't stopped the club from pitching their star outfielder as a write-in vote (as you can see above).
Does Puig crack your All-Star ballot?
Not everyone is on board with Puig as an NL All-Star, though. Jonathan Papelbon spoke to MLB Network Radio (h/t ESPN.com) about the young Cuban's candidacy, and called any consideration "an absolute joke."
Regardless of your opinion on Puig as an All-Star, he has no-doubt taken baseball by storm since his call to the majors. His storyline will be one to watch on Saturday during the selection show.
Changing of the Guard
Gone are the days of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies dominating the voting scene.
Only one Yankee (Robinson Cano) and one Red Sox (David Ortiz) lead voting at their respective positions, and there are no Phillies anywhere near the top spot in the NL after the club has struggled to keep pace in the NL East so far this season.
The Baltimore Orioles could have four starters (Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis) by the time voting ends, and on the opposite side, the Cincinnati Reds (Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips) and St. Louis Cardinals (Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran) make up a significant chunk of the the voting.
Individually, Chris Davis is a new face to the scene at first base, but when you hit 31 home runs (heading into Wednesday night) before the All-Star break, that's what happens.
Paul Goldschmidt is another first baseman trying to get to the top of his position in the NL, while Matt Carpenter has made waves as a candidate to start at second base for the DH-less side after a strong start for the Cards.
Close races to monitor before the selection show kicks off on Saturday include the top spot in the AL outfield, at shortstop and at second base. In the NL, the impending battle at first base and catcher could flip-flop over the next two days, depending on how many fans get to the polls.
News and Notes
The Pittsburgh Pirates, who have the best record in the NL and are tied with the Red Sox for the best record in baseball before games on July 3, have only one player (Andrew McCutchen) with an outside shot at starting at Citi Field. The Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins have no players in the top five of the voting at any position in the NL.
In the AL, the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals all failed to crack the top five so far with any player. The Houston Astros, who currently have the worst record (30-54) in baseball, have one on the list with 2B Jose Altuve.
In terms of attractions for the game, ESPN's Darren Rovell has been tweeting out some things to expect if you're in attendance for the July 16 contest. It doesn't have anything to do with the selection show, but these images are pretty cool:
35 six-foot apples will be placed in NYC to celebrate the MLB All-Star Game. Here's the Mets design pic.twitter.com/XFZZlKkZPY— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) June 25, 2013
All-Star Meatball Hero that will be served at MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field pic.twitter.com/JgzBE5WmhW— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) June 27, 2013
Pitchers are not included in fan voting for the All-Star game, but looking at the landscape right now, it wouldn't be too far off to think Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer and his 12-0 record would start for the AL, right?
According to manager Jim Leyland in this report from Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, Scherzer's pitching schedule for the Tigers might limit him from being on the hill in the first inning for the AL when things kick off.
Speaking of pitchers, Fox Sports' Jon Morosi took a look at some candidates to make the All-Star team from both the American and National League back in June. Among them on the AL side were Scherzer's teammate Justin Verlander, Texas Rangers starters Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, Royals ace James Shields and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.
For the NL, Morosi listed Clayton Kershaw, Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright and hometown favorite Matt Harvey as those with the best shot to try and give the National League its fourth straight victory in the All-Star game.
Saturday's selection show will shed light on who fans are dying to see on the national stage during the All-Star game, so make sure you tune in to see all the stars (and snubs) that emerge from the fan voting process.
Follow Bleacher Report's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.