2013 All-Star Game: Mariano Rivera's Last Midsummer Classic and Top Storylines

Benjamin KleinContributor IIIJuly 11, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 3: Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning of the game on July 3, 2013 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Yankees defeated the Twins 3-2. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

One last go-around for the greatest closer ever.

When the 2013 All-Stars are announced on the first- and third-base lines on July 16 at Citi Field, expect Mets fans and baseball fans from around the world to give Mariano Rivera the loudest and most emotional cheer of them all. Rivera is retiring after the conclusion of the season, and this is the last time he’ll be an All-Star.

Rivera has been getting similar treatment to that of Chipper Jones last season, when the third baseman announced he was calling it quits after 2012. While the MLB All-Star Game is only the midway point of the season, this is the biggest moment aside from the last pitch the right-hander will throw at Yankee Stadium.

Over the last few months, many have debated whether Rivera should be the starter for the American League so that he'll be in a position to take the mound without a score. It'll be a little less cool if he’s in the game with the AL getting pounded. Rivera, however, doesn’t want to start.

Rivera told Joey Nowak of MLB.com that he wants the ninth. The future Hall of Famer is one of four relievers on the AL roster right now, and the final vote will give the Junior Circuit one more. Rivera won’t have any competition for the final inning, no matter what the situation is. AL manager Jim Leyland doesn’t have a say.

Entering Wednesday, Rivera had 637 saves on his resume, the most of any pitcher in the history of the game. This will be his 13th career All-Star Game. When he jogs in from the bullpen, grab a tissue and watch one of the best players of this era enter the Midsummer Classic for the last time.

The Yankee closer’s final All-Star Game isn’t the only storyline entering the break, though. Here are a pair of other big topics being talked about as days continue to dwindle before it’s July 16 and the first pitch is thrown from Citi Field.


Harvey or Wainwright?

Will it be Matt Harvey or Adam Wainwright on the NL’s lineup card as the starting pitcher for the MLB All-Star Game? What do you think, Bruce Bochy?

Harvey is 7-2 on the year through 19 starts with a 2.35 ERA in 130 innings. He’s striking out 10.18 batters per nine innings while walking just 1.94.

Wainwright has been just as good. He’s 12-5 through 19 starts with a 2.30 ERA in 140.2 innings. He doesn’t strike out as many batters as Harvey (8.06 K/9), but he walks fewer (0.9 BB/9).

These two are too close. Just ask Dave Cameron of FanGraphs:

So, who starts?

Mets manager Terry Collins threw his two cents into the debate when he announced on Wednesday that New York would skip Harvey’s last start, meaning he’d be able to pitch in the Midsummer Classic, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. Collins said that the decision was to preserve the righty’s arm for the rest of 2013.

Wainwright last started on Tuesday, and by the looks of things, he’s scheduled to go again on Sunday night when the Cardinals play the Cubs. It’s your move, Mike Matheny. If Wainwright takes the mound for St. Louis on Sunday, the nod will likely to go Harvey, as the Cards ace will be unavailable for Tuesday.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today thinks that’s the likely scenario:

It’s probably only going to be an inning or two for whoever starts for the NL, but it will definitely mean a lot to the New York faithful if it’s their guy out there for the first inning.

Both have been outstanding through this point in the season, and either would be a fine choice to start.


The Guys Staying Home

How can we discuss the MLB All-Star Game without bringing up all of the deserving players who didn’t make the cut? Oh, and that joke they call the Final Vote.

Who sat down and said, “You know what? We should put five relievers on the ballot for the AL Final Vote.” That person should be fired. Come on, MLB. Let’s be serious here. The AL already has enough relievers. It’s fine to put one or two relievers on the ballot, but five? There are much better players than Steve Delabar, Koji Uehara and the three others.

Let’s take a look at a few players who should be in New York but won’t be.

Oakland's Grant Balfour is the closer for one of the top teams in baseball right now. He’s yet to blow a save in 24 chances and has only allowed seven earned runs in 36.2 innings of work. Where’s he on the Final Vote ballot?

Balfour’s teammate, Josh Donaldson, is having the year of his life. Through 89 games, he’s hitting .316/.385/.529 with 15 home runs, 58 RBI and 49 runs while playing great defense. Where’s he on the Final Vote ballot?

Where are Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre? Longoria is hitting .285/.361/.515 with 17 homers, 50 RBI and 53 runs through 88 games. Beltre sports a .319/.362/.551 line with 20 home runs, 52 RBI and 53 runs through 88 games. Why can’t the AL have more than two third basemen on the roster?

How come Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner aren’t All-Stars? Do I need to flaunt their statistics this season too, Bud? Selig and the league should be embarrassed for the five players who are on the Final Vote ballot.

I love an eighth-inning arm as much as the next guy, but to put five relievers on the ballot is completely unacceptable.