Although Major League Baseball desperately wants you to care about the All-Star Game, it really is a glorified exhibition. But that doesn't mean fans cannot have fun watching it.
Plenty of stars are making their All-Star Game debuts this year. Some players probably should've gotten in during other years, while others are riding the momentum of breakout campaigns to Target Field.
The four players below are all appearing in their first Midsummer Classic.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
The fact that Jose Altuve wasn't named a starter is ridiculous, but he made it, and that's all that counts. Nobody remembers how many All-Star Games a guy started.
The Houston Astros' rebuilding plan has been much discussed. If Altuve's development is a sign of things to come, then maybe it's not crazy to call the franchise 2017 World Series champions. Few players have had the first half that the 24-year-old second baseman has:
Jose Altuve has 121 hits, 26 doubles & 37 steals, totals no one has reached in 1st half since All-Star era began in 1933.— MLB Public Relations (@MLB_PR) July 4, 2014
Altuve's game isn't exactly conducive to producing a memorable All-Star moment, but this is what the game is all about: celebrating the best players in baseball. No second baseman is having a better year than Altuve, and the 2014 All-Star Game is his just reward.
Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
Bo Jackson's home run in the 1989 All-Star Game remains the stuff of legend. In the first inning of his first and only All-Star Game, he sent Rick Reuschel's pitch over the wall in center field.
That's one of the visuals most often used to demonstrate Jackson's prodigious talent.
Jose Abreu has the capability of creating a singular moment just like that. He and Nelson Cruz are tied for the major league lead in home runs, with 27. Only Mark McGwire in 1987 hit more homers for a rookie, as per ESPN Stats & Info:
José Abreu hit his MLB-leading 27th HR for the White Sox to extend active MLB-long hit streak to 18 games. pic.twitter.com/hrN6Apqo2M— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 5, 2014
Abreu isn't the kind of home run hitter who gets a ton of distance. According to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, his true average distance is 402.3 feet, and the farthest homer he's hit went a true distance of 443 feet. For comparison's sake, Giancarlo Stanton's numbers are 423.8 and 484, respectively.
Still, among this year's first-timers, Abreu is most likely to steal the show with a massive moonshot.
Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
One year on, it's still anybody's guess as to how Josh Donaldson missed out on last year's All-Star Game. He only ended up finishing fourth in the American League MVP voting. That was certainly not one of Jim Leyland's smarter decisions.
Even Miguel Cabrera seemingly admitted that his manager made a mistake last season.
"Josh Donaldson is great, he deserves it," Cabrera said, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "He’s been consistent for two years. He’s done what it takes to make the team—and I hope he will."
Although it's one year too late, Donaldson's All-Star debut is well deserved.
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Four words: Yasiel Puig bat flip.
If Puig hits a home run in the All-Star Game, he should fling the bat so high that it knocks the International Space Station out of orbit. Heck, he should do it on ground balls. Whenever he's up to bat, the fans need to see bat flips.
Few players are more tailor-made for an exhibition like this than the Los Angeles Dodgers star.
He can break as many unwritten rules of the game, and nobody's gonna care. Puig is one of the most fun players to watch with his mix of great plays, flaunting of unwritten rules and occasional boneheaded-ness.
Now, he can be completely uninhibited.