2014 MLB All-Star Game: Key Storylines to Watch in Midsummer Classic

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter laughs before a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis, Sunday, July 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

The relationship between fans and the Major League Baseball's All-Star Game is strong simply because it provides us with an opportunity to watch superstars in one spot when they normally wouldn't be around each other. 

It's also ripe with storylines to watch, though Bud Selig would prefer that we care more about the game than we do because, after all, "this game counts."

So while we watch the best and brightest stars that MLB has to offer at Target Field on July 15, instead of acting like an exhibition game matters, let's focus on the positives and pay attention to what everyone will be talking about before, during and after the final out has been recorded. 


The Derek Jeter Farewell Tour

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Last year, MLB bid adieu to a New York Yankee legend in grand fashion at the All-Star Game. Mariano Rivera got the hero's sendoff when he came into the game during the eighth inning to a standing ovation and the familiar sounds of "Enter Sandman" blaring over the sound system. 

This year will be a similar story, when Yankee legend Derek Jeter makes his final appearance at the Midsummer Classic. The setting will be different, as Rivera got to walk away in familiar territory at New York's Citi Field, while Jeter is taking his final bow in Minnesota. 

Another difference is that unlike Rivera, who probably could have pitched well into his 50s thanks to that cutter, Jeter is showing that he's a 40-year-old player. He isn't hitting much of anything this year with a .269/.321/.323 line through Tuesday's games, but who cares?

As Dave Brown of Yahoo Sports noted on Twitter after the rosters were announced, how are you going to argue with the fans voting in arguably the biggest star in baseball over the last 20 years before he rides off into the sunset?

It will be interesting to see how American League manager John Farrell handles Jeter in this game. No one expects The Captain to play all nine innings, especially at his age, but will the skipper inform Fox beforehand what inning he will come out so the PA announcer can make a note of it?

Does Farrell pull a move like Joe Girardi did with Rivera last year, pulling Jeter off the field after everyone has warmed up for an inning so players and fans can give him one last ovation?

The latter seems likely, but whatever route Farrell decides to go, Jeter is going to get the kind of adoration someone with his resume and status in baseball history deserves. 


The New Age Of MLB

Anyone watching baseball over the last seven years has noticed that the game is skewing towards younger, more athletic players. It's shifted the way games are played, with pitching and defense dominating the sport, but has made for a more diverse set of superstars. 

You can see that change by looking at the 2014 MLB All-Star roster, which features 26 players making their first appearance in the Midsummer Classic. The most notable Midsummer Classic rookies include Jose Abreu, Masahiro Tanaka and Yasiel Puig. 

Abreu is having an incredible debut season for the Chicago White Sox with 47 extra-base hits. ESPN Stats and Info provided a notable stat about how prodigious the first baseman's power has been:

Braun hit his 34 homers in 113 games, while Abreu is just seven away from that total in 77 games. 

The point of the All-Star Game is to market the game to a worldwide audience, showcasing the best that baseball has to offer. That's why having so much new blood in the game is so important to keep the cycle going. 

If you have the same old stars cycling in and out, year after year, the game becomes stale. Now, in an era where Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera are veterans of this game, it's a thrill to see so many new faces get their moment in the spotlight. 


NL Pitching vs. AL Hitting

While there's incredible pitching on both sides, the National League is going to be throwing out MLB's leader in ERA (Adam Wainwright, 1.79), the guy who would rank second in ERA if he had enough innings (Clayton Kershaw, 1.85) and the guy who has the innings to qualify (Johnny Cueto, 2.03). 

If that's not enough, once you get to the end of the game, NL manager Mike Matheny will bring out Aroldis Chapman's 100-mph fastball and 17.18 strikeouts per nine innings and Craig Kimbrel's 15.28 strikeout rate. 

The American League clearly has the advantage with the bats. There are three players on the AL roster with at least 20 home runs (Nelson Cruz, Abreu, Victor Martinez, Trout), compared to one for the NL (Giancarlo Stanton).

Edwin Encarnacion would have given the AL five players with 20-plus homers, but he's currently on the disabled list and won't be able to participate in the game. 

It's a classic battle of power versus power when the NL pitching staff goes up against the AL lineup. No matter who wins, it will be impossible to turn away from the television. 


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