MLB All-Star Game 2011: 5 Reasons Every Sports Fan Should Watch
Let's face it: As significant as All-Star games are to their respective leagues, they usually only attract true fans of the specific sport involved.
The NBA All-Star Game is often considered a glorified display of offense—and for good reason. Defense is seen about as often in the All-Star Game as Greg Oden is seen during the rest of the season.
The NFL Pro Bowl, occurring either right before or after the Super Bowl, is usually ignored or forgotten by the casual sports fan more interested in the championship—or just uninterested in hearing the dozens of excuses elected starters make for not showing up.
The NHL All-Star Game falls victim to hockey's lack of popularity—although the game itself, when combined with the skills contests that precede it, is pretty entertaining.
This year's MLB All-Star Game, however, has something for everyone. Every sports fan should be able to find a reason to watch, if he puts in the proper effort.
Here are five universal attractions to unite the spectators next Tuesday night.
1. Dominant National League Pitching
Every sports fan can respect, and even appreciate, dominance.
Even for those not interested in baseball, to see the absolute best of the best displayed together on the same team, on the same night, makes for a special experience.
The National League pitching staff this year is beyond impressive. Their resumes speak for themselves: five Cy Young Award winners, the current top three leaders in league ERA and four members of the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants.
Almost every one of the starters on the roster has ace-like stuff: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw and Jair Jurrjens. The only starter who doesn't quite fit this mold is Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, and all he's done is put up a 6-1 record with a 2.13 ERA after a five-year hiatus from Major League Baseball.
Having relief pitchers at all seems superfluous with that batch of starters, but the NL sports some strong closers. Three of the top five league leaders in saves—Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan and Brian Wilson—are all on the roster.
2. Power/Speed Combinations
For every sport, its fans watch with ardent admiration for players possessing the ultimate combination of tools: power and speed.
Just like people marvel at LeBron James (on the court, anyway) and continue to select Adrian Peterson early in fantasy drafts, they pay their undivided attention to other athletes demonstrating remarkable power and speed.
This year's batch of All-Stars features prominent outfielders who fit this criteria.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp has already punched his ticket into the 20/20 club, as he has accumulated 22 home runs and 22 RBI through the first half of the season. His National League teammate, Ryan Braun, isn't far behind, with 16 home runs and 19 stolen bases.
On the American League side, we have centerfielders and rivals Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury. Granderson has been putting the Bomber in "Bronx Bomber," blasting 25 home runs and adding 15 stolen bases. Ellsbury has 27 swipes and nine home runs—the latter of which might seem low.
But those who watch Ellsbury say he has a truly powerful bat; according to Jayson Stark, Boston Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan says, "He's got as much raw power on anybody on our team."
As Stark points out, considering the Red Sox lineup also features David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, that's saying a lot.
3. Will They Stay or Will They Go?
Every fan loves rumors, even if the rumors don't concern his/her sport of choice. Between watching SportsCenter and going online, the same headlines and stories quickly become ingrained, to the point that we end up watching a one-hour television special to find out to where a certain NBA free agent is taking his talents.
The National League roster includes three of the lightning rods for trade/free agent rumors this season: New York Mets stars Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, and Milwaukee Brewers slugger Prince Fielder.
We've been hearing about the Mets and their financial woes for seemingly forever (and longer if you live in New York). Reyes and Beltran likely won't share a clubhouse next season, though where one and/or the other will go is still up in the air.
Fielder, meanwhile, is getting ready to hit free agency this winter, and he will likely seek a paycheck out of the Brewers' range.
So, yes, watching the All-Star Game will mean having to hear the inevitable rumors once more, but, with the trading deadline not even three weeks beyond the game, there may be pertinent updates.
Or, if you're sentimental, enjoy watching Beltran and Reyes playing for the same team for perhaps one of the final times.
4. Influx of Young Talent
No matter what the sport, up-and-coming stars are always a delight to watch develop and thrive. This year's All-Star Game features several key names receiving their first, but probably not last, invite.
On the National League side, franchise players-in-the-making Starlin Castro and Jay Bruce are among those getting their first glimpse of the Midsummer Classic. For the American League, Howie Kendrick and Matt Wieters are two of the All-Star rookies.
All in all, there are 24 newcomers who will be in Phoenix, or over one third of the total number of players currently on the rosters.
Watching Kendrick, who has been picked to win a batting title since he broke into the big leagues, and Castro, who is already one of the most exciting shortstops in the sport (and one of the main reasons to watch the Cubs), play in their first All-Star games may provide memories that fans can pass on later in life.
5. The Last Hurrah?
As exciting as it is to watch young stars emerge, it inevitably means the end is drawing near for some of baseball's legends.
This year saw another elected start for New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, despite how many people (justifiably) argue against his credentials. Chipper Jones, the 18-year veteran of the Atlanta Braves, was voted in by the players as a reserve.
It is always nice to see players who have given so much to their teams and to the game receive some well-deserved respect. But one must wonder how many more times we'll see Jones and Jeter on the field that displays the best of the best.
Jeter may continue to play in All-Star games because of his New York constituents, but even so, his years are numbered. Jones, who has already been battling injuries and contemplating retirement for the last couple of years, may be representing the National League for the final time.
Guys like this are almost universally recognized by anyone who calls him/herself a sports fan, so getting the chance to watch them on this stage for at least one more time is always a blessing.