It’s fun to have multiple all-stars. But it’s more fun to be a 50-win team in early July.
The All-Star Game rosters are locked in, which means
the harmless fun of the Midsummer Classic is almost here everyone is pissed.
The All-Star Game used to be about mashing the champions of both circuits into each other in a gladiatorial battle for the soul of summer. Then it was about who Pete Rose was going to kill. Then it was about home field advantage in the World Series, or something.
These days, it’s about the hash tags generated in the final player vote, while simultaneously being about which groups of fans deserve to be the most red-faced and furious on a summer afternoon. Like Hall of Fame voting, MLB All-Star Game voting now teeters on the verge of “entirely ruined” due to the visceral, and in the end meaningless, reactions to who gets to play in an exhibition game that used to be just for fun (I think?)
Some players, like the Bryce Harper’s and Buster Posey’s of the world, have transcended past the novelty of the vote and, barring something truly catastrophic like being carried off by a giant bird, are surefire entries onto the National League squad. But some players, like all of those unknown or barely-known names on the Phillies, still rely solely on the output with which they start the season to carry them onto the roster. With only part of one half of the season to go on, though, it can be tough to build a foundation impressive enough to swing that non-Phillies fan voter or opposing coach making the picks. One bad month—one bad .gif, even—and you’re either out of their minds, or in them for the wrong reason.
Rhys Hoskins wasn’t going to be an all-star. He hit .161 in May and struck out in almost 28% of his ABs that month.
Seranthony Dominguez wasn’t going to be an all-star. He didn’t allow a run and only gave up two hits through his first 12 major league starts, but then his ERA ascended to an ungodly 2.00+ number, and his lack of name recognition, despite having one of the league’s best names, wasn’t high enough to forgive his first inevitable stumbles. There’s also a ton of relief pitchers out there and most of them are established enough to be in front of him in line.
Odubel Herrera wasn’t going to be an all-star. He hit .236 in June and .146 over the past two weeks. Despite being the only young Phillies player who has already been an all-star, and maintaining a 45-game on-base streak, and in late May was in the top five in the NL in hits, BA, OPS, and the top ten in RBI… uh, why isn’t Herrera an all-star again? [Stands up on crowded train] THIS IS A MOCKERY OF THE VERY PRINCIPLES BASEBALL WAS BUILT ON—
No! No. It’s not worth it.
This is a good team with good parts; it just doesn’t have the definite core at its center yet comprised of players who are recognized league-wide as the best at their positions. Give them a year; give them two years, and that NL dugout will have a few more red pinstripes in it. For now, this is the same team we’ve seen all season, simply being measured through the filter of the All-Star Game.
This is a team that rarely sweeps*, but often wins, a series; that has fallen in the standings, but never plummeted to the bottom; and that has had to fight off injury, poor execution, and bad luck to climb back up. The Phillies have been in the conversation all year, just not as loudly as the Braves, because their success has been so much more realistic. Few picked the Phillies to contend for a wild card spot by mid-July, but no one presumed Atlanta to be the roaring NL East monster that young team has become. The earth is a lot further to fall to for them. Hell, the Mets started the season an unheard of 11-1, and now they might have to disband by the time the second half begins.
And at the end of the long, sweltering summer day, the only three types of players who get into the All-Star Game are:
- The established veterans who have either the celebrity or the output, or both, to get voted in, even if they are having a down year
- The players who have been okay throughout their careers, but this year have absolutely gone off since spring
- The guys who are just there because somebody had to show up wearing their team’s uniform. This is typically a reliever who is the absolute happiest guy on his squad to be there
The Phillies, for a first place team, have surprisingly few of these types. They have been a committee team all season long, with this being a developmental season and all, so that they can learn who slots best into which role. They really have no business being as good as they are, but they are, and it’s fair to predict that they’ll get better in the months and years ahead. The asterisk on this is that there are very few guys who, despite finding success at the plate or on the mound at various points and for various stretches, could be labeled “consistent” (yet) (and that excludes Tommy Hunter, for the aforementioned “wrong reasons”).
The Phillies can keep chugging along, watching Hunter misplace a fastball, pushing Dominguez into one too many batters, shaking their heads as Herrera hacks at three straight balls, and celebrating their single all-star—it’s the very deserving Aaron Nola, who I have managed to not mention yet in this post about Phillies all-stars—and still maintain their steady success. And they don’t need more than the league minimum number of all-stars to do so, because that’s exactly how this team has played thus far: A lot of people have been hot, a lot of those same people have been cold, but at the end of the day—well, at the end of yesterday, at least—this was still a 50-win team, just one year after it wasn’t a 50-win team until the last day of August.
So the Nationals can have their three all-stars. Apparently, the number of all-stars your team is awarded directly correlates to your divisional ranking.
*The Phillies have had five sweeps this season, if you count the two games in which they just beat the Orioles on July 3-4. Before that, the last one was the four-game sweep of the Giants in early May (The Giants then returned the sweep in a three-game series three weeks later).