MLB All-Star week started with a blast after Monday night’s thrilling Home Run Derby, won by the Mets’ Pete Alonso, but highlighted by the epic home run duel between the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson and Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who lit up Progressive Field in Cleveland and put on a show for the ages.
So what does Tuesday night’s All-Star Game have in store? Will we have another epic, extra-innings affair for the third straight year? Will there be another walk-off?
For now, here are five storylines to look out for entering Tuesday night’s mid-summer classic.
Honorable mention: Probably the greatest Home Run Derby duel of the 2000s
You can’t talk about the 2019 All-Star Game without mentioning Monday night’s home run derby semifinal between Joc Pederson and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
With all due respect to the winner of the Derby, Mets rookie Pete Alonso, the true highlight of the night was the epic round between Pederson and Guerrero Jr.
Both combined for 79 home runs with Guerrero Jr. edging out Pederson after the second swing-off, 40-39.
Including the final round, Guerrero Jr. hit a total of 91 home runs in the derby, breaking the record for total home runs hit in a home run derby.
5. CC’s career comes full circle in final ASG appearance in Cleveland
CC Sabathia earned a late invite to the 90th MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland, except he didn’t make the American League roster.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who’s managing the American League team Tuesday night, invited Sabathia as a token of appreciation for his contributions to the game. He’s become a staple on and off the field since joining the Yankees in 2009, leading them to their 27th World Series title, his first and only one overall.
“I was trying to make the team. Obviously, I ain’t got that kind of skill anymore. But to have Alex [Cora] want to bring me here and MLB go along with it, it’s just amazing. It feels good,” Sabathia said to the New York Post.
As his retirement tour gets a bit of the national spotlight Tuesday night, Sabathia, a first-round pick of the Indians in 1998 out of Vallejo, CA, spent the first six-and-a-half seasons of his career in Cleveland, earning the first two of his six All-Star nods in the process in 2003 and 2004. He also won the 2007 Cy Young award with the Indians, going 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA and 209 strikeouts that year.
4. Expect a faster extra-innings process. Maybe. Hopefully.
If Tuesday night’s All-Star Game goes to extra innings for the third straight time, MLB will pull the trigger on its new, CBA rule that has both teams beginning their half inning with a runner on second.
The idea behind the rule is, essentially to speed up the game, especially late in the night in extra innings. It’s already been deployed in the minor leagues, the World Baseball Class, and Olympic softball. It was used in the Futures Game Sunday night, but nobody scored and the game resulted in a tie.
The last two All-Star games were won by the American League in the 10th inning. But 2008’s affair in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx went 15 innings, into the wee hours of the morning in the Bronx before Michael Young won it for the AL with a sacrifice fly to right, nearly five hours after its 8:47 p.m. first pitch.
3. This year’s All-Star Game is missing quite a few of the game’s stars
The 90th MLB All-Star Game will introduce baseball fans to a lot of new all-stars, but there are still a lot of big time names missing from both rosters this summer.
The most notable name that didn’t make it was the Phillies mega-signing Bryce Harper. Harper hit a slash-line of .253/.370/.470 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs, but it wasn’t enough to send him to Cleveland, ending his four-year All-Star streak dating back to 2015.
The players didn’t vote him in as a reserve with the league selecting Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto (.273/.328/.438, 10 HR, 42 RBI) instead as the Phillies representative.
He did make it onto the All-Star banners, however.
Also not in Cleveland this week are Manny Machado, the Padres mega-signing this winter, Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, the Reds Joey Votto, Houston’s Jose Altuve, and Giants’ catcher Buster Posey, a six-time All-Star who seems to be on the start of a decline with a struggling Giants team.
2. The American League looks for its seventh straight win
The American League has all but dominated the mid-summer classic as they’ll look for their seventh-straight All-Star Game win Tuesday night.
The NL won three All-Star Games in a row from 2010-2012 but since the start of the millennium, it’s been all about the American League who has won every All-Star Game minus those three at the turn of the decade. The lone, early standout in the AL’s streak is the infamous 2002 draw in Milwaukee that ended 7-7 after then-commissioner Bud Selig called the game after 11 innings.
1. Are the baseballs juiced or not? Regardless, the longball will again take center-stage Tuesday night
Houston Astros’ ace and Tuesday night’s All-Star Game starter Justin Verlander said on Monday that the baseball’s being used this season are “a f***ing joke” and that he believes that they’ve been juiced to increase offensive output.
On Tuesday, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred denied Verlander’s claims of juiced baseballs.
“Baseball has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball,” Manfred told reporters Tuesday. “The flaw in logic is that baseball wants more home runs. If you sat in owners meetings and listen to people on how the game is played, that is not a sentiment among the owners for whom I work.”
Verlander’s complaints about the suspected juiced baseballs were also supported by fellow aces Jacob deGrom of the Mets and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer.
In the first half of the season, the majors have seen a total of 3,691 home runs hit. The league is on pace to hit 6,668 total home runs, shattering the 2017 record of 6,105.