The venue will be different, and so will the visuals. But the All-Star Game is returning on July 13 after a one-year hiatus, giving Major League Baseball a chance to highlight all that makes it great, instead of all that drags it down.
Those competing story lines have played out in the first half against a tense backdrop of mistrust between the league and the players’ union. The sides are dealing with the looming task of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement after the season. In actively trying to raise the game’s appeal — by stimulating action, lately through mandatory checks of pitchers for foreign substances hidden on their gloves, caps and belts — the league has acknowledged that something important is missing.
It is a paradox for M.L.B.’s marketers, and the All-Star Game should be a respite. But even this year’s host city comes with a touchy story line: In April, Commissioner Rob Manfred decided to move the game to Denver from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new voting laws.
From a stylistic standpoint, the game will look like a callous, corporate cash grab. Instead of the traditional quirky kaleidoscope of colors on one field — with players wearing their regular jerseys, in a nod to the fans back home — the league will outfit the teams in matching antiseptic All-Star jerseys. The National League will wear white, the American League navy, and either can be yours for just $139.99.
The talent, though — well, the talent is undeniable. Whatever the league and the fans think of the product on the field, nobody questions the remarkable skill of the modern player. And as baseball encourages more offense, it picked the ideal spot in Coors Field, the mile-high home of the Colorado Rockies.
Shohei Ohtani, the two-way sensation of the Los Angeles Angels, will participate in the Home Run Derby on All-Star Monday, along with the Mets’ Pete Alonso, who won the event in Cleveland in 2019. Also participating: the Rockies’ star shortstop, Trevor Story; the Baltimore Orioles’ Trey Mancini, who missed last season as he fought colon cancer; and others. Even without Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays and Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres, who declined, it will be quite a show.
As for the game itself, the results of the fan vote for starting position players will be announced on Thursday, with the full rosters revealed on Sunday. Each team must have 32 active players, including 12 pitchers, and every team must be represented — thankfully, that tradition remains.
Here’s how the rosters should look for the managers, Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays. Roberts will surely pick Jacob deGrom of the Mets as the N.L. starting pitcher for the first time in deGrom’s career. If Cash has a sense of drama, he will not only make Ohtani the starting pitcher but also bat him leadoff — ensuring that two most sensational performers of the first half will match up to start the game.
At that moment, if it happens, everyone will forget about sticky stuff, labor strife and tacky uniforms, and remember what makes baseball so captivating, no matter what it does to itself.
Here are my picks for the All-Star Game Rosters (starters are in bold).
Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
Nick Castellanos, Reds
Jesse Winker, Reds
Bryce Harper, Phillies; Tyler O’Neill, Cardinals; Bryan Reynolds, Pirates; Kyle Schwarber, Nationals
Jacob deGrom, Mets
Yu Darvish, Padres; Kevin Gausman, Giants; Josh Hader, Brewers; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; Craig Kimbrel, Cubs; German Marquez, Rockies; Freddy Peralta, Brewers; Trevor Rogers, Marlins; Max Scherzer, Nationals; Zack Wheeler, Phillies; Brandon Woodruff, Brewers
Walker Buehler, Dodgers; Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Corbin Burnes, Brewers; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Evan Longoria, Giants (injured list); Mark Melancon, Padres; Joe Musgrove, Padres; Omar Narvaez, Brewers; Alex Reyes, Cardinals
Pitchers after Ohtani
Chris Bassitt, Athletics; Shane Bieber, Indians; Aroldis Chapman, Yankees; Emmanuel Clase, Indians; Gerrit Cole, Yankees; Kyle Gibson, Rangers; Liam Hendriks, White Sox; Lance Lynn, White Sox; Sean Manaea, Athletics; Casey Mize, Tigers; Ryan Pressly, Astros; Carlos Rodon, White Sox
Yordan Alvarez, Astros; Matt Barnes, Red Sox; Aaron Civale, Indians (injured list); Tyler Glasnow, Rays (injured list); Yuli Gurriel, Astros; John Means, Orioles (injured list); Whit Merrifield, Royals; Jordan Romano, Blue Jays; Jared Walsh, Angels