On Tuesday, for the 85th time, the National League will take the field armed for battle against the American League. But this time, it counts.
Or something like that. Ever since the 2002 debacle that saw the game end in a draw, the winner of the once friendly (unless you’re Pete Rose) mid-Summer Classic, now gets to claim home field advantage for their league in the World Series.
Personally, I am a fan of the sport’s most obscure stipulation. It gives the game an actual purpose, opposed to the All-Star Games of the NBA and NFL where a mockery is made of the sport. It would be quite difficult to make a mockery of baseball even if managers tried, but there is a competitive edge to the MLB version—and who does not like to see competitive baseball?
There will be five Cincinnati Reds donning the road gray’s in Minnesota on Tuesday evening to cheer along. As per rule of MLB, each team must have a single representative in order to draw as many viewers from each television market as possible. In the Reds’ case, there will be plenty to watch from their club.
Simon serves as one of the more unique pitchers on the roster due to his past. Having relieved for the majority of his baseball life, in a dire scenario, he would be able to throw 5-6 innings and be fine to start this weekend in the Bronx.
There are certainly closers on the National League roster having better seasons than Aroldis Chapman, with both Huston Street and Francisco Rodriguez being nearly impenetrable at the backend of the bullpen, and Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel featuring his own versions of triple-digit fastballs and wipe-out sliders. Although, it would be hard to argue that should the National League be leading heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, that anyone besides Chapman should be getting the ball.
As far as the other member of the battery, it will be a plotline for Reds fans to keep their eye on in the case of whether or not Devin Mesoraco will make an appearance Tuesday night.
Originally slated to be the game’s starting catcher per fan election was St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. Having suffered the same fate as Brandon Phillips (torn thumb ligaments), Molina will obviously not be available. In his place, Arizona Diamondbacks backstop Miguel Montero was named to the team, and Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers was placed in the starting lineup.
To think along with National League manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher himself, he would almost assuredly leave a catcher for the dire scenario of an extra-inning game. To assume that is Montero may not be a stretch.
With that being said, Devin Mesoraco may be a dark horse for All-Star Game MVP honors. He will be a late-inning substitution, meaning he will have at minimum one meaningful at-bat against a hard-thrower in the American League bullpen. Mesoraco may catch a break and some poor soul may try to throw a fastball by him on the inner third. Once that happens, the fans will be the ones camped under the ball.
An honorable performance in Monday night’s Home Run Derby now behind him, Todd Frazier will face some of the same challenges as his teammate, Devin Mesoraco. Third base is a crowded position on the roster, although it seems Frazier will be serving as a duel threat, backing up first basemen Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman as well.
If there is one egregious snub from the starting lineup in the National League, it is Todd Frazier. Putting together numbers worthy of MVP consideration, Frazier must take a backseat to oft-injured Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez who likely would have not been in Minnesota if not for the fast-clicking Brew Crew fan base.
There is one night a year where Reds fans roots for Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates and Brewers, and vice versa. Tuesday night is about showmanship, but for those in contention, about home field in the Fall Classic.