Don’t be fooled by the fact that the All-Star Game is a glorified exhibition game. Yes, home field advantage is at stake, but there’s more than that. While the All-Star game isn’t as competitive as it was during its early years, there is still a massive amount of pride on the line. For the American League the 2012 All-Star Game is their chance to restore order. This is their chance to put the National League back in its place. It’s time for the American League to send the Senior Circuit back to the retirement home.
The American League All-Stars are facing a situation they haven’t encountered since 1996. That would be the last time the National League All-Star team won three games in a row. After that, the American League went on one of the most impressive All-Star winning streaks we have ever seen. They won 12 out of 13 games between 1997 and 2009 (the 13th was the infamous tie in 2002). Going back to 1986, the AL had gone 19-4-1 in All-Star Games until three years ago.
For so long they had been considered the inferior league, the gimmicky league that didn’t play real baseball thanks to the inception of the designated hitter. Strategy was thrown out the window and mashing baseballs into the stratosphere was all that mattered. Apparently it worked. The AL’s prolonged success was no accident. They were simply the better league all around. Their pitching was better, their offensive players were better, and they made the plays it took to win those games. How could the NL really be expected to compete when the AL was trotting out the likes of Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Roberto Alomar, Vladimir Guerrero, Ichiro…I could keep going.
Unfortunately for the AL, it appears that the NL has caught up. They have more young talent than they’ve had in a long time. They’re riding the momentum of two wins in a row and are looking to string together a three-game winning streak. They could very well have home field advantage in the World Series for the third year in a row. And the AL wants no part of that.
Led by a stable of Yankees and Rangers, the two teams who are most likely to represent the AL in the World Series at this point in the season based on their records, they’re legitimately playing for something. Rangers manager Ron Washington is pulling the strings for the AL in this game for the second year in a row. Last year his team lost a dramatic World Series in Game 7. Winning this game could mean everything for his team. If you think he isn’t going to be into this game, you’re crazy.
He’ll have half of his regular starting lineup at his disposal with Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli as starters and Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler coming off the bench. He’ll also have a hefty dose of Yankees thanks to the elections of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano as starters. In addition, Washington will also be able to utilize players like Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Adam Jones, and the Indians’ very own Asdrubal Cabrera, just to name a few.
On the mound, the American League is just as loaded as the National League. With Justin Verlander, Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez, Jake Peavy. Jered Weaver, and Chris Sale all available, it’s hard to imagine the National League getting much going offensively. If the American League gets a lead, things become even that much more difficult with Ryan Cook, Joe Nathan, and Cleveland’s Chris Perez as the notable closers ready to shut the door.
So will the American League turn things around? Can they put the frustrations of the past two All-Star Games behind them and lock up home field advantage in the World Series? Will tonight be the night they begin a new run of dominance that will rival what they did from 1997-2009? We’ll find out soon enough.
Trivia: Who was the lone representative on the AL squad for the Indians in 1973, the last time the All-Star Game was played in Kansas City?