The National League All-Star team has a chance to do something tonight that it hasn’t accomplished since 1996: win three All-Star games in a row. That’s 15 straight years they’ve gone without putting together an actual winning streak. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that in a game full of stars, one league can dominate another over such a prolonged period of time.
The American League went on an impressive 13-year run in which they won all but one All-Star game (that one being the infamous tie of 2002). In fact, things got so bad for the National League that fans almost expected them to lose. They had officially become the Washington Generals to the American League’s Harlem Globetrotters. Now, with a fresh batch of stars on board, the National League looks poised to go on a run of epic proportions for years to come and restore the dominance that once was theirs.
From 1959 through 1987 the National League was the dominant team. During that time they accumulated an All-Star Game record of 27-5-1 and never lost more than one All-Star Game in a row to the American League. Say what you want about the AL’s recent run of dominance in the Midsummer classic, but for that stretch of time, it wasn’t even close. The Senior Circuit was the superior league, by far.
Now it appears the National League has situated itself to make another prolonged run. Thanks to an influx of youthful talent in Bryce Harper, Matt Kemp, and Ryan Braun at the plate and Cole Hammels, Matt Cain, and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, the National League squad can match anything the American League can throw at them.
Whereas the American League has always prided itself on power and bashing the ball over the fences, the National League can now counter with an even more formidable weapon: depth. One look at the roster shows exactly what I’m talking about. From an offensive perspective, among their key reserves are David Wright, Yadier Molina, Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen and Michael Bourn. Any and all of them could (and should) be starting in this game. To have that type of super talent coming off the bench could very well prove to be the difference.
Should the National League get the lead early, that may be all she wrote. The back end of the NL bullpen is loaded with some of the liveliest arms in baseball. Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon…good luck scoring in the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings. All three are lockdown closers who rarely cough up leads and have the arsenal of pitches to make the best hitters look clueless.
So can the National League continue on its winning ways? Can they secure home field advantage in the World Series for the third year in a row? Can they once again assert themselves as the dominant league and restore honor to all of the National League All-Stars who came before them? All of these questions, and more, will be answered tonight.
Trivia: Who was the MVP of the 1973 All-Star Game, the last All-Star Game played in Kansas City?