The Nationals have two starters - and possibly a third - with a case to make the National League All-Star team, but NL manager Joe Maddon has no idea if there’s a scenario that would put Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg on the team for the July 11game in Miami’s Marlins Park.
“I haven’t even looked at it,’’ the Chicago Cubs’ manager said before Thursday’s game at Nationals Park. “I’m relying on Major League Baseball to tell me what we have. I don’t even know who is pitching well.’‘
Scherzer has a league-best 2.06 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, is a lock, and lefty Gonzalez’s 2.87 ERA is third-best in the NL, which might be good enough for him to make the team in his hometown. Strasburg has a pile of strikeouts, but a 3.51 ERA.
The only thing that MLB has told Maddon is to hold out a starting pitcher that can pitch a few innings in case of extra innings. Maddon is treating the game like an exhibition that it is.
“We’re going to try to win and get as many players as we can into the game,’’ Maddon said.
This is the first All-Star Game since 2002 where World Series home field advantage will not be determined by the league that wins.
The 2002 game in then-commissioner Bud Selig’s hometown of Milwaukee ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings when both teams ran out of pitching.
In 2003, MLB changed the format so that the league that won the All-Star Game was awarded home field advantage in the World Series.
Under the new format, at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular, home of the White Sox, the Rangers’ Hank Blalock hit an eighth-inning home run to give the American League a 7-6 win and the Yankees home field advantage in the World Series, which they won.
This time, the team with the best record gets the one-game advantage. Last season, Game 7 of the World Series was in Cleveland, and not Chicago’s Wrigley Field, even though the Cubs won 103 games and the Indians 94.
Under the home field rule, the AL won 11 of 14 All-Star Games and eight World Series titles.
Fans pick the starters, while players pick the first batch of reserves and pitchers. Managers also make selections and the commissioner has a say, as well.
Last season, the NL had five starters on the roster: Jon Lester, Johnny Cueto, Scherzer, Drew Pomeranz and Julio Teheran.
This year, there are six NL pitchers with ERAs under 3.00.
The Orioles’ Trey Mancini in the AL and Milwaukee third baseman Travis Shaw in the NL are two the most unlikely candidates that deserve to be on their respective teams.
Mancini has been the Orioles’ most consistent hitter, even though he didn’t have a lineup spot coming into spring training. Shaw, acquired in a trade from Boston, is a big reason the Brewers are contending in the NL Central.
Miami’s Ichiro Suzuki and the Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols, who joined the 600-home run club this season, should be the sentimental career-honoring picks in each league.
Yankees rookie Aaron Judge, who is 6-foot-7 and 282 lbs., and Houston’s Jose Altuve, who is 5-6 and 165 lbs., will be on the AL team, potential for an amazing picture if they stand next to each other during introductions.
The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger should be on the NL team, given he leads the league in home runs despite not getting called up until three weeks into April.
There are surprise names for pitchers to start for the AL, including Kansas City’s Jason Vargas (league-low 2.29 ERA) and Minnesota’s Ervin Santana (10 wins, 2.80 ERA), but the honor will likely go to Boston’s Chris Sale by virtue of his 155 strikeouts and 2.77 ERA.
The NL starter should be either Scherzer or the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who has a 2.47 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP.
Scherzer isn’t looking ahead.
“We have a lot of guys that are deserving, so it will be interesting to see the process plays itself out,’’ Scherzer says. “But we don’t think about it. Why concern yourself with something you have no control over?
“The only thing you control is how you pitch. That’s how you become an All-Star.’‘