PHOENIX - Good morning, one last time, from Phoenix, where things are winding down from last night's All-Star Game. There's an unwritten rule that teams aren't supposed to make news during the Midsummer Classic; apparently the Mets and Brewers took that quite literally, announcing their surprising Francisco Rodriguez trade minutes after the National League had recorded the final out in a 5-1 win.
As well as John Axford had been pitching for the Brewers, the trade doesn't quite make sense to me - especially when Rodriguez's $17.5 million option for 2012 is about to vest - but with Prince Fielder due to hit free agency this winter, Milwaukee is definitely going for it.
Anyway, I wanted to take a look ahead this morning at future All-Star Games, and project when the Nationals might land one of these things. In short, I think it's going to be a while.
The 2012 All-Star Game is in Kansas City, and baseball tries to alternate between National League and American League parks each year. That'd put the 2013 game in an NL city, but it's widely believed the Mets will land that one at Citi Field. In 2014, Minnesota is believed to be the front-runner, unless baseball switches its order to put it in Chicago for the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, much like it did in 2008 to get the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in its final year.
So that would probably mean either 2015 or 2016 is the Nationals' first chance at the All-Star Game. But they're going to have competition; the Marlins want to get the game at their new park, and there are a handful of NL cities that have been waiting longer than the Nationals for the game since opening their new parks (Cincinnati, Philadelphia and San Diego, though the last two cities had All-Star Games in their old parks in the 1990s).
And really, baseball isn't going to put an All-Star Game in Washington until the neighborhoods around Nationals Park improve. There are two factories across Potomac Avenue that kick dust into the air and provide a constant soundtrack of loud engines behind home plate, and the neighborhood immediately behind the center field gate is an assortment of half-finished buildings, each with signs promising a vibrant pre- and postgame experience once they're finished. Well, those signs have been there since 2008, with the real estate market cratering just after the opening of the park. In reality, Nationals Park is still in an area where you wouldn't want to spend much time after the game.
Much of the heavy lifting for hosting the All-Star Game falls on the city's hotels and restaurants, and while there aren't many of those around Nationals Park, the District certainly has plenty of them. Can you imagine a Fox chopper circling the stadium, though, providing overhead shots of Nationals Park and the dusty neighborhoods just beyond its doors?
I can't either - which is why I don't think the game winds up in Washington until the neighborhoods get cleaned up. And especially with South Florida in the mix for 2015, it could be tough to land that game. One thought I'd had was putting it in Nationals Park in 2019, which would be the 50th anniversary of the last All-Star Game in Washington. That'd allow baseball to send the game to Miami in 2015 and appease, say, Cincinnati in 2017 (I think San Diego and Philadelphia are better choices, but if we're using that logic, the game doesn't end up in Arizona this year).
When do you think the All-Star Game will get to Nationals Park? And does it bug you that it hasn't happened already? Let me know.