You’ve read enough pieces both here at VEB and elsewhere about the 2019 Cardinals’ seemingly perpetual state of mediocrity. They limp into the All-Star break an even 44-44 on the year. Following a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad May, their record stood at...28-28. In June they went 13-13 and thus far in July are 3-3. You don’t need me to diagnose the situation and tell you that this team flat out hasn’t performed to expectations.
So after the Cardinals held the Giants–the third worst team in the National League–to just two hits but still dropped the rubber match on Sunday, we get a break. It would be easy to largely tune out the annual All-Star festivities. After all, the only St. Louis representation comes in the form of Paul DeJong as a reserve for the NL squad. “It doesn’t even count anymore.”
That said, there was an innocent, childlike joy to be found watching last night’s Home Run Derby. There was a joy to be found watching Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Joc Pederson steal the show in their semifinal round for the ages. And hopefully, a similar joy awaits us tonight when baseball’s best take the field.
The All-Star Game might purely be an exhibition affair, but I would assert that only adds to the romanticism of it. The early returns on disassociating the Midsummer Classic with home field advantage for the Fall Classic have been outstanding in my book. No longer under the false pretense of an overly-serious evening in mid-July, we have seen entertaining antics, good-natured on-field interviews with players, and the like interwoven throughout the game to cultivate a much more lighthearted–and enjoyable–atmosphere.
Every 100+ mph fastball or 400+ foot home run we haphazardly take for granted is a reminder that, in an era of specialization, professional athletes have grown to become obscenely talented at their craft. With their every move vulnerable to judgement from millions of spectators at any given moment, they are capable of doing things the rest of us physically couldn’t.
Even Spring Training can have fierce pushes for the final few spots on a roster when camp breaks and clubs head north to begin the regular season. That underscores the beauty of tonight: it has no ramifications on the final standings whatsoever. For one night on the MLB calendar we can, free of any external pressure or pennant race, sit back and marvel at some of the best baseball players you will ever get the pleasure of watching. It’s fun to watch them have fun playing a game each participant has mastered to an utterly ridiculous level.
The All-Star Game is fun. It was always meant to be fun. If you are so inclined, have fun watching it tonight.