For all the assertionss that the MLB All-Star Game "counts" and "matters", I've never really cared much for the game itself.
It's a fun exercise to see who's had the best half season and who people think has had the best half season, but the game has never drawn me in.
As a fan of the suffering, forlorn, fourth-place Chicago Cubs, there is one thing I hope happens in this year's All-Star Game that's far from a certainty: I want to see Travis Wood pitch in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic.
To set up the situation, Wood was the only Cub selected by either the fans or Bruce Bochy, manager of the San Francisco Giants and thus manager of this year's NL All-Star team.Wood currently sits with a 6-6 record, a 2.69 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 117 innings pitched this season. He is also scheduled to pitch Sunday night's national television game against the St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN.
Some thought was given to scratching Wood from the start and making sure he was fresh for the All-Star Game, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum feels it's a big showcase for the 26-year-old lefty against the Cubs' biggest rival.
In years past, that would have disqualified Wood from being on the roster next Tuesday night. Now, it's up to Bochy to decide whether or not to use him. Sveum said he is fine with the Giants skipper using Wood.
"Bochy can use him for a left-handed hitter," Sveum said in an interview with Cubs.com. "It's going to be a side day anyway. I've got no problem with him pitching one inning, or 2O pitches. He goes all out on his side days anyways."
Bochy absolutely should.
One of the perceived problems with the All-Star Game is the "everyone has to play" mentality. I disagree with the criticism. I understand if a few pitchers get left out of a close game to avoid the 2003 All-Star tie debacle.
But for the Cubs, and Wood specifically, this is going to be one of the highlights of the season and maybe Wood's career.
Wood is having a fine season, as designated above, but he's never pitched like this in his career. Sabermetric stats say he's pitching a bit above his talent level and could drop off as the season wears on, much like he did last season.
Is he ever going to make another All-Star team? I doubt it. He's only there because the Cubs had to have a representative anyway.
Going back over the last three years of data, the National League has averaged 10 pitchers per All-Star game. In 2012, the last four pitchers got one out each. In 2011, six pitchers threw less than a full inning, and four such appearances were part of the NL's pitching strategy in 2010.
Let Wood be one of those guys. As a matter of fact, let other first-timers like Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke, Miami's Jose Fernandez and Arizona's Patrick Corbin get in there as well for sure; you never know if you're going to make it back again.
People seem to have the assumption that young guns who make the All-Star Team will make it back, the first of many trips.
I'll close with the tale of a National Leaguer who led the league in hits in 2011, made back-to-back All-Star Games in 2011 and 2012 and looked to be a perennial candidate for the NL at shortstop.
Sure enough, he's hitting .234 this year and has been, by many estimations, the worst regular player in baseball.
And if it can happen to Starlin Castro, it can definitely happen to a pitcher like Wood.