Chris Sale didn't pitch in the All-Star Game on Tuesday. He wasn't alone, but he didn't have peers in this group, either. The list of American League pitchers who remained in the bullpen:
- Kelvin Herrera
- Brad Boxberger
- Darren O'Day
- Hector Santiago
Jacob deGrom pitched in the All-Star Game, and the Mets' first-time All-Star was sensational. I'd read the write-ups and seen his highlights, but I hadn't yet watched him attack hitters over a full inning. He more than met the hype, fanning Stephen Vogt, Jason Kipnis and Jose Iglesias on 10 pitches -- eight straight fastballs, then two sliders.
Aroldis Chapman pitched. Before the game, Grant Brisbee wrote about the Reds closer breaking MLB.com's Statcast velocity leaderboard with the 50 fastest pitches thrown by any pitcher this season, and it's only 50 because the leaderboard doesn't go to 51 and beyond. If you hadn't seen him pitch this year, he gave you the Cliff's Notes version:
Your Aroldis Chapman gun readings (as a public service): 99, 101, 100, 101, 101, 102, 103, 102, 103, 102, 100, 98, 100, 102. #isthatall— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 15, 2015
You can watch the video of the 103-mph fastball that struck out Mike Moustakas, but the reactions from the players told the story:
Sonny Gray can't believe what he's seeing as Aroldis Chapman is bringing the heat. pic.twitter.com/lVaLQHjeyD— Casey Pratt (@CaseyPrattCSN) July 15, 2015
Chapman's fastball is about 15 mph harder than mine. That's the same difference between me and mo'ne davis.— dan haren (@ithrow88) July 15, 2015
Mike Moustakas on Ned Yost sending him to pinch-hit against Aroldis Chapman: "I thought we had a good relationship."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) July 15, 2015
This is why I'm an All-Star Game enthusiast, because it's the baseball version of ordering a flight from a brewery's tasting room. "The deGrom ... my friends have mentioned it on Untapped. Belgian, right? OK, let's go with that one, and then the Aroldis Imperial. But just short pours, because I still have to drive home."
And along these lines, it was a bummer to not see Sale in the same setting, laying waste to the NL's best and getting crazy reactions from colleagues, Hall of Famers, other teams' writers and fans.
We had the general discussion before the game Tuesday, but I wanted to revisit the topic again now that we have a fresh supply of memories that's easier to both point to and project (e.g., the impression deGrom made on you would be similar to one Sale could've made on an objective third party).
The same philosophical debate remains: Were the feats of deGrom and Chapman meaningless because the game didn't count in the regular-season standings?
I think they have their own kind of significance, because baseball is entertainment above all else, and popularity contests are a big part of entertainment. I'll be making a point to watch the start of deGrom's next games (I can usually catch the first hour of a Mets game here before the Sox come on). I'm not gonna pretend I'm changing the fortunes of a franchise or player by doing so, but there are only benefits to raising the awareness level.
Sale's reputation may not need the boost that deGrom's could use, just like Mike Trout didn't need another All-Star Game MVP. But Trout gave other players a reason to talk about how good he is, and with Sale in the hunt for the Cy Young every year, standing out even among the league's best is a good way to emboss credentials.
Now, if Robin Ventura planned to open the second half with Sale, then I would have easily understood the aversion to having him appear in a midweek exhibition game. The Sox need to win games early and often in the second half, so, sure, try to put the screws to the Royals with Sale and Jeff Samardzija in a doubleheader and win two games in one day. "No time to do Ned Yost any favors!" is an effective-enough battle cry.
Instead, John Danks and his 5.30 ERA will take the mound in the nightcap, followed by Jose Quintana on Saturday and then Sale on Sunday. Perhaps the Sox will continue their tighter brand of baseball and nobody is worse for the wear, so I'm not condeming the move. But if recent history holds and Sale is starting the finale to salvage a split or skirt a sweep ... then this debate suddenly takes a nihilistic turn.
@SouthSideSox I was very happy he didn’t pitch. The only meaningless games I want him to pitch in are White Sox games.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) July 15, 2015
Half-joke or not, that's why the All-Star Game's significance isn't yes/no, pass/fail, black/white, etc. If you only care about White Sox wins and losses, then All-Star Game is meaningless by definition. But if you care about other things like national broadcast dates, magazine covers, in-depth articles or other forms of exposure, Cy Young finishes, MVP votes, Gold Gloves, Hall of Fame consideration, etc., then the Midsummer Classic probably carries more weight than a September start for a sub-.500 team. The White Sox aren't good enough to pick and choose when the baseball world pays attention to them, and still come out ahead in recognition.