Commentary

Another Year: Sadness At The All-Star Game

usa-odubel-herrera-slide_0.jpgI glanced up at the television, and there was Odubel Herrera, planted in center field for the National League all-star team. He substituted Marcell Ozuna in the fifth inning of the game. In the top of the sixth he stood in against, ironically, Kelvin Herrera. Though he battled a little, Herrera ultimately flew out.

No big deal, I thought, he’d have another chance.

In the top of the eighth Herrera’s spot was approaching, and the National League was mounting a rally. With a man base and two out, Herrera’s batting order spot came up. But it wasn’t him. It was Pirate Starling Marte.

Oh.

That was our moment. For yet another year the Phillies and their fans tasted a homemade crumb of the all-star festivities. In 2015 the Phillies’ lone representative was Jonathan Papelbon, and he never entered the game (thanks, Bruce Bochy). In 2014 it was Chase Utley and Cliff Lee; the former knocked in a run and the latter got knocked around. In 2013 we had Lee and Domonic Brown. Lee again gave up runs; Brown did bunk.

Go back even further. Even in 2011, when the Phillies had the best team in baseball and a starting rotation feared by all, Cole Hamels didn’t enter the game (thanks again, Bruce Bochy),and fans didn’t stuff the ballot box to vote in offensive players. When it comes to all-star ballots, Phillies fans are as tame as they come.

Sour grapes? The point is that the Phillies don’t have great all-star memories. Sure Papelbon closed out the 2012 game by throwing to Carlos Ruiz. Whoopee.

I went back in time. Year by year. You can pick out Jimmy Rollins’ 2-for-2 performance in the 2002 game, or maybe Curt Schilling’s three-strikeout performance in two innings in the 1997 game. Those are okay, I guess. Heathcliff Slocumb got the win in 1995.

Whoopee.

Everyone remembers John Kruk’s wild ride against Randy Johnson in 1993. But nobody remembers he went 0-for-3.

You really have to go back to 1981, when Mike Schmidt hit a big eighth-inning home run (along with a double), to find a great Phillie performance at the all-star game. In fact, if my research is correct, between Schmidt’s home run and today, the only extra-base hit by a Phillie in the all-star game is a double by Utley.

Maybe that’s the price we pay for Johnny Callison’s game-winning home run in 1964, but I would bet the Phillies are the least productive team in all-star history. They have to be.

So it was disheartening Tuesday to watch another year go by with merely a quick glimpse of our guy. Herrera should’ve had more time. He should’ve had one more plate appearance, one big chance to get the National League back in the game and flip his bat for all the world to see. But he didn’t get that chance. It’s as if Bochy was managing after all.

But meh. Next year, we hope, we’ll see more than one Phillie in the game. And by 2019, maybe we can finally stuff that ballot box like fans have done so often lately. Maybe we can get a starting National League infield of Hoskins, Kingery, Crawford and Franco. Or whatever. Just give us something.

This year reminded us, once again, that there’s still a long way to go. Getting just one all-star signifies you’re nowhere near prepared to be a contender. And when your lone all-star gets a swift appearance in the game, with barely enough time for the announcers to tell the world about your guy’s gift of hitting, speed and tenacity, you realize that maybe these all-star games aren’t for you right now. They’re for Cubs fans, for people who like Buster Posey – apparently – for Royals fans and everyone who had the blessed opportunity to watch David Ortiz hit, I suppose. There’s a giant gulf between Kris Bryant and two innings of Odubel.

One day a Phillie will have a big all-star moment. It has to happen. We’re due. Just as we’re due to start winning again. Just as we’re due to get more all-stars in the game. Tuesday simply taught us that while you may think you’re ready, the rest of the sport isn’t quite ready for you.

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