Back in 2013, National League manager Bruce Bochy made the controversial decision to pick New York Mets ace Matt Harvey as the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. The game was played at his home park in Citi Field, and many felt he only got the nod because of that.
“It really wouldn’t have mattered what city we were playing in; with the year that he’s had, the impressive numbers that he’s put up, he would have been the starting pitcher,” Bochy said at the time.
The guy who felt slighted? Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers lefty was skipped over despite leading MLB in ERA (1.98) and WHIP (0.91). He wasn’t pleased with Bochy’s decision, but the 2011 Cy Young Award winner, who would win another that season, made it clear he wanted to start the Midsummer Classic.
“It’s not a goal. I don’t really set goals,” Kershaw said. “I don’t have any goals. It would be cool. I would like to do it. It would be fun.”
Now in 2022, it’s Kershaw’s time to steal the spotlight from the game’s best pitcher. The difference? Matt Harvey had a legitimate claim to starting the 2013 ASG. Kershaw, at least statistically, has no reason to be on the mound while Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara sits in the bullpen.
The Kershaw-Over-Alcantara Drama is Far From 2013
Let’s start here: the best pitcher in baseball this season has been Sandy Alcantara. If you don’t know him, you will when he wins the Cy Young or eventually gets traded to the New York Yankees.
He leads all pitchers in Wins Above Replacement and leads the NL in ERA (1.76). Behind his 100-mph sinker, he’s been a Nolan Ryan-esque workhorse, having put together 13 straight starts of at least seven innings heading into the break. Kershaw hasn’t even made 13 starts all season. And in almost double the innings pitched (Sandy’s at 138.1 while Kershaw is at 71.2), the Marlins ace has the much better ERA (1.76 to 2.13).
Many fans were quick to point out when National League manager Brian Snitker announced Kershaw as the starter that it was 2013 Matt Harvey all over again, just with Kershaw on the opposite side of the snubbing.
However, Matt Harvey led all MLB pitchers in WAR (a very good stat that calculates a player’s value) during the first half of 2013. He also ranked first in strikeouts (147) and third in ERA (2.35) among NL pitchers. Bochy was absolutely right to start him. The better case to be made that year was Adam Wainwright starting over Kershaw, not Harvey over Kershaw.
This isn’t 2013. Kershaw has no legitimate reason to be starting the game other than that it’s at Dodger Stadium, and he might’ve cried and pouted if he didn’t start it. While the visuals of the Los Angeles faithful cheering him on with the Hollywood Sign in the backdrop will be cool, MLB needs to figure out some sort of rubric for the All-Star Game.
The Problem: The ASG is a Popularity Contest
I get it. It’s ultimately an exhibition game now that the winner doesn’t decide home-field advantage in the World Series. It’s now supposed to be more about fun and putting the stars on a pedestal. The new extra-innings home run derby rule is a good example of that.
What’s unfortunate is that an event that already has become a popularity contest among fans continues to keep up-and-coming stars down. Alcantara has been the best pitcher in baseball and he won’t get his due credit because…optics? It doesn’t sit well with fans who think the game should showcase the best of the best.
I was reading a piece from Dodgers Tailgate that defended Snitker’s decision to start Kershaw and was struck by this pair of lines:
So if this upsets Alcantara or any of his fans, then they shouldn?t worry because there is a simple solution.
Just repeat what he did this year, at another point in his career.
Oh, as if it’s just that easy! And further, how about Clayton Kershaw repeats one of his dominant, best-in-baseball first halves from the part of his career where he was actually worth $30 million? Oh, that’s right, he can’t because he’s 34 and over the hill.
Look, I love Clayton Kershaw. He’s the best pitcher of our generation. Three Cy Young awards and an MVP is nothing to scoff at. But if we want to use the “home field guy” logic, then Dodger teammate Tony Gonsolin — who is 11-0 with a 2.02 ERA this season — is the much better choice to start the game. I’m not even sure Clayton Kershaw deserved to make the All-Star team, let alone start the game.
What’s funny is that even Kershaw knows he didn’t deserve the start. Why else would he call up Alcantara? Still, I give him props for this.
Hope you don’t screw it up, Kersh. But if you do, the right guy will be coming in after you.