The All-Star Game is an exhibition, a barnstorming event made for television -- which is what it should be. Entertainment. Fun. Two of the biggest sidebars of this 2012 season have been the rise of Mike Trout and Harper into the national baseball consciousness. Those who watch the game Tuesday night want to see them and Andrew McCutchen, to bid adieu to Chipper Jones and see players who have become the face of the sport, like Derek Jeter, Justin Verlander and Buster Posey.
The selection process isn't like MIT admissions, or the dissection arguments that go along with the Hall of Fame voting. When analytics experts nastily decried the players' vote for Bryan LaHair, they missed the human element that should be part of the viewing process. This is a guy who spent nine years riding busses in the Minor Leagues, and he represents all those guys in the bushes who dream of taking a Minor League free-agent deal and turning it into $483,000 and big league meal money.
Look, this game probably shouldn't count, or determine home-field advantage in the World Series. Somehow it's hard to imagine that when Jose Altuve steps into the batter's box he's thinking, "I have to get my league the home-field advantage in the World Series," especially since his league this year will be the other league in 2013.
That said, baseball has tinkered with the postseason to make the regular season and first-place finishes more significant, along with the theatre of walk-off games. For instance, it matters this weekend that the Red Sox begin to climb into the rearview vision of the Yankees, because if, say, the Angels are one of the two AL Wild Card teams, it could be that either the Rays or Red Sox are the other, will have to fly to Anaheim and face Jered Weaver, then fly to New York or Texas to face the Yankees or Rangers, because first place counts .
Perhaps the rule that forces each team to be represented should be ditched, or amended so that if they cannot get someone picked, they make a final weekend addition. Is anyone in San Diego going to skip the sunset to watch Huston Street face one batter in the eighth? Is anyone skipping dinner in Oakland in anticipation of Ryan Cook throwing eight pitches? Of course not.
But there is curiosity about Trout and Harper, especially if one dwells on the sport's demographics. The Pirates are the best feel-good story in the game since the first of June, and McCutchen is the biggest reason, a National League MVP Award entrant with a batting average over .360, an OPS over 1.000 and a joy to his every movement.
Jeter is now an institution for every baseball fan born since 1990, as Cal Ripken was in the '90s, as Paul Konerko is for the city of Chicago, which remains one of the game's great baseball towns.
As Jones has made his victory tour around baseball, fans in city after city have been reminded that he was such a huge factor in the Braves' remarkable and historic run. We, as fans, should say farewell to a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer while he is still in uniform, and be reminded that among players who spent the majority of their careers at third base, Chipper ranks fourth in homers, second in OPS, fifth in WAR, second in runs created, third in extra-base hits and fifth in adjusted OPS+.
Think about that. We're bidding adieu to one of the greatest players. Ever.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com
Much is made about television ratings when it comes to the All-Star Game and the postseason. FOX has been a great partner for MLB, a partner that understands entertainment, and they should have a say in how baseball is presented. It might be untraditional, but would it be so bad to wire Curtis Granderson, Trout, Harper, McCutchen and Posey to hear some of their interactions with their teammates?
Still, the people who run baseball clearly grasped the entertainment and fun factors as they expanded the voting process to create more of a buzz, and they have moved two more steps forward by bringing Trout and Harper from their recent Futures Game attractions into The Show's biggest exhibition.
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and an analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.