Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star Game is Tuesday night. What does this have to do with the Pittsburgh Pirates? Read on to find out!
This Tuesday night at 8 p.m., Petco Park in San Diego will host the 87th edition of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The Pittsburgh Pirates will be sending two representatives in closer Mark Melancon and left fielder Starling Marte. Melancon was an initial selection for the National League bullpen, while Marte was added as a replacement for injured New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes on Saturday.
Once again, as it has since 2003, the game will for some reason determine which team will have home field advantage in the World Series. The game is taking place in the city of San Diego for the third time (1978,1992, and 2016), but it will be the first time that it will be held in Petco Park, with the stadium having opened in 2004. Though the game is being held in a National League park, the American League will be the designated home team since the National League was the home team in 2015. So what does this game, which admittedly is barely more than a glorified exhibition, have to do with the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Recent Pirates All-Star History
The Pittsburgh Pirates do not have the most stellar of All-Star Game histories. The city of Pittsburgh has hosted the game five times, tied for third most with four other cities behind New York and Chicago. However, only one Pirate has ever been named All-Star Game MVP, Dave Parker in 1979. Additionally, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have now sent multiple players every season since 2010, prior to this they were not typically well represented.
From the years 1994 through 2010, the Pittsburgh Pirates only sent more than the guaranteed one selection three times (2000, 2006, 2009) and each time it was only two players. During that same time span only two Pirates were elected as starters, Jason Kendall in 2000 and Jason Bay in 2006. Granted, much of this time period overlaps with the historic losing streak but for years there was little Pirates’ presence in the Midsummer Classic. That has changed since 2010, when the only Pirate representative was middle reliever Evan Meek.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have sent at least two players every season since then, with the team sending five players in 2013 (Pedro Alvarez, Jason Grilli, Jeff Locke, Andrew McCutchen, Mark Melancon), tied for the most they had sent since they sent eight in 1960. Despite a heavier Pittsburgh presence in the game, there still hasn’t been much of an impact from any of the Pirate players from the plate.
Going back to 2011, Pirates’ batters are 3-for-14, with all three hits coming from Andrew McCutchen. However, one of those three hits was a home run, with Cutch hitting the first long ball by a Pirate in the All-Star Game since Dave Parker in 1981.
Pittsburgh Pirates pitching has been more successful in the game with Pirates’ pitchers collectively striking out five batters over four innings pitched and the only blemish on the scoreboard being a Brian Dozier home run off of Mark Melancon last year.
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Marte and Melancon
Enough about the past though, the Pittsburgh Pirates are once again sending multiple players, albeit only two and no starters. Mark Melancon and Starling Marte, as mentioned above, arrived in San Diego in different ways. Melancon was of course on the National League roster when it was first announced last Tuesday. Marte had to wait a little longer though to find out if he would be spending the break with his teammate.
There was initially the possibility that Marte would get in through the Final Vote that MLB has every season to determine the final roster spot in each league from among five finalists. Marte went back and forth with Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants throughout the week, but Belt was ultimately the top vote-getter and it looked like Starling would have to wait for his first All-Star selection. However, Marte was added to the roster as an injury replacement for Cespedes and will be at what will hopefully be the first of at least several All-Star Game’s as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
While Marte will be attending his first All-Star Game, Melancon at this point could be considered a veteran of this thing as he will be attending his third in four years. At his first game in 2013, Melancon did not get into the game, but he made his debut last season when he came in to pitch the eighth inning. It was largely a success as he struck out his first two batters and induced a groundout to end the inning. However, those sandwiched the aforementioned Brian Dozier home run that helped the American League pad their lead in what would turn out to be a 6-3 victory.
What Should you Expect
So what can Pirates’ fans expect from the game this year from their favorite team’s players? Also, should they bother to tune in to what is mostly an exhibition game? The answer to that second question depends on your personal preference.
The All-Star Game used to make a lot more sense when this was the only opportunity outside of the World Series to watch National and American League players on the same field. It’s easy to forget today that the American and National Leagues used to be exactly what their names suggest, completely separate leagues. The differences have slowly eroded over the years, although there are still relics such as National League pitchers being still being forced to bat. Overall, the modern sports media landscape has not only made it easier to follow players in other cities, but free agency and Interleague play has largely taken away the novelty of the All-Star Game.
This is how you get what would otherwise be an exhibition game that is played in a different manner than a traditional baseball game deciding somewhat arbitrarily who would end up hosting a potential World Series Game Seven in October in an attempt to keep it relevant. Because of this, I don’t blame anyone in the least if they decide to skip this one.
The reason I generally tune in, which I suspect may be the reason many others watch, is to see how my favorite team’s players do on this prominent stage. This takes me back to my first question, what should Pirates’ fans expect from Melancon and Marte? Unfortunately, Melancon is a relief pitcher and Marte is a reserve. Because of this, there is no guarantee that either player will make an appearance.
There are five relievers, including Melancon, available to pitch for the National League. Each pitcher generally pitches an inning (other than the starter who may do the first two), with starters being used for the first five or six innings. Because of this, unless the game goes into extra innings, only three or four relievers typically get in the game. This means that while Melancon has a better than 50 percent chance of appearing, it is by no means a guarantee, and he likely wouldn’t get into the game until after 10 p.m.
This could also generally be said for Marte, as each starter generally gets two or three plate appearances before the reserves begin appearing. Regardless, it is extremely unlikely that Marte gets more than one plate appearance, if any, and he will likely not get into the game until after 10 p.m. as well.
Staying up until after 10 p.m. for a brief appearance that may or may not come from either of the Pittsburgh Pirates representatives would likely be a turn-off for a lot of people. That being said this is still kind of a baseball game being contested by who are generally the best players in the world on a night when there is no other baseball or really any other major sports going on. However, if you plan on watching, don’t expect to see too much of Marte or Melancon, at least not until late if you’re in the Pittsburgh area.
*Info and Stats from baseball-reference and espn.com