At least a dozen people will be glued to their TV sets on Tuesday night to see if Aaron Crow gets into the All-Star Game as a pitcher for the American League team.
Don’t hold your breath.
The first ever Royal in an All-Star Game – catcher Ellie Rodriguez – recorded just one statistic in the 1969 exhibition. DNP. Disappointing for the fledgling franchise. But the team would soon be well represented by stars like Amos Otis, Cookie Rojas and John Mayberry, who made significant contributions in the game in the early 1970s.
Then came George Brett, Frank White and Hal McRae, and the Royals were all over the All-Star field.
But it seems fitting looking back that the first Royal All-Star recorded a DNP, because that appears to be a new trend.
Five of the last nine KC “representatives” in the midsummer classic never left the bench.
2010: Joakim Soria – DNP. 2007: Gil Meche – DNP. 2006: Mark Redman – DNP. 2003: Mike Sweeney and Mike MacDougal – DNP.
Having lacked a legitimate “star” for years, it’s been a long time since Royals fans had much reason to care about the All-Star Game. So all the DNPs seem to have gone by without much notice. Lesser players are often forced to wait until late in the games to pinch-hit, or are held out for extra innings. So most casual fans have gone to bed by the time the benches start clearing.
But it would seem that American League managers haven’t felt compelled to get the KC representatives into the games in recent years.
Is there a conspiracy here, is this just a coincidence, or is it a consequence of how the All-Star Game is played?
One could argue that while every team is allotted a representative to the roster, there is no guarantee that players from every team should play. Some players may just not be deemed worthy of participation.
One could make that argument particularly in the case of Redman, who was probably saved from embarrassment. Imagine the PA announcer introducing the Royals rep in 2006:
“Now entering the game, your Kansas City Royals All-Star, with a 5-4 record and a 5.27 ERA…”
It’s possible that because the Royals tend to be represented by pitchers, there is more of a likelihood that their rep won’t get in the game. Every year an average of 8.5 pitchers don’t play. (This is based on the past decade. For more statistics on pitcher DNPs, see below.)
But it could also be that no one feels compelled to insert into the game the representatives of a lack-luster franchise in fly-over territory. After all, five DNPs in eight years seems high if it is just a coincidence.
During a 13-year stretch – 1990 to 2002 – when the team was pretty bad, the Royals had just one DNP – Jeff Montgomery in 1996. So based on that fact, it would appear Royals representatives are not getting into the games as frequently as they once did.
And it wasn’t that all the Royals representatives were legitimate stars (see Jose Rosado in 1997 and 1999 and Dean Palmer in 1998).
It all started with what looks like the biggest slap in the face back in 2003. In the one season when the Royals were actually good – leading the Central Division with a 51-41 mark – the Royals sent legit slugger Sweeney and lights-out closer (at the time) McDougal to the game.
In defense of Mike Scioscia, the AL manager that year, seven other AL guys didn’t play either. But to keep two guys from the same team out seemed a bit much.
Could it be that, now that the home field in the World Series is determined by the midsummer classic, more emphasis is placed on winning than on getting all the players into the game?
That may provide some motivation to the games’ managers, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be affecting the leagues teams or its star players. Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia felt it was more important to pitch in their teams’ last game before the break than to play in the exhibition. And Derek Jeter, healthy enough to go 5 for 5 last Saturday, isn’t feeling up to putting in a couple of innings.
No, winning doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal.
While no one outside of Topeka probably cares if Aaron Crow plays or not, it will most likely seem more important next year when the All-Star Game comes to Kauffman Stadium. Most likely the league will feel compelled to try to get a position player from KC into the game for a couple of innings.
For the record, when the game was last played in KC in 1973, Otis and Mayberry were in the starting lineup, with Rojas coming off the bench. As a group, they came to bat a total of 6 times in the game.
But you have to go all the way back to 2000, when Jermaine Dye started the game to find a Royal position player that recorded significant time in the field in an All-Star Game. So we’ll see if Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer or some other position player can finally see some time at a position in next years’ game.
Congrats, Aaron Crow. No matter what everyone says, you are an All-Star. I hope you get a chance to show it on the field.
But if you don’t get in the game, I doubt anyone will speak out in your defense. After all, you’re a Royal. Based on the last eight years, it appears no one cares whether you play or not.
In the past decade, 264 pitchers were named to All-Star squads, with a high of 34 last season and a low of 22 in 2001.
178 pitched in the games, with a high of 23 in 2008 and a low of 15 in 2003 and 2006.
The lowest number of DNPs among pitchers came in 2008 with 2. The highest number came in 2010 with 15.