Though the title of this article was written with a tongue firmly in a cheek, the All-Star Game now means next to nothing beyond its ceremonial purpose. The goal is to honor the game’s best and brightest in an historic spectacle, and deference certainly goes to the home team’s fans in terms of making each contest a special occasion. Therefore … would it really be so bad if the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin, who leads the world in every traditional pitching metric, got the start over Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara, who will likely pitch the (gasp) third or fourth inning anyway?
And … would it really be so bad if the legendary Clayton Kershaw got his first ever All-Star Game start over either of them? Remember: Ceremony!
On the American League side, it’s very likely that Dusty Baker will name his ace Justin Verlander to the honorific role. By the numbers, he deserves it; he’s come back from Tommy John surgery with an 11-3 record, 0.87 WHIP and 2.5 WAR in over 100 innings. The optics there, though, can’t be pleasant on MLB’s side. If a hated Astro is going to take the mound and get booed in the bottom of the first inning, there should probably be a Dodger on the bump to counteract it.
So, who’s it going to be? Gonsolin, who would be the shoo-in to start the game if it were taking place in 1989, but might have an uphill battle in the modern game now that win-loss record is like a dinosaur’s footprint? Alcantara, who would be starting the game in any other city? Or Kershaw, who should make the team despite only making 10 starts?
Remember, we’re living in a world where the Commissioner just installed a rule that allowed him to plop Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera into the game for ceremonial purposes. That’s how he views the All-Star Game moving forward. Would it really be so crass to suggest he’s going to plant a Dodger to deliver the first pitch?
Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin bidding for All-Star Game start … and Clayton Kershaw?
Let’s get the unpleasantness out of the way: no one has pitched like Alcantara this year, who’s racked up 4.8 WAR alongside a 9-3 record and 1.82 ERA for the .500-ish Marlins. Without him, they’re nothing. With him, they’re fronted by a ground ball machine who can still dot 100 MPH sinkers in the seventh inning. It’s like if Yankees closer Clay Holmes were good for 100 pitches every five days.
In as non-homer a voice as possible, though: Gonsolin does have the edge in ERA at 1.62. He does have the edge in WHIP (0.801 to 0.908). Nobody has to bend over backwards to see why Gonsolin, who’s at least earned consideration on his own merits, might get a feel-good nod at home.
Manager Dave Roberts spoke on Thursday about the silent Gonsolin waiting in the weeds regarding his potential All-Star selection rather than boasting about it. Still, he acknowledged that the potential selection is doubtlessly motivating his surprise ace.
Gonsolin and Alcantara are the clear two favorites to earn the ceremonial gig, but until the decision is announced, there will always be a bit of a heartstring pull in Kershaw’s direction.
This is likely Gonsolin’s only chance at an All-Star start (even if you’re a believer, will he ever be this good again?), and the humble Kershaw knows that even if he never earns this honor, there’ll be plenty more coming his way.
Plus, with only 10 starts under his belt, a Kershaw All-Star nod for his hometown team will probably be “charity” enough for this particular midsummer classic. He’ll defer to Gonsolin, who will get then emotional bump over his Marlins rival.