Youth rules, no strings at­tached

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

MIAMI — This time it doesn’t count.

That is, un­less you’re a mil­lion­aire ballplayer mo­ti­vated by the al­lure of an ex­tra $20,000.

Ma­jor League Baseball scrapped us­ing the Al­lS­tar Game to de­ter­mine home- field ad­van­tage in the World Se­ries af­ter do­ing so for 14 years.

So today’s 88th Mid­sum­mer Clas­sic at Mar­lins Park, the first in South Florida, is back to be­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion.

And that’s fine with Na­tional League Man­ager Joe Mad­don.

Mad­don, who man­aged the AL in 2009, said the change back to the game be­ing played as an ex­hi­bi­tion will al­ter his ap­proach.

“Un­der these cir­cum­stances I’m at­tempt­ing to chore­o­graph it in ad­vance

who is go­ing to play when, po­si­tion play­ers as well as pitch­ers,” said Mad­don, who guided the Chicago Cubs to their first World Se­ries ti­tle in 108 years last sea­son. “Of course, the ob­ject is al­ways to re­ally to win the game and get that Na­tional League pride go­ing re­gard­ing win­ning for the sake of win­ning, which is a won­der­ful method.

“But en­tirely dif­fer­ent thought process for me com­ing into this game than the last one. I’m pleased with it.”

The Na­tional League start­ing lineup in­cludes two mem­bers of the host 41-46 Miami Mar­lins, the third-place team from the NL East.

Mar­cell Ozuna, voted in by fans, will be in left field bat­ting eighth for the Na­tional League. Gian­carlo Stan­ton, se­lected as a re­serve, was Mad­don’s choice as des­ig­nated hit­ter and will bat sec­ond.

“It’s go­ing to be cool to be an­nounced in the start­ing lineup here at home, and I’m look­ing for­ward to it,” said Stan­ton, a four-time All-Star but un­able to play in two of the years he was se­lected due to in­jury. He was also the start­ing DH in 2014 at Min­nesota.

Stan­ton, who was knocked out in the first round of Mon­day night’s Home Run Derby, los­ing to Yan­kees catcher Gary Sanchez, said he is glad that the All-Star Game win­ner won’t fac­tor into the World Se­ries seed­ing (that will go to the team with the best reg­u­lar-sea­son record), say­ing the ob­jec­tive should be “have fun, have a good time with the fans.”

Mem­bers of the win­ning team will col­lect $ 20,000 apiece, some­thing that hasn’t been done be­fore.

The game will pro­vide a show­case of MLB’s im­pres­sive in­flux of young tal­ent rapidly as­cend­ing to All-Star level. There are 12 first-time All-Stars, the most since 1970.

The ros­ters in­clude 33 play­ers age 27 or younger.

Most no­table will be the de­buts of home run-ham­mer­ing up­starts Aaron Judge of the New York Yan­kees and Cody Bellinger of the Los An­ge­les Dodgers, the Rookie of the Year front-run­ners in their re­spec­tive leagues.

Judge, 25, the top All-Star vote-get­ter in the Amer­i­can League, leads the ma­jors with 30 home runs, many of them moon­shots at Yan­kee Sta­dium. Bellinger, the youngest in the game at 21, hit 25 home runs in 257 at-bats since be­ing sum­moned to the ma­jors in late April.

“I think when young guys get called up you kind of see the suc­cess that the guys had in the past,” Bellinger said Mon­day. “Watch­ing them, it makes you want to be even


One young face no­tably miss­ing is Jose Fer­nan­dez, the Mar­lins ace killed in a boat crash in Septem­ber, two months af­ter mak­ing his sec­ond All-Star ap­pear­ance. He could have been a pop­u­lar choice to start in the ball­park he dom­i­nated in his brief ca­reer.

The start for the NL goes to Max Scherzer, the Na­tion­als’ reign­ing Cy Young Award win­ner. Scherzer be­comes the fifth pitcher to start All-Star games in both leagues (2013).

Red Sox left-han­der Chris Sale starts for the Amer­i­can League. Sale is one of nine All­Stars who played for Florida high schools, the most of any state.

Judge was a prime mag­net of at­ten­tion dur­ing Mon­day’s me­dia ses­sion. Other first-time stars in the start­ing lineup are Justin Smoak (Blue Jays), Car­los Cor­rea ( Astros), Jose Ramirez (In­di­ans), Ge­orge Springer ( Astros), Corey Dick­er­son (Rays) and Zack Cozart (Reds).

“I think what we’re most ex­cited about is just the depth we have among young great play­ers,” said Tony Petitti, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of MLB. “It’s prob­a­bly never been ri­valed in the game. We feel re­ally good about what we’re see­ing with young play­ers.”

The emer­gence of so much young tal­ent in the ma­jors has brought con­sid­er­able turnover in re­cent All-Star Games. Kris Bryant, the NL Most Valu­able Player last sea­son at age 24, didn’t make the team this year.

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