As the year ends, baseball is entering the offseason. The players will start their offseason workouts in the coming weeks and the results will be seen in the coming years. One of the main reasons is the upcoming MLB Draft. The draft is a possibility for many players to enter the MLB. But, the draft is not only being used for the MLB. Players can also be drafted by the MLB in the amateur draft.
It’s been an exciting week in baseball. Last Sunday, the American League All-Star team defeated the National League 4-3 on a walk-off home run by Giancarlo Stanton. In addition, the Mariners selected high schooler (and, as a bonus, Japanese national) center-fielder Ohtani as their second pick in the MLB Draft, and the Angels drafted Japanese 18-year-old shortstop Guerrero Jr. He should both help the Angels surprise-and-delight their fans in 2019, and should be a fun player to watch when he eventually joins the majors.
This week, the MLB All-Star Game was once again in the nation’s capital, and even though our nation’s capital is slightly dominated by the white, male, elite, it’s still a major part of our country’s culture. However, an undeniable truth is that baseball in general, and the All-Star Game in particular, is at a crossroads.
The 2021 MLB All-Star Game could be something of a political battleground. Instead, young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani have shown why being a baseball fan may never have been more exciting.
Vladdi and Ohtani were the highlights of an exciting week in Denver. The two players are also emblematic of how a young group of charismatic MLB superstars are attracting new audiences and inspiring baseball fans across the country, regardless of their political affiliation.
All-Star Weekend wasn’t supposed to be in Denver.
The festivities were to take place at Truist Park in Atlanta, where the Braves team plays. However, the MLB decided to move All-Star weekend out of Atlanta after the state of Georgia passed a controversial election law.
The bill has been scrutinized across the country, including by Nick Coraciniti and Reid J. K. Koch. Epstein of the New York Times, for limiting the number of ballots and creating a set of restrictions on voting. Commissioner Rob Manfred previously said that the MLB has discussed with the players the best course of action before deciding on a new location for the All-Star weekend.
Major League Baseball supports the right to vote for all Americans and opposes restrictions at the ballot box, Manfred said in a statement obtained by ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez. In 2020, the MLB became the first professional sports league to join the Bipartisan Citizens Alliance to build a future where everyone has a stake in shaping America. We are proud to have used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities across the country to fulfill their civic duty and actively participate in the election process. Equal access to voting rights still has the full support of our party.
The decision was met with much praise, but also with many headwinds. The Atlanta Braves issued a statement expressing their disappointment and suggesting that businesses and fans had been victimized.
Ultimately, Major League Baseball chose Coors Field to host the All-Star festivities.
Much of the political discussion surrounding the All-Star Game seemed to have died down in recent months, but the Republican National Committee has attempted to revive the debate.
The RNC has launched an ad featuring former Georgia House of Representatives member Reverend Melvin Emerson. The ad accuses the Democratic Party of using the All-Star Game to promote its divisive political agenda.
One might reasonably wonder if some Americans would boycott All-Star Weekend because of some of the statements in the ads. However, the numbers tell a different story.
Bill Shea of The Athletic reported that Fox Sports averaged 8.24 million viewers nationally on Tuesday, up from 8.14 million in 2019. This figure rises to 8.31 million viewers in the United States if the Spanish-language channel Fox Deportes is included. The volume of streaming has also increased significantly. In addition, Fox said it was the most televised game in All-Star history.
Shea also noted that the Home Run Derby, won by New York Mets pitcher Pete Alonso, drew the largest crowd since 2017.
Needless to say, interest in the star-studded cast represented in Denver remained high. It appears that talent has largely replaced protest or political reservations.
Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani and Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are two of baseball’s biggest figures | Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Why were there so many spectators at the Weekend of the Stars? The intriguing talents of guys like Guerrero and Ohtani are obviously a major contributor to the increase in viewership.
Guerrero was arguably the best player in baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays’ hitter leads the majors in batting average (.332), on-base percentage (.430), RBIs (73) and OPS (1.089). He has a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown, and on Tuesday he showed his immense power by being voted MVP of the All-Stars.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. became the youngest player to score a goal in the All-Star Game since Johnny Bench in 1969.
Guerrero Jr. is 22 years and 119 days old; Bench is 21 years and 228 days old. pic.twitter.com/FZ2thZdke6
– ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) 14. July 2021
Ohtani does it both at the plate and on the mound. He leads the majors in home runs (33) and slugging percentage (.698) and is averaging 3.49 earned runs in 13 starts with 87 strikeouts in 67 innings. The Japanese star participated in a home run derby, appeared as a team hitter in the American League and was also a starting pitcher in the American League. What he does is truly unprecedented.
Guerrero and Ohtani are just two examples of the incredible wave of new talent in the MLB. San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is another regular, as is Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto.
It is yet to be discussed how best to develop the sport. But if Manfred and co. do their job right, the buzz around these stars should go beyond political theater.
Statistics provided by Baseball Reference.
COMPARED TO: Stephen A. Smith xenophobically argues that Shohei Ohtani should not be the face of baseball because he needs an interpreter to understand what he is saying.
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