The Cardinals' stake in this week's All-Star break festivities began on Sunday, when top prospect Shelby Miller and nearly ready reliever Eduardo Sanchez made brief and successful appearances in the MLB All-Star Futures Game. The Celebrity Softball Game is tape-delayed, but for the second year in a row it featured Ozzie Smith and Mad Men and the University of Missouri's own John Hamm in Cardinals caps.
The Celebrity Softball Game is basically low risk, but now that the Futures Game is over we can cross off No. 5 from this week's Top Five list of things not to worry about during the All-Star break.
5. Shelby Miller getting hurt in the Futures Game
Don't get me wrong, I was worried about it until it was over. It doesn't make much sense to be worried about the Cardinals' crown jewel just because he's pitching on ESPN2; he does the same thing every five days—OK, every 10 or 15 days, after the Cardinals are done skipping him, working with his mechanics, throwing side sessions, etc.—in the Quad Cities, but I can't help but fear the taste of the gods of baseball for terrible coincidence.
But Miller has, as of Sunday night, pitched in the Futures Game, and all is well. He threw 94 mph fastballs with a motion that Rick Sutcliffe couldn't stop calling smooth, or maybe even smooooooooth. You will also be happy to know that Eduardo Sanchez did not get hurt in the Futures Game.
4. All the Cardinals playing or not playing
I'd like to see all of the Cardinals play, especially first-timer Adam Wainwright, but if you happen to be National League manager Charlie Manuel I'd like to dedicate 20 percent of this week's SB Nation St. Louis Top Five to you: Don't worry about whether everybody plays or not.
Get the new All-Stars in there if you can, but there are 35 players now, including Omar Infante, of all people. It is neither easy nor reasonable to fit everybody onto a field that only has room for nine players at a time. This isn't just Because It Counts, because ...
3. That It Counts!
We probably shouldn't worry about that, either. All-Star games are filled with superstars, so it's hard to tell which team is the best, anyway, and given the wavering effort levels and the unstated need to put every last player on the field, it's impossible to tell who's going to win, let alone who should, no matter how much Bud Selig wishes that weren't the case.
So Charlie—and I'd like to thank you, first, for reading the site—I'm telling you not to worry about whether everybody gets in. Not because it counts, and I want the National League desperately to win, although I'd like that. I'm telling you not to worry because all the substitutions, especially of pitchers, are boring. The game is an exhibition. It's supposed to be fun to watch. Make it fun to watch.
2. That Joey Votto wasn't chosen ... at first
Don't get me wrong, that the current National League leader in OPS is not in the All-Star Game is a disaster of Biblical proportions—if there was a lot of fan voting in Biblical times, at least. But there are terrible snubs every year, and the All-Star Game remains enjoyable (when it isn't boring) anyway. Then he got picked in the Final Vote ... so justice was served.
We have every Hot Stove League for the rest of our lives to complain about All-Star snubs. My favorite? Jim Edmonds missing the All-Star Game in the middle of 2004, the best season of his career, and then finishing fifth in the MVP voting. Votto may yet win the MVP, and that will make complaining even more fun in 2020, when we reminisce about it. But in the meantime, let's just watch and enjoy.
1. That Matt Holliday, whom we like again (yeah!), will ruin his swing or his shoulder by participating in the Home Run Derby.
This is my least favorite trope in All-Star Game history. It is true that players often do worse after performing in the Home Run Derby, but ascribing that to Swinging For The Fences is something that requires a careful examination of this famous webcomic:
The most pressing confounder in any attempt to tie poor second-half performance to the Home Run Derby is that most players participating in the Home Run Derby are doing so because they've just had the best first half of their lives. If you have a player—let's call him... Schmose Schmautista, of the Schmoronto Schmue Schmays—who has hit 24 home runs in the first half of the current season after having never hit more than seven or eight in a half-season before, what is your forecast for his second half of the season? Is it 24?
Schmoze isn't hitting in the Home Run Derby this year for some reason, even though he's far and away the made-up, hypothetical player I'd most like to see there; the rumor is that Schmomissioner(?) Schmelig would prefer a player from the Schmankees make it. So when he hits 10 home runs in the second half we won't be assaulted with a Home Run Derby narrative about it. He'll hit fewer home runs in the second half than he did in the first half because the first half of 2010 was the best moment of his career.
Matt Holliday isn't having a particularly killer year with the home run, so this probably won't be a major concern in St. Louis. But if you need another reason not to worry about him taking an extra-crowded batting practice session tomorrow, consider that he has already participated in a Home Run Derby, and put up even better numbers afterward.
Of course, I wouldn't discount the possibility that he inadvertently hits Shelby Miller with a line drive.