The MLB All-Star Game is tonight, Phillies fans! The Midsummer Classic! The Big Show’s biggest show! Aren’t you excited?!?!?
You … aren’t … excited …?
Well, honestly, it’s hard to blame you. The Phillies are the worst team in baseball at the All-Star break by a considerable margin, trailing the fourth-place Mets by 10.5 games and posting the fewest first-half wins in all of baseball by five games. There are only eight teams in baseball with fewer than 40 victories, just two with less than 35 — the Giants have 34 in 90 games — and just one, the Fightin’ Phillies, hitting the break at sub-30 wins.
So, yeah, we could all use a few days off from baseball. Certainly Phils manager Pete Mackanin can. He told Bob Brookover he was headed down the shore to Stone Harbor to, as he put it, “go to the beach and let my wife nag me.”
“Let’s face it,” he said, “this break couldn’t come at a better time for me because it’s not fun. I might appear to still have a sense of humor, but that’s a defense mechanism so I can sleep at night.”
And so, if the Phillies manager probably isn’t even watching the All-Star Game tonight, why in the world should any Phillies fan? Here are five not-very-good reasons to tune in tonight:
1. Real actual good baseball
Night in and night out, the Phillies play bad baseball, so the ASG gives local fans a chance to actually see some real actual good baseball for a change, on both sides of the diamond. What’s more, while the Phillies seem mired in a longer-than-expected rebuilding process, this year’s showcase in Miami is full of young superstars, with many making their debut on this big a stage.
Through the All-Star fan vote, six of the nine starters for the American League and one in the National League are first-time All-Stars. With Millville, N.J. native Mike Trout injured, he was replaced in the starting lineup by Mookie Betts, who is making his second ASG appearance. In addition to the 28 first-time All-Stars this season, MLB boasts another 15 who have only been there once before. That means that of the 68 players named (voting, team selection, injury replacement, etc), nearly two-thirds are there for just the first or second time in their careers. Now, that doesn’t mean everyone of those All-Star newcomers is young. Case in point, the Phils’ lone selection is 36 years old. And he’s the only real reason for Phillies fans to watch.
2. Pat Neshek might be gone soon
Neshek has thrown just 35.1 innings this season in 38 appearances, but he boasts a 1.27 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched), which is in line with some of the better relievers in the NL this season. Is Neshek worthy of an All-Star spot? Sure, probably. Baseball’s rules ensure at least one player from every team makes the game, so despite the fact players like Archie Bradley of Arizona and Felipe Rivero of Pittsburgh have better numbers in the first half, Neshek got picked because there was nobody else worth taking from Philly, and the Diamondbacks had four guys on the team, with one from the Pirates making it over Rivero. It’s a bad rule, but it benefitted the sidearm hurler for the Phils. After tonight, the question will be how long he remains with the Phils.
Neshek is one of a few Phillies players on the market as the trade deadline approaches. Recent reports have the Royals, Red Sox and Yankees interested in the sidearm-throwing righty. He has no value long term to the Phillies, so it would be a shock if he’s still on the team by August. Frankly, letting him go home with another team from the break might be the Phils’ best bet to get something back of value.
2a. The Pat Neshek Drinking Game
If Neshek is all we’ve got tonight and we know he’s not going to be here for long, you might as well get sloshed during the very short appearance he’s likely have. The folks at The Good Phight created a Neshek-inspired drinking game to help get through tonight. There are copious eye rolls and references to the World Baseball Classic.
3. Philly sports celebrities could crash the ASG
While there many not be a remarkable list of Phillies at the All-Star game, there could still be a great list of loveable Philly sports figures in Miami tonight.
Pop quiz: Think of the two most beloved sports figures in Philly right now. How many of you said Joel Embiid and the Phillie Phanatic? All of you? (Did a few of you say Carson Wentz? That’s also fine.) Well, Wentz is eating bison burgers and listening to country music with the Eagles receivers in North Dakota right now, but both the Phanatic and The Process are in Miami for All-Star festivities.
Think of the trouble the Phanatic could get into on South Beach! And while we all hold our breath that Embiid stays out of trouble and healthy all off-season, he did catch a couple of foul balls at the Home Run Derby last night.
Next time, use a glove, big man. Did you see the exit velocity on those homers?
4. Boo the Mets, Braves, Marlins and Nationals
What’s the next best thing to rooting for the Phillies to win? Rooting for the Mets, Braves, Marlins and Nationals to lose. Truly, the only thing saving this baseball season is seeing how terrible the Mets also are. Still, while the Braves and Marlins are just below average, the Nats are very, very good. And that’s bad.
So let’s boo them. Boo your TV so loudly they can hear you over all the fanfare in Miami. Or at least boo so loud your neighbors yell at you to shut up. There will be plenty of opportunities to boo the Phils’ NL East rivals early and often. While the Mets and Braves only have one All-Star each in outfielders Michael Conforto and Ender Inciarte, respectively, the hometown Marlins have two starters in the game — outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna — and the first-place Nats have five players in Miami, including four starters. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Max Scherzer will all be starting, with Stephen Strasburg in the bullpen.
Of the 10 National League starters, six are from the Phillies’ division. Boooooooooooo.
5. Philly’s love affair with Joe Buck
The All-Star game coverage starts at 7:30 p.m., which means the local Joe Buck hatred will light up social media before the sun even sets. Here’s a sample of some local thoughts on the Fox broadcaster. I’m not a Joe Buck hater, so I’m probably in the local minority, but for those looking for a reason to hate-watch the All-Star Game tonight (other than Bryce Harper’s hair), it’s not just the NL East players you can boo, and it’s not just the Phillies reliever you can drink to.
There are Joe Buck-isms to drink to, too!
There are many, many Joe Buck drinking games on the internet, but most of them are football related. Here’s a more generic way to get sloshed in a completely muted and understated Buck-like manner. You can already feel the non-excitement.