(CBS Chicago/CBS Local) — Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game no longer really carries any importance beyond enjoyment and bragging rights. The prize of home-field advantage in the World Series was done away with last year. And given that this year’s game will be played in Cleveland, where stakes are low, that’s just fine.
Still, MLB expanded its All-Star Game voting process for this season. And with the primary phase now out of the way, fans will have a chance this week to pick starters (aside from pitchers). That honor no longer goes to the players at each position who receive the most votes. Now, the top candidates from the Primary advance to the Starters Election, where they must win again.
None of those players are Philadelphia Phillies, who haven’t been doing much winning of late. Nor do they play for the New York Mets, who seems to be imploding again right on schedule. The Phillies were just swept by the cellar-dwelling Miami Marlins. The Mets let their frustration overtake their better judgement after Sunday’s loss to the Chicago Cubs.
This week’s Baseball Report explores this season’s MLB All-Star voting, along with the Phillies’ struggles and the Mets’ drama.
MLB All-Star Voting
Once upon a time, the player with the most votes got to start in the All-Star Game. This year the top three vote-getters at each position (top nine outfielders) in the Primary, which ended last Friday afternoon (June 21), move on to the Starters Election, which begins Wednesday, June 26 at noon ET, The second phase runs for 28 hours.
Each league’s winner at each position (and top three outfielders) will start. Non-starters who advanced out of the Primary won’t necessarily make the rosters as a reserve. Pitchers and reserves will be selected via a combination of player ballots and commissioner decision. Full rosters will be announced Sunday, June 30.
This is where the All-Star voting process stands going into the second round. The 51 finalists are split among 10 American League and seven National League teams. The Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros have the most finalists (seven) of any team, followed by the New York Yankees (six) and the Minnesota Twins (four).
The top vote-getters include Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger (3,685,170); Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich (3,646,071); Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout (3,370,499); and Cubs shortstop Javier Baez (2,598,426). Lots of other familiar names fill out the list, including 2018 All-Stars like Astros outfielder George Springer, Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.
This year’s All-Star Game is scheduled for Tuesday, June 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Phillies In Free Fall
The Philadelphia Phillies need the All-Star break, and they need it fast. The team has lost seven in a row and nine of their last 10. The Miami Marlins, who are among the worst teams in baseball, just swept them in a three-game series at home. Before that, the National League East-rival Washington Nationals swept three games from them in DC.
The Phillies’ struggles date back at least to May 29. On that day, after dispatching with the St. Louis Cardinals, 11-4, they led the division by 3.5 games over the Atlanta Braves. Since then, they’ve gone 6-16 to drop to drop to 6.5 games behind the Braves. In that stretch, the Phillies have batted .222, scoring 82 runs on 159 hits, while giving up 125 runs on 208 hits.
For much of June, the team has played without outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who tore his left ACL. The productive veteran had been enjoying another strong season, and his absence from the leadoff position created a void a the top of the lineup.
Consistency is an issue up and down the roster. The rotation and bullpen are suspect, according to any number of indicators. Production at third base is woefully lacking. And high-priced acquisition Bryce Harper continues to struggle, batting .248 on the season, with 13 home runs, 50 walks and 98 strikeouts.
The Phillies start a four-game series Monday night with the imploding New York Mets. And the good news is that one of these teams has to win each of these four games.
The Mets lost to the Cubs Sunday, 5-3, after reliever Seth Lugo gave up a go-ahead three-run home run to Javier Baez in the eighth inning. Following the game, manager Mickey Callaway was repeatedly asked about his decision not to go to closer Edwin Diaz instead. Callaway, who has been under some pressure lately, didn’t react well.
After a postgame news conference, Callaway directed obscenities at Newsday‘s Mets beat reporter in response to a comment Callaway didn’t like. Pitcher Jason Vargas, defending his manager, had to be restrained from charging the reporter.
No physical altercation resulted. The team later apologized to the reporter and issued fines to Callaway and Vargas.
The Mets split their four-game series with the Cubs, even as Callaway’s seat got a little hotter.