SAN DIEGO -- Thank you for joining us, Giancarlo. It was sure nice having you here. By all means, grab a fish taco or two for the ride home. You've earned it, buddy.As for the rest of you players assembled here in America's Finest City -- the ones who will
SAN DIEGO -- Thank you for joining us, Giancarlo. It was sure nice having you here. By all means, grab a fish taco or two for the ride home. You've earned it, buddy.
As for the rest of you players assembled here in America's Finest City -- the ones who will take part in tonight's 87th All-Star Game presented by MasterCard (7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT on FOX) -- well, what can we say? Giancarlo Stanton gave you a tough act to follow.
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But if the game itself is anywhere near as captivating as the Giancarlo Show -- also known as the T-Mobile Home Run Derby -- we're on the cusp of something special at Petco Park. And David Ortiz's midsummer send-off, an all-Cubs infield, two-time reigning MVP Mike Trout, 34 first-time participants and the many other stars and storylines that make up this Midsummer Classic all lead us to believe this showcase is in capable hands.
Stanton was not selected to be a part of the All-Star exhibition. But he dismissed his would-be day off to make this trip, because he knew the Derby was his calling. Stanton wanted to put on a show, wanted to claim the trophy he was born to win.
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"You see this bad boy?" Stanton said, trophy in hand. "That's why I came here, and I'm taking it with me."
Stanton took it with a 61-homer display -- a number that conjures up images of baseball Maris-tocracy. He lit up the Statcast™ radar, dethroned defending champ Todd Frazier in the final round, 20-13, and captivated the Petco crowd and a national TV audience along the way.
And to think, this monstrous man whose free-and-easy swing can send baseballs hurtling into the upper reaches of the Western Metal Supply Co. was but a mere opening act.
Now let's dig into the headliners of this National League vs. American League experience.
You can start with Big Papi, who, at 40 years old, might not be ripping the 120-mph rockets Stanton showed us on Derby Day but is definitely still bashing the baseball in his Fenway farewell this year. You think back to past All-Star Games and remember the magic moments involving legends approaching their final frame. Cal Ripken Jr. going deep off Chan Ho Park. Mariano Rivera pitching a perfect eighth. Derek Jeter going 2-for-2 with a double.
It's no stretch to assume Ortiz, a man who lives for the big stage, is going to deliver an equally awesome adieu.
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"I'm going to try and take my time and have fun," Ortiz said. "Maybe I'll see things I haven't seen before. Everything moves so fast."
How quickly Trout has compiled an impressive All-Star résumé. Five full seasons, five All-Star appearances, two All-Star Game MVPs. That's efficiency that is tough to top.
By now we know not to expect Trout to tout his talents, to boast about his brilliance. He's as understated as they come -- at least, until he takes the field. And while it's become easy to expect greatness from Trout in every facet of the game, he takes none of this for granted.
"It'll never get old," Trout said of the All-Star experience. "You look forward to it. One of your goals, your individual goals, is to make the All-Star team. It's pretty special to be with these great, talented guys and great teammates."
Trout and all the others will be showed off on the sun-splashed streets of San Diego. The annual All-Star parade, with former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman and Hall of Fame outfielder Dave Winfield serving as grand marshals, begins at the Manchester Grand Hyatt at 1 p.m. PT and allows the All-Stars to be feted and celebrated on their way to work.
The Cubs' contribution to the cavalcade is a particularly weighty one, what with seven representatives in all. But the really staggering stat is that this Cubs team is just the second in history -- joining the 1963 Cardinals -- to field the entire starting infield (first baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Addison Russell and third baseman Kris Bryant) of an All-Star squad. We've spent the past two days -- at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and the Derby -- distracted by those retro brown-and-yellow unis. But in the game itself, it will be striking to see the Cubs' clothes in such large supply.
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"Just looking around the infield," Russell said, "it's going to feel pretty comfortable."
Padres slugger Wil Myers is comfortable in these surroundings, though he's the first to admit his role as All-Star ambassador has been a whirlwind.
"It's been a lot," Myers said. "It's been nonstop since 7:40 [Monday] morning. But I'm enjoying it. I'm trying to soak it all in, take it all in. Obviously, it gets tiring a little bit, but this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, so I just want to enjoy every bit of it."
NL manager Terry Collins tabbed Myers for his designated hitter and cleanup slot, a nice nod to the "hometown" kid. The starting nods went to the Giants' Johnny Cueto in the NL and White Sox ace Chris Sale in the AL, and Sale made it clear that his in-season approach of scaling back his fastball in the name of weak contact will be tossed into the Pacific for this start.
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"I'm planning on letting it eat for an inning, really," Sale said. "Just getting after it. There are no repercussions that come from the game other than having fun and competing."
Well, that might be true on an individual level, but the team-wide goal remains the same as it's been since 2003: to claim home-field advantage in the World Series. It will be months before we'll know who will benefit from the outcome, but we have history to suggest the benefit is big. In the past 30 World Series, the team with home-field advantage has won it all 24 times, and the home team has won nine of the past 10 World Series Game 7s.
"I think it's important," Collins said. "Obviously, this is a showcase of the greatest players in the game. But you know what? Deep inside, they all want to win."
Stanton wanted to win the Derby, and he came here and did just that. Now it's time for the main event. And much like a drive off Giancarlo's booming bat, it's bound to be a blast.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.