As I lamented last week, the All-Star Game counts now. It shouldn’t given how much a of a circus it is from a purely competitive baseball standpoint, but it does count. And today is the tenth anniversary of the thing that led to this state of affairs: the ugly 2002 All-Star Game which ended in a tie when each side ran out of players.
Chris Jaffe has a remembrance of that over at The Hardball Times today. It just warms my heart to recall a game reaching the end of regulation play with only Vicente Padilla and Freddy Garcia available and hitters like Jose Hernandez and Tony Batista taking the key at bats. Star power, baby.
The thing about it: Bud Selig’s solution of making the All-Star Game count for home field advantage has done little to change the approach of the All-Star Game managers. Sure, there are now safeties in place to ensure that teams can reuse position players and hold pitchers in reserve, but the underlying dynamic which led to the trouble — managers trying to give everyone playing time and all the truly great players being showered and gone by the time the game reaches the late innings — still reigns.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: