Read in the normal Western way of reading things, the above logo says “2012 Royals All-Star Game.” Yet, while it’ll be held at Kauffman Stadium, and while I’m sure we’ll have plenty of shots of George Brett in the crowd, the actual game and surrounding festivities seem likely to have as little to do with the 2012 Royals as the rules make it possible to.
Every team is required to be represented by at least one player in the game, and the Royals will be represented by exactly one, Billy Butler. Butler isn’t starting the game or contending in the Home Run Derby (and he’s not much of a HR hitter, frankly, but Larry Granillo doesn’t think it should matter). He’s listed as a DH, so it’s far from a guarantee that when he does play, you’ll see him in the field (though Konerko is the only reserve 1B, so it’s certainly possible), and Adam Dunn is also on the reserve roster as a DH, both backing up David Ortiz, so it’s not a guarantee that he’ll get more than one plate appearance (or even that, technically, except it seems safe to assume that Ron Washington will find a way to get the one hometown guy in there). There are close to seventy-five All-Stars; only one of them plays for the Royals. In fact, only one other of them used to play in Kansas City: Carlos Beltran, who was last a Royal in mid-2004 and had his two best seasons (by rWAR) in a Mets uniform.
It’s a great city with what I’m told is a great, recently-remade stadium, and it should be a terrific showcase for the city and the organization. But if you’re a lifelong Kansas Citian and Royals fan who has the opportunity to head down the street and check out the game, there’s not much to keep you interested. Part of every All-Star Game in living memory (and probably not an essential or even necessarily a good part, but unmistakably a part of the experience) is the mostly-hometown crowd going nuts over their own hometown players, and there will be very little opportunity for that tomorrow night.
Does this actually have a chance to be the least involved a host team has ever been in an All-Star Game? Here are what I see as the fifteen current contenders:
2010, Angel Stadium: Torii Hunter (.298/.385/.521 at the break) and Jered Weaver (3.20 ERA and 137 K in 121 innings) were both deserving All-Stars, but Weaver was unable to pitch thanks to a rule that prevented pitchers who had pitched on Sunday from appearing, and Torii got only two plate appearances, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout as a replacement for Ichiro and making one play in center.
2005, Comerica Park: Two seasons off that 119-loss year but one season away from a World Series appearance, the Tigers’ lone representative was Ivan Rodriguez, hitting .292/.304/.456. He came in to replace Jason Varitek and went 0-for-1 with a strikeout and a walk (unofficially just his sixth walk of the whole season), and while he’s credited with having made two plays, they were all just catching strikeouts.
1996, Veterans Stadium: The Phillies would go on to lose 95 games that season, so pickings were slim to begin with. Curt Schilling would put up a fine season, but injuries had limited him to just 11 first-half starts. Benito Santiago had a fine first half for a catcher (.243/.316/.452 and 13 of an eventual 30 homers), but the league also boasted Mike Piazza and Jason Kendall in their primes, and Todd Hundley in that freak 41-homer year. So the Phils were left with closer Ricky Bottalico as their sole hometown representative, and perhaps one of the worst selections in All-Star history (he had 20 saves at the break, but a 3.61 ERA). Bottalico threw a scoreless fifth, retiring the side in order with one strikeout, as the NL won 6-0.
1994, Three Rivers: The Pirates hosted again in their new park twelve years later, and by then they were lucky enough to have Jason Bay, who started the game; that spared them from a repeat of 1994, when their lone representative was a second baseman named Carlos Garcia, who was hitting just .267/.307/.332 at the break. Garcia did get into the game and picked up a single in two at-bats, and handled one fielding chance successfully.
1989, Anaheim Stadium: Eerily similar to 2010, actually. Center fielder Devon White got one (unsuccessful) at-bat, filling in for starter Kirby Puckett; starting pitcher Chuck Finley was selected, but did not appear.
1985, Metrodome: In the year before the first of Kirby Puckett’s ten straight All-Star appearances, the hosting Twins’ only rep was right fielder Tom Brunansky, who came into the break hitting .265/.359/.508 with 19 homers (it was all downhill from there). He replaced Eddie Murray in the batting order, and grounded out to short; he played the last three innings in right, but didn’t handle a fielding chance. Former (and future) Twin Bert Blyleven did throw two innings (bad ones), and Twin Cities native Dave Winfield was the starting RF.
1984, Candlestick Park: Catcher Bob Brenly and outfielder Chili Davis were both selected to represent the Giants; both pinch hit for pitchers, made outs, and were removed for the next new pitcher.
1974, Three Rivers: Those poor Pirates. This was a team that won 88 games and featured Hall of Famer Willie Stargell and superstar Al Oliver, and yet the Bucs’ lone representative for their own All-Star Game was…Ken Brett. He did pitch two scoreless innings, and was credited with the win.
1968, Astrodome: Jim Wynn had made the team in ’67, but couldn’t make it again for his home-hosted game, despite clearly being the team’s best player (that year as in many others). Rusty Staub made it, pinch hit for Steve Carlton, popped out to third and was replaced.
1963, Cleveland Stadium: Mudcat Grant was Cleveland’s only representative (5-8 with a sub-par ERA, but it’s hard to find another option on this squad), and he didn’t get into the game.
1956, Griffith Stadium: The Senators of 1956 lost 95 games, and lone rep Roy Sievers was having a nice season — .267/.388/.510 at the break — but he wasn’t a household name yet (it was the following season that he batted .301 while leading the AL in homers and RBI). Accordingly, Sievers wasn’t used until he was brought in to pinch hit for Early Wynn in the bottom of the ninth, and popped out in the infield for the second-to-last out of the game.
1950, Comiskey Park: If you look back far enough, it starts to feel like the White Sox have hosted the ASG approximately every other year. This one was pretty forgettable for hometown fans, though; Roy Scarborough was the lone Chicago Americans player selected, and he didn’t pitch, and he’d only been with the team for about six weeks, having been traded from the Senators on May 31. I don’t see any prominent former White Sox on the roster, either.
1943, Shibe Park: I thought I’d be excluding all games in which the hometown team had a starter in the game, but this was special. The lone Philly Athletic invited to the game at his home stadium was Dick Siebert, who started at first base, batting fifth…but was then pinch hit for in the third inning after flying out in the second. It’s understandable, though: Siebert was hitting just .254/.291/.339 at the time and, I’m guessing, was the last first baseman selected to play in the game while he had 0 home runs (he ended the year with 1). Those Athletics lost 102 games.
1937, Griffith Stadium: Unquestionably a very different game by now. The rosters were just 25 men deep, and three Senators — brothers Wes and Rick Ferrell and Buddy Myer — were among the American League’s 25. None of them saw action.
1936, Braves Field: Wally Berger was the lone Brave, and he didn’t play. But the NL used only two substitute position players, so that meant something different then than it would now.
Now, Ron Washington would have to have a death wish not to use Butler at all, so the host team will make more of an appearance tomorrow night than it did in 1936, ’37, ’50, or ’63.
This is the 49th All-Star Game since the one Mudcat Grant didn’t pitch in, though, and assuming Butler enters the game as a DH, gets one (or possibly even two) PA and doesn’t do anything particularly notable, I think you could argue that this would be the most meager showing by any host team at an All-Star Game for very close to the last fifty years. The ’85 Twins did nothing, but had those other local ties; the ’84 Giants did less, but at least their fans got two players to cheer in the introduction rather than just the one. One guy, not starting or playing in the HR Derby, who might not even get to wear a glove? This 2012 Royals All-Star Game has the potential to be so non-Royalsy, it’s like nothing most of us has ever seen.
(Now watch Butler go hit two homers and win the MVP.)