There was once a time, before MLB.tv and interleague play, when the All-Star Game really meant something. Most fans didn’t have a chance to see players in the other league unless their team made the World Series. Seeing the most popular players in the other league, even for a single exhibition game, was a fun novelty in the middle of a much-needed break in the regular season. But as teams in both league became more accessible to fans across the country, interest in the All Star Game waned and MLB went to great lengths to revitalize it.
First, MLB implemented “This Time It Counts”, awarding home field advantage to the winning league in the WS. When that failed to bring in the ratings MLB desired, in 2024, the stakes were raised with “No, Really, This Time It Definitely Counts” in which the teams in the winning league were awarded an extra roster spot for the remainder of the season. People thought that was rightfully stupid, so MLB petitioned the U.S. Congress to pass the “It Counts More Than Ever Act of 2037”, in which Federal highway funds were awarded to cities in the league winning the All-Star Game. When even that wasn’t enough to get people interested in 2045, the United Nations issued its controversial UN Declaration of Making It Count, which denied human rights protections from fans of teams in the losing league.
Back in alt-2014, most of this was in the future. The All Star Game was a glamorous spectacle about honoring fan favorites and stupidly determining home field advantage. And the two starting pitchers for the American League and National League were no surprise.
Indeed, the ASG would be a rematch between the deranged mind of Mike Mussina inside of a robot body and the time traveling pitching machine chosen by Mike Trout to save baseball. But they weren’t the only machines chosen to represent their respective leagues in the exhibition game. In fact, all three position player Robot Masters were in the lineup, with Dixie Dirtbag holding down shortstop in the NL, Preacher Cobra at C and Flash Money at RF in the AL.
The real surprise, of course, was Pat Burrell making his first ever All-Star Game at the ripe old age of 37. Somehow, the right handed slugger had never been selected to the ASG throughout his natural career. While this proves that the world is a cruel and terrible place, the fans of alt-2014 put things right by electing him to LF even though he was almost exclusively playing DH.
Strike-O-Matic and Pat Burrell found themselves in the strange position of allying with Flash Money and Preacher Cobra to defeat the National Leaguers. Winning the World Series was the ultimate goal of all the Robot Masters, and each one still believed they could reach the postseason.
The first inning started out promising for the American League, with Mike Trout leading off against PrimeTime Moose. Even with a bunch of robots from the future, Mike Trout was still the best player in baseball and still knew how to handle the devious knuckle-curve.
Then, in the top of the second inning, Strike-O-Matic ran into a little trouble, walking the dangerous Dixie Dirtbag to face Aramis Ramirez. As any Cardinals fan knows, you should never underestimate Aramis Ramirez.
So almost immediately after gaining a 1-0 lead, Strike-O-Matic gave it up. A quick mound visit settled him down, and he was able to end the inning with a strikeout of Mark Trumbo.
Unfortunately, that was all for the two robot pitchers. As was the fashion in the All Star Game before basic human rights became at issue, pitchers only threw 2 innings maximum. PrimeTime Moose left after his first frame and Strike-O-Matic exited after the second. Surprisingly, given that they were easily the best pitchers in their respective leagues, the scoring stopped as soon as they were in the dugout. A parade of excellent starters and relievers put up zero after zero on the scoreboard, holding the game at 2-1 until the eighth inning.
It looked like there was no way the American League was going to break through. Then, in the eighth inning, Addison Reed gave up a walk and a single, bringing Flash Money (who for some strange reason hadn’t been taken out of the game) to the plate.
Money’s double plated two runs, giving the American League a lead that would hold up in the ninth, sealing home field advantage for the junior circuit in the World Series, no matter which of the represented teams took the pennant.
The All-Star Game wasn’t the only important event in the month of July. July 31 was the non-waiver trade deadline, meaning that any team wanting to make a significant trade needed to start working on it shortly after the break. By now, most teams knew whether they were buyers or sellers. Contenders had identified their weaknesses, and the lower division teams had identified their expendable parts to trade for prospects.
For the alt-2014 Royals, the imperative was clearly the improvement of the MLB team. The Royals had a 3.5 game lead in the AL Central following the all-star break, but were victims of periodic inconsistency. They had only managed to pull into first place in late June, and their grip on the division was tenuous as best. The Indians and the Tigers were still a threat, and the Royals still had plenty of holes. Their offensive production from SS and 2b was lacking. Despite a few dramatic hits, Mike Moustakas at 3b probably wasn’t the best they could do. Same for Sal Perez.
Once again, Pat Burrell decided to take a look at the trading block. Last time, he had learned that the players listed there could be acquired for almost nothing at all. As long as he targeted a player on the list, he could pull off a steal of a deal and improve the Royals one more time before their push to the playoffs.
The trading block immediately following the All Star Break:
Once again, if there are any players who you’d like to see added to the alt-2014 Royals down the stretch run, let me know by harassing me on twitter at @RedbirdMenace.