Expect the Top 9 to list a lineup’s worth of hot takes, topics, stats or weekend preview points during each (or at least most) Fridays during the MLB season
So what are we to expect from the Chicago representatives in next week’s All-Star Game festivities in Washington D.C.?
Expect exposure for one. With two Cubs to compete in Monday’s Home Run Derby and three of the four overall ASG selections starting in the game the following evening, there will be plenty of chances for the three Cubbies and single Sox to do something that’ll make headlines and all that would be welcome in the sleepiest week of the summer sports schedule.
As this Chicago baseball season continues unfolding pretty much as expected — Cubs competing, Sox showing sparks with youth but losing overall — no matter what side you’re on in town you should mostly want the status quo to exist through next Wednesday.
Sure it’d be nice to see Kyle Schwarber swat 40 total rainmakers at Nationals Park, but he doesn’t need to overexert himself to prove a point (don’t need any of this action either, Schwarbs). Certainly you don’t want Javy Baez to do the same, though I can’t help but see him swinging like its 2015 either way. Having those two guys in tact and with no hitches in their swings for the Dog Days of August and beyond will be key for holding off the Brewers in the NL Central.
Beyond that, we know that Jon Lester is getting no play in the ASG given his pitching over this coming weekend. You got to appreciate the way teams work with each other in this way regarding the ASG. Sure it would be nice if Lester could get some on-field shine in the game but it’d be worse for the game if he had to be shut down in the second half and the Cubs subsequently tank their chances in the postseason because of it.
As far as the remaining Cub, Willson Contreras, goes and the only White Sox, Jose Abreu it’d be pretty surprising to see anything foul happen to either, both are well contained and at least in Abreu’s case certainly shouldn’t be asked to do much. Contreras has to don the “tools of ignorance” but we’re far from the age of Ray Fosse and Pete Rose. And who’d want that kind of smoke with Contreras anyway?
If there’s anything to expect I’d just expect fun. Every team has to be repped in the MLB ASG but you definitely feel a sense of justification with all the Chicago selections and that’s all you really need at this point of the season. Abreu is setting a great example on the South Side and Contreras and Baez are setting the pace up North while Lester is being exactly the high-profile ace that he was promised to be upon his historic signing.
If these guys aren’t all-stars then who is?
2018 Chicago MLB All-Stars
White Sox — Jose Abreu, 1B (2nd selection)
Cubs — Javier Baez, 2B (1st selection); Willson Contreras, C (1st selection); Jon Lester, P (5th selection, 2nd with Cubs)
A word on Abreu, White Sox fandom and all-star: even if the MLB all-star voting process was like, say the NBA’s, where every team doesn’t have to be repped, I would be quite sure that way more years than not you’d see a Sox player in the game, regardless of record.
For 1, Sox fans come out to vote as if its 1968 and the Daley dynasty is on the line, and 2, the Sox keep themselves a big, congenial guy who can hit — from Carlton Fisk to Harold Baines to Frank Thomas to Paul Konerko and now Abreu.
In spite of his not playing one playoff game since arriving here and not being showcased much on national TV beyond that, Abreu had enough marketability to get voted as a starter at his position. Regardless of number comparisons, Abreu plays in a league with the Yankees, the Red “Sawx” and the defending World Champions, all teams with players who benefit from much greater visability week to week. For Abreu to break through all that and earn his place as a star of stars is a true victory not only for Abreu but for the franchise and Sox nation.
4. — A big, big ups to our guys “The Bigs” who are getting deserved credit today for coining the “El Mago” tag for Javy Baez. You can see in the tweet below what a good look Jon Greenberg’s righteous column in The Athletic outlining their coverage and their nickname birthing was for them.
As an independent and black-owned entity we certainly ride with the guys Terrance Tomlin and Eugene McIntosh. They are true journos from the turf who can relate to the athletes of color on the diamond in ways that so many established writers and broadcasters can’t (and even the white ones for that matter, you’d never see Rosenthal refer to Anthony Rizzo as “Big Folks”).
And nicknames are big in baseball, just about every player of consequence has one and one as catchy as “El Mago” (“The Magician”) certainly couldn’t help but catch on nationally. So next time you see it or hear it, be it in the next week or beyond, respect game and we’re not just talking about Javy’s.
5. — How do you not root for this guy?
6. — Gonna be a while before the Cubs while out-do themselves at all-star like they did in 2016 with four starters and seven selections overall. Just two years later only Lester returns but you have to be impressed with Contreras and Baez providing a second wave of current North Side all-stars.
The current play of Contreras and Baez certainly underscores just how deep the class of guys that came up in 2015-16 were, how they were able to get rid of guys like Jorge Soler in order to get other talent to put them over the top and deal with injuries and career ebbs and flows coming from ’16 sweethearts like Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell.
With all those guys still around and more all-stars poking their heads out the ground, you have as great an example as to the success of the Theo Epstein rebuild as the world title is.
7. — The same year that the Cubs last dominated all-star talk, the White Sox were able to get their top two pitchers in (Chris Sale, Jose Quintana), neither of whom is still with the team — the price of being an obvious seller in a league where pitching wins championships.
Since then you got a deserved Avisail Garcia selection as a 2017 reserve and this year’s Abreu starting selection. You can say that these two encompass the entirety of the Sox’s current all-star level talent, everything else is developing, but injuries are derailing Garcia returning to that level as of now.
The grander context to which we may eventually provide Abreu’s selection this year exists in what’s in No. 3 and in No. 8 below. Could this be Abreu’s grandest accomplishment (along with 2014 Rookie of the Year), as a Sox before he’s eventually moved to somewhere where he can help in a playoff race this season? Man, I wouldn’t like that exactly, even if the Sox get a haul back, but its hard to shake that feeling.
8. — To trade Abreu…
Or not to trade…
9. — Top 3 Former Cubs/Sox in 2018 ASG: 1. Gleyber Torres (NYY); 2. Chris Sale (BOS); 3. Aroldis Chapman (NYY)
Follow Kyle Means on Twitter @Wrk_Wrt; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio