If you want to rail about Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game and criticize it as a meaningless exhibition between the two leagues, you can probably find plenty of company.

If you are in that group, you could probably give us a treatise on how stupid baseball is for attaching victory in the All-Star Game to home-field advantage in the World Series.

That may serve as great fodder for the brilliant gurus who man the sports talk-radio shows, but here’s the bottom line: Before baseball gave the winning league home-field advantage in the Fall Classic, that advantage merely alternated between the leagues on an every-year basis.

It did not go to the team that had the best record. Perhaps that would make more sense, but Major League Baseball never went that route. So all the sport did was give some meaning to winning the All-Star Game.

Perhaps the All-Star Game will never have the meaning it did in 1955, when Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals homered off Frank Sullivan of the Boston Red Sox in the bottom of the 12th to give the National League a 6-5 victory. The American League will not be as desperate to win as it was in 1983, when the junior circuit rolled to a 13-3 victory after losing 11 consecutive All-Star Games to the National League.

But both sides will want to win the best All-Star Game in professional sports. The NFL may rule the sports world in nearly every area, but not when it comes to All-Star or All-Pro competitions.

Both sides have game-changing players in their starting lineups. In this piece, we’ll look at four key impact players from both the American League and the National League who will have a chance to put their signatures on the 86th All-Star Game from the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.


American League

2B Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

Altuve was a nice story for the Astros last year when they were a last-place team in the American League West. He led the league in batting with a .341 average, and he became the best second baseman in the American League.

This year, the Astros are a first-place team, and Altuve is their spark plug with 96 hits, 44 runs scored, 36 RBI and a .755 OPS. There is every reason to think he can play that same role for the American League All-Stars. He has the ability to start rallies and keep them going, and he is also a demon in the field.


3B Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have looked to Donaldson for the big hit all season long, and he has delivered quite well. Donaldson has belted 21 homers and knocked in 60 runs, and he also has a .301 batting average and a .901 OPS. Donaldson has fielded his position well, too, and he has been on a tear over the last month with 10 homers in his last 30 games. Donaldson could find Cincinnati’s cozy confines to his liking.


OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Trout won the MVP in last year’s All-Star Game, and he has all the tools to do it again. Trout is no longer the emerging superstar in the sport; he is fully established at this point because of his power, speed and outstanding defensive play. Trout has already hammered 24 home runs, and he has an eye-catching .998 OPS. National League pitchers will think twice before challenging Trout with men on base.


C Sal Perez, Kansas City Royals

Perez is the leader of the defending American League champions, and Kansas City has the best record in the AL through July 10. Perez is a big part of the reason the Royals have been so successful the last two years. While his offensive numbers are good—14 homers and 37 RBI—it’s the way he handles the defensive responsibilities that make him so special. He is a game-changing player who could have a huge impact Tuesday night.


National League

SS Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals

The former Detroit Tiger has been one of the best hitting shortstops in the major leagues for years, and he is having a sensational season for the NL Central-leading Cardinals. Peralta has belted 12 homers and knocked in 44 runs, and he has a .289 batting average and an .805 OPS. 


3B Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds

Frazier has been having a huge year, and National League fans took note of his 25 homers, 55 RBI and .923 OPS and put him in the starting lineup. If Frazier can put on a power show in the All-Star Game and lead the National League to a victory, he will have a chance to win the MVP Award for the game. No player competing in his home ballpark has won the MVP since Pedro Martinez did it for the Red Sox while playing in the Fenway Park All-Star Game in 1999.


OF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

While few are going to make an argument that Trout is not the best young player in baseball, Harper has a chance to give the Angels superstar a run for his money. Harper is having his best year with the Nationals, and he has put on a brilliant power display through the first half of the season. Harper has 25 homers, 60 RBI and an off-the-charts OPS of 1.181. He has a chance to dominate this year’s All-Star Game.


2B Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins

When the National League was dominating the All-Star Game in the 1960s and ’70s, the Senior Circuit had a huge advantage in a number of areas. One of their biggest edges was in the speed department with players like Willie Mays, Lou Brock, Maury Wills and Cesar Cedeno. While the American League long ago caught up and passed the National League in talent, Gordon has the kind of speed that could cause big problems for the American League. Gordon has 119 hits, a .333 batting average and 33 stolen bases. If Gordon gets on base, he will test Perez with his base-stealing ability.

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