Forget about how the Cubs aren’t sending as many people to baseball’s All-Star Game on Tuesday as they did last year, when practically everyone but the grounds crew went.
The real question is when baseball will send the All-Star Game to the Cubs.
Wrigley Field last played host in 1990. The next open slot to be assigned is 2020. There are 30 Major League Baseball teams, making a 30-year wait fair, logical and make perfect sense for Major League Baseball.
So no chance, right?
That’s not how this works.
Eighty-four years after Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward’s brought the first All-Star Game in Comiskey Park, baseball is playing its 88th All-Star Game and there’s no predictable pattern to what teams get to host, when and why.
There’s no simple rotation from team to team.
No longer does the exhibition reliably alternate from American League ballpark to National League.
Even building a new ballpark doesn’t ensure a jump to the front of the line, though obviously it can’t hurt and it ought to help the Cubs’ chances whenever the work crews finally move out of Wrigleyville.
That’s said, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has made noises about possibly putting the whole thing up for bid, telling ESPN a couple years ago, “One of the things that I am going to try to do with All-Star Games is — and we’ll make some announcements in the relatively short-term — I am looking to be in more of a competitive-bidding, Super Bowl-awarding-type mode, as opposed to (saying), ‘You know, I think Chicago is a good idea.'”
But Chicago is a good idea.
Wrigley is a good idea, and overdue.
Since the Cubs last played host to the game, the Pirates and Padres have managed to land the game twice, and Cleveland, site of the All-Star Game in 1997, already has been tabbed for 2019 after Washington, D.C. next year.
The Dodgers have been ignored even longer than the Cubs. They hosted the 1959 game at the quaint old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, it has been site of the All-Star Game exactly once and that was 1980.
Assuming the Dodgers ever get the game again, Cleveland will have had at least three All-Star Games in the interim.
The Cleveland pick was something of an upset. That’s because, A:, it will break a run of four successive National League parks; B: it’s the second time the game has come to Progressive Field and C: … it’s Cleveland.
That’s not a knock on Cleveland, a lovely city with a giant rubber stamp in a park, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and a statue of Jim Thome at the ballpark.
But if you had a few days to take a break and throw a party for yourself, would you choose Cleveland over Chicago? Over L.A.?
The 2019 game will be the Indians’ sixth time as host. Chicago — with both the Cubs and White Sox, who had the game last in 2003 — have only had seven.
New York City, thanks to four host teams over the years, has had the game nine times. And to those who say, well, the White Sox last got the game in 2003 so Chicago can wait: The Yankees had it in 2008 and MLB still handed the game to the Mets just five years later.
Pity the poor Tampans and St. Petersburgers who have had that big ugly dome of theirs since 1990 and had the Rays playing in it since 1998. Yet they haven’t had the All-Star Game once.
The closest they came was the 2003 game awarded to the White Sox, who passed on their invitation to move to Florida, keeping their home and the game in Chicago and Illinois, where rubber stamps are used, not displayed as public art.
Maybe MLB is waiting for the Rays to get a new ballpark. It’s almost certainly waiting to see an upgrade from the A’s, whose All-Star Game in Oakland was 30 years ago.
The Blue Jays and Orioles last hosted 26 and 21 years ago, respectively, though Baltimore’s proximity to 2018 host D.C. probably doesn’t help its near-term chances.
Meanwhile, the Braves this season moved into a new ballpark for the second time in 21 years and no doubt will want to show it off the way they did Turner Field in 2000.
The Rangers, who had the 1995 All-Star Game, are hoping to be in a new ballpark by 2020 or so. With a retractable roof to reduce the risk of VIPs melting in the stands, it surely will ask for consideration.
Building a pricey new taxpayer-supported ballpark that opened five years ago — complete with a roof to seal out the heat and humidity — helped get the All-Star Game to Miami this year for the first time.
But citizens were on the hook for a chunk of the Phillies’ aptly named Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004, and they have yet to get the All-Star Game.
Philadelphia last welcomed the All-Stars in 1996 and there’s a good chance people who weren’t there don’t even recall it.
That’s because the Phillies back then played in Veterans Stadium, a multipurpose stadium virtually identical and often mistaken on TV for Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium or an Eastern European prison yard.
Is where MLB stages its play baseball’s All-Star Game the most important issue in the world? No. It’s not even the most important in baseball.
It’s become unclear how invested anyone is supposed to be in the game itself.
But hosting the All-Star Game can be fun even for those uninterested in or unable to attend the game, the home run contest and the celebrity softball game. There are concerts, a parade, a fan festival and more.
And, by any standard, the Cubs, Wrigley Field and Chicago deserve it sooner than later.
This may not be Cleveland, but still.