PEMDAS: AKA The Best Part of the All Star Game is the Intros
Growing up, I was never a big math nerd but I always loved the Order of Operations. For those of you who may not remember elementary school math, the Order of Operations is the principle that dictates how evaluate a mathematical equation (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract). The reason why I loved it so much is because when approaching a situation, I knew exactly how I should be reacting to each individual aspect that makes up that equation.
When watching the MLB All Star Game, this same principle dictates what players I should root for that I dont know. The game itself is meaningless, and the intros in terms of actual competition mean even less, but I absolutely LOVE them, because based on the crowd reaction, in a way I am told “here are the good guys, here are the irrelevant guys, choose your own adventure.” The introductions are a chance for the best players in the sport to be recognized by fans from a completely different city, who have removed regional alliances from their rooting interests, to ignore relievers that don’t matter, and heap appropriate praise on the true gatekeepers of the game. For me at home, I get a chance to say “Oh, Robinson Cano already has 8 appearances? Wade Davis has 3?” Just by seeing these players, and how many times they’ve been at the game, I have a pre-determined order of operations that tells me ‘wait a second, this guy should matter.”
As a child growing up, I loved the idea of the game because I was able to see Griffey, Bonds, McGwire, Maddux, Tony Gwynn and The Big Unit all on the same field. It was so cool to me as a 10-year old, especially as my childlike mind didn’t yet understand the concepts of interleague play (it didn’t exist yet), steroid use (it most certianly existed but only in the shadows) and that anything was more important than baseball (hey Donald Trump, thanks for ruining literally everything). As I’ve matured over the years (please don’t ask my mom or x-girlfriends for references), the shine of the game itself has certainly worn off, but the understanding that a player with 5 ASG appearances may become a Hall of Famer certainly has not. Salvador Perez has 5- PEMDAS dictates that he could be well on his way to a plaque. Starlin Castro has 4 and he’s only 27, he definitely can be too. Nelson Cruz has 5- he is no HOF level player, but with that recognition it seems clear that he’ll be remembered in the Moises Alou All Stars- guys that were fucking awesome, but clearly had no chance of sniffing the Hall.
Outside of the number of appearances a player makes seeing the crowd reaction also allows for a certain amount of joyful reflection on a career. Clayton Kershaw, who wasn’t playing last night but will go down as one of the 5 best pitchers ever, got an enormous ovation from the crowd. Yadier Molina, who kind of under the radar has picked up 8 ASG nods on his way to a surefire HOF career, got a huge ovation as well. I love the idea of being witness to greatness, and there’s no better collection of greatness in one setting than an All Star Game, which can have upwards of 80 players on the field.
Because there are so many players, that order of operations that shows unbridled love for the studs also dictates how I should watch the non-HOF guys as well. Specifically, I should know that their level of play isn’t beyond reproach, and accordingly, I can react to them however I want to. I’ve never seen Brad Hand before, or that random reliever with lights out stuff from the Brewers (corey knebel, come on down), and in my mind, having literally 2 seconds to see them on-screen allows me to judge a book by its cover. While this is not a good thing to do in real life, it is an awesome thing to do in fan life. If-a Zack Cosart tips his cap the right way and gives a good smile, I will allow myself to root for him to keep up this hot pace he’s displayed all year. A guy like Joey Votto, one of my all-time favorite players, can just stand their with a shit-eating grin, and I absolutely LOVE it. Some players will just mean mug the camera, or carry a flag representing their home country, and those little 2-second bits of expression, which are far too frequently frowned upon during the regular season, allow some insight into these players’ psyches that didn’t previously exist. I probably won’t see a lot of them again until the playoffs roll around, and some of them I may forget entirely, but for those 2 seconds, I get to judge DJ Lamaheiu on no other basis than an objective “do I like this guy’s face?” ranking. The intros are the facebook stalking of baseball- the only thing that matters is if I get a good vibe or a bad vibe from what I see in the picture.
The All-Star Game intros, more than anything, allow me to return to a time when I was a child and was witness to greatness, and thought it was the coolest thing ever. By the fan reaction, I knew who I was supposed to root for, and by the look on a player’s face when he wasn’t getting that standing ovation, I got to choose who I wanted to root for. It breaks down to the most elementary appeal of sports- rooting is fun, and you can root for whoever you choose. When the order of operations breaks it down for you, all you have to do is choose how much fun you want to make it, and how long after the game you will choose to root for these guys. When the Mets hosted the ASG in 2013, our fans booed Cliff Lee mercilessly. He mean mugged that camera like a true pro. I always hated him as an adversary, but ever since that day, I have nothing but respect for Cliff Lee. I choose who I want to root for, and once in awhile, in the case of Clifton Phifer Lee (5-time All Star), the All Star Game intros allow me to choose who I want to have as the starting pitcher for the Moises Alou All-Stars.