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The View From Pluto: Players Savor Their Time in the All-Star Spotlight

Carlos Santana appeared in his first All-Star game this year.
Carlos Santana appeared in his first All-Star game this year.

For some Major League Baseball players making the All-Star Game roster is a regular affair.

But for others it’s one and done.

Sports commentator Terry Pluto talks about the fickle nature of making an All-Star team, and how some Indians players have been waiting years to step into the spotlight.

As a competitor, being chosen to play in the All-Star Game is the ultimate achievement. Some players earn it early in their careers. Others have to wait.

For Francisco Lindor, the 25-year-old Indians short-stop, it's his fourth consecutive appearance. But for 32-year old slugger and Indians first basemen Carlos Santana, he waited quite some time to make his first All Star Game--1,364 games to be exact.

To put it into perspective, Mark Reynolds (1,683), Rajai Davis (1,423) and Gerardo Parra (1,415) are the only active players who have played more games than Santana without making an All-Star team.

“And you look at that mark, and the Indians players are so happy for him,” Pluto said of Santana.

Santana’s journey to the game of all games was not easy. A year prior, he struggled while playing for Philadelphia (.229, .766 OPS, 24 HR). After returning to Cleveland, he posted spectacular stats in 2019: .297 (.958 OPS) with 19 HR and 52 RBI at the All-Star break. It cemented his position batting cleanup for the American League. He also was a Home Run Derby contender.

Another fellow Indian who is making his All-Star Game debut is 24-year-old Shane Bieber who is the same age that 36-year-old veteran Justin Verlander was when he made his first appearance.

“Physically, he looks a little like Justin Verlander. Now it’s unfair to put a Hall of Famers stamp on Bieber. But, you look and think ‘maybe he’s going to be one of these guys who goes on for a long time,’” Pluto said of Bieber.

The Tribe’s right-handed pitcher has proven his worth so far, posting an 8-3 record with a 3.45 ERA.

Verlander made five consecutive All-Star Games before getting derailed by injuries in 2013. The Astros pitcher then did not make another All-Star Game until 2018.

Brad Hand is the other Indians player making consecutive appearances in the All-Star Game. Since joining the Tribe, the lefty has a 4-4 record with a 2.22 ERA along with 31 saves.

But prior to his 3-year All-Star run, Hand’s career was teetering in the balance as he struggled for five years playing with the Marlins (9-25, 4.71 ERA) from 2011-2015. And was placed on waivers with the Padres after essentially being cut by the Marlins at the start of the 2016 season.

This is the sixth time Cleveland will host an MLB All-Star Game. The game in 1981 marked the first and last time that Indians pitcher Lenny Barker and Cleveland native Mike Easler made their All-Star appearances.

Barker pitched a perfect game and made the All-Star team but injuries prevented him from making any more appearances. And Easler, who was playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time, made the All-Star team after batting .338 with 21 HR and 74 RBI in 1980.

As Verlander told Pluto, every player at All-Star Weekend should savor their time because there’s no guarantees that they will be back.

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Phillip was born in Cleveland but raised in Kent. He is an undergraduate student at Kent State majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications and will be graduating in Spring 2020. Currently, he is an intern at WKSU working to enhance and diversify his journalistic skills. Phillip plans on using both TV and radio platforms to not only analyze and discuss sports but also help bring people from all walks of life together to bridge the gap between sports and society.
Mark has been a host, reporter and producer at several NPR member stations in Delaware, Alaska, Washington and Kansas. His reporting has taken him everywhere from remote islands in the Bering Sea to the tops of skyscrapers overlooking Puget Sound. He is a diehard college basketball fan who enjoys taking walks with his dog, Otis.