What’s Ahead for the Major League Baseball All-Stars?

Jeff Hanisch/ USA Today Sports
Harper is "making pitchers throw him strikes," Verducci says, "and when they do, he's not missing them."

A hacking scandal, the first all-electronic voting for All-Star Game starters and a player benched for using social media while his team was losing on the field have shined a spotlight on technology as baseball approaches its 86th Midsummer Classic. “We’re coming up with rules and precedents that we’ve never had to deal with before,” says Fox Sports analyst Tom Verducci. Before the American League and National League clash in Cincinnati to decide home-field advantage in the World Series, Verducci takes a look at the baseball landscape.

Flush With Roylas As many as five Kansas City Royals are expected to start for the American League, thanks to rabid fans delighted by their team’s success. With supporters of other teams crying foul, Verducci suggests creating an election night. “Instead of calculating votes over a two-month period, let’s do it in real time in one night. I think the country will tune in and we can watch vote totals grow.”

Hitters Parade Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is putting up numbers that compare favorably with Babe Ruth. “People have waited for Bryce Harper to play like a superstar,” Verducci says of the MVP favorite in the National League. Harper, 22, leads the hot young hitters lighting up the first half of the season. “We’ve seen pitchers dominate for the last decade, and now it looks like the tide has started to turn.”

Rocket Men Verducci was surprised when the Houston Astros surged to the top of the AL West standings—and stayed there. “A lot of us thought they’d be an improved team, but not at this level.” The Astros also made headlines when their database was allegedly hacked by employees of the St. Louis Cardinals. New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred must decide how to handle baseball’s first case of corporate espionage, which is leagues removed from Boston Red Sox player Pablo Sandoval liking photos on Instagram during a game.

Look Out For The Baltimore Orioles “They are a team just now getting healthy, starting to play some of their best baseball,” Verducci says. And who will trade for pitcher Cole Hamels of the beleaguered Philadelphia Phillies? “He could make a difference, not just in whether a team gets in the playoffs, but whether that team goes on to win the World Series,” Verducci says. “He’s that good.”

Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Tuesday, July 14, 7:30/6:30c, Fox