Photo Credit: Minda Haas Kuhlmann, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Elly De La Cruz, at this point, needs no introduction. Graceful and imposing, the 6’5’’, 200 lbs. switch-hitting shortstop has been nothing less than sensational since his debut on June 6. It seems like Elly can do no wrong – and the Reds have followed suit, going from six games under .500 the day of his debut, to nine games over .500 at the All-Star Break. Oh yeah, and Elly has the Reds sitting in first place in the NL Central too. Not bad for a rook with 30 games under his belt.
It’s possible we’ve never seen a player quite like Elly before. He launches gargantuan home runs like he’s Babe Ruth, steals bases like he’s Rickey Henderson, and plays with an exuberance and pure joy of a Little Leaguer. It’s a tough time in the MLB to make a name for yourself as “the guy doing things no one else is doing” – Shohei Ohtani seems to have that market cornered – but Elly is working his way into the conversation. He’s like Superman with swag – Swaggy Superman, if you will.
But while Elly may or may not be the most jaw-dropping player in baseball right now, he’s certainly one of the sport's most exciting. In a little over a month, he’s already hit the hardest ball of any Red this season, hit for the cycle, had the fastest home-to-third time in the MLB, and threw a ball 96 MPH across the diamond. Even Ohtani can’t do (all of) that! Elly is already a giant in the sport (literally and figuratively), a household name, a genuine sensation… and yet, he isn’t an All-Star? Huh?
Unfortunately, it appears 30 games wasn’t enough time to get the word out to All-Star Game voters. Apparently, Dansby Swanson and his .258/.343/.409 hitting splits for the Chicago Cubs was deemed a more worthy reserve selection at shortstop. Did I mention the Reds are in first place in the NL Central? I did? Well then, why, pray tell, do the Cubs and their third-place 42 - 47 record have three representatives to the Reds one? Somebody, make it make sense!
I would be remiss if I did not address the elephant in the room: namely, that Elly did receive an invitation to participate in last night’s Home Run Derby. Elly, sadly, turned that invitation down – not because he understood it would be profoundly unfair for every other participant to have to compete against Swaggy Superman, but because Elly, ever the professional, wanted to use the break to stay focused on the team. Guys, isn’t he perfect?
So, we didn’t get to see Elly in the Home Run Derby. Too bad, so sad. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred still had the power to just go ahead and put Elly in the showcase, and he declined. And it’s not like he hasn’t used this authority before – he put Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols in the All-Star Game as honorary selections last year!
Still, I understand and respect the process. Elly has been fantastic, but it’s a small sample size. Most of the players in the All-Star Game have played in 60 or more games this year. Could Elly fall off a cliff in his next 30 games? It’s possible (but I wouldn’t bet on it). So, I came up with the ultimate compromise: let Elly be a universal pinch runner.
What is a “universal pinch runner,” you ask? Basically, what I’m proposing is this: Elly gets to participate for both the AL and NL squads as a pinch runner, the only catch is he can pinch run multiple times and he’s worth two runs if he crosses the plate. How’s that for spicing up the All-Star Game?
Of course, there’s a big problem with this idea – namely, it flies directly in the face of the rules of baseball. One player equals one run. Once a player exits the game, they cannot return. But this isn’t a regular season game. Heck, the All-Star Game doesn’t even affect home field advantage in the World Series anymore. The Midsummer Classic is supposed to be about fun and celebrating baseball, and what could be more enjoyable than seeing Elly terrorize pitchers and catchers for the entirety of an exhibition baseball game?
It’s not too late Commissioner Manfred. The All-Star Game doesn’t start until 8 PM EST. A flight from CVG Airport to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is about an hour and fifty-five minutes. That gives you plenty of wiggle room to pick up Elly and get him into his tracksuit (and yes, I fully support the idea of Elly wearing a tracksuit during the game instead of a baseball uniform). Please Commish, baseball needs this. We all need this.
Frankly, this is the only opportunity Manfred will have to pull a stunt like this too, because I can guarantee you Elly won’t be missing out on many more All-Star Games. Think of all the headlines… Think of all the Elly De La Cruz tracksuits you could sell as merchandise… This is a billion-dollar idea Rob, and I’m just giving it to you. Come on, this is the All-Star Game. How can we call it the All-Star Game if one of the league’s brightest is missing?