What will you remember from the 2022 MLB All-Star Game? A star was born, and his name is Julio Rodriguez

LOS ANGELES — The problem with baseball is that all too often your eyes betray you. Or at least, you can’t see the whole story. What you see on the pitch is barely the tip of the iceberg in a sport defined by large sample sizes and unexpected value that must be quantified to be understood.

This makes the All-Star Game pointless – I mean, it certainly was, and those of us who thought it was pretty cool when the outcome determined World Series home field advantage manage to keep that view on the down low – as a game and even at an individual performance level. Aaron Judge is still the best hitter in the world, even though he went 0-for-2 on Tuesday-evening in Los Angeles with a pair of strikeouts.

We can try to write about how every moment sets a race or a season on course to its ultimate destination, but that’s largely poetic generosity. At All-Star, however, the moments are everything. They are exactly as big or as fun or poignant as they made you feel at first glance.

In other words: no analyses, just vibes.

In May, as the Seattle Mariners came through New York, Julio Rodríguez told me he was the baseball team leader at the time, despite promoting power rather than speed.

“There are so many guys out there that someone else from the outside will say, ‘Oh, you’re just a powerhouse.’ I feel like I don’t have to limit myself to what you want me to be.”

He had played about 30 Major League games at that point and stated that he was “a little used to it.”

He has now played almost 100 big league-games. His 21 stolen bases are third in baseball and he leads all rookies in bWAR. He was also the only one to make the All-Star Game and the only one to compete in the Home Run Derby.

Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez caught everyone's eye during MLB's All-Star Game festivities.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez caught everyone’s eye during MLB’s All-Star Game festivities. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The atmosphere on Tuesday night was boisterous, breezy, a bit dull in terms of the actual baseball, but quite a showcase of players’ personalities that felt more natural and less pleading than attempts to prove the game can be a good time usually are. . But by the end, nothing had surpassed the night before’s J-Rod Show.

Today, the Home Run Derby is the big event of All-Star week. This isn’t an indictment of either event, nor is it just because all kinds of people dig the long ball. The derby is compelling for the same reason as any other sporting event: the thrill of competition. The inherent flaw in any showcase game is that it feels like winning matters — at least for the athletes involved. All-Star prioritizes giving each man his moment and letting the players get a little distracted for the sake of broadcast over optimal strategy, as it should be. And the end result was that the only real fear came from rooting for the National League to score another one and send us to a tiebreak home run derby.

But the real derby, those guys are to attempt. In a head-to-head competition, it’s hard not to notice the tension or to marvel at the unique displays of strength and endurance.

In terms of pure baseball watching, the whole thing peaked when Rodríguez — who has 30 minor league home runs in his career this season and 16 this season in the majors — launched 32 long balls to start the derby, a number that wouldn’t. be outdone all night. It was a moment that everyone watched felt. He knocked out two-time reigning champion – and by far the person who took it most seriously – Pete Alonso by 31 in the semi-final before falling short against Juan Soto in the final round.

Soto won the Derby – and rumors of his uncertain future won the news cycle – but Rodríguez won the night. (He also, by his own admission, regularly beat Soto on ‘Call of Duty.’ ‘If he says he was better than me, he’s lying.’)

“What did I show the fans?” Rodríguez considered after the derby: ‘I think who I am. A little bit of my style… I think they know a little bit now.”

This is now old news. The All-Star weekage performance like the Dodger Dogs troughs that were the only food available in the press box. But with the right implementation, the impression lingers. All the players in LA this week are committed to their talent, but it’s hard to decide whether Rodríguez’s eyes or smile are more captivating (it’s the diamond-encrusted 4 saucer-sized necklace that shines the brightest).

Julio Rodríguez entered an All-Star this week and leaves as a star star – which is a lot rarer. We are lucky that that status was cemented so early in his career. The 2022 Home Run Derby was the beginning, but it was just the beginning.

He will return to a Mariners team later this week going into intermission with a 14-game winning streak that pushed them into the wildcard position. There is still a long way to go before the end of the season as Seattle tries to break through the longest sustained drought in the sport after the season. All the more reason to see what Rodríguez can do.

Even if they fall short, a year from now, there’s still a chance for the national stage when the All-Star festivities head to Seattle.

And so naturally, amid the chaos of players leaving and clubbies boxing commemorative jerseys, Rodríguez naturally answered the question not only of whether he would compete in another derby, but whether he would knock a ball clean from the stadium.

“Maybe I’ll try,” he said. “I could try.”