It’s a simple, yet fraught, question. In a game where every single player is, by definition, one of the best players in the entire league, how do you decide who has to bat last? That was the task this week for Dusty Baker and Rob Thomson, the managers at the 2023 MLB All-Star Game. Of course, somebody has to do it. Even on a lineup card where every single name is a certified stud, on an All-Star team full of two, three, and four hitters, there has to be someone in the slot typically reserved for the worst hitter on the squad. Egos are at stake here too—most All-Stars are multi-millionaires who haven’t hit ninth in their entire life, after all
When I put the question to him ahead of Tuesday night’s game, Baker wisely deferred to his NL counterpart.
“Rob? Go ahead, man.”
For his American League lineup, Baker went with Texas Rangers’ catcher Jonah Heim in the nine spot. Thomson picked Orlando Arcia—the shortstop for his Phillies’ division rival in Atlanta. His explanation was simple. “Arcia’s got a great OPS,” Thomson explained, citing the catch-all stat that combines on-base and slugging percentage. “But it’s actually the lowest [of anyone in the lineup]. So, we put him in the ninth hole.”
Baker, meanwhile, leaned on strategy in his explanation.
“See, I batted [Texas Rangers’ catcher Jonah] Heim ninth simply because he’s a catcher. We’re trying to split the duty between three catchers. I don’t know, I have so many good players. Somebody’s gotta hit ninth!”
For both Arcia and Heim, the 2023 All-Star Game was their first. Some of their lineup mates—National League first baseman Freddie Freeman and American League shortstop Corey Seager—were each making at least their fourth trip to the Midsummer Classic. According to Derek Shelton, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager who served as an assistant coach on the NL staff, things like that do come into play when constructing an All-Star lineup.