Why Jacob deGrom Is Sitting Out the ASG, And Shohei Ohtani Probably Should

There is very little incentive for the league's best players to compete in an exhibition game. That goes double for the Angels' two-way star.

Shohei Ohtani Should Sit Out the ASG
Shohei Ohtani pitches against the Boston Red Sox.
Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty

While pitching seven innings in a no-decision Wednesday against the Brewers, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom saw his ERA rise to 1.08 because he allowed two solo home runs while striking out 10 Milwaukee batters.

Not slated to pitch again before the MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field next week, deGrom will enter the break with the second-lowest ERA since 1933 (minimum 10 starts), according to ESPN Stats & Information. (Bob Gibson had a 1.06 ERA at the All-Star break in 1968, the year he won MVP and finished with a 1.12 ERA.)

DeGrom, obviously, is an All-Star. But he won’t be participating in the Midsummer Classic, citing that he doesn’t “think it’s beneficial for me to fly back to Colorado and back.”

“I’ve thought about it and obviously being named to an All-Star Game is a great honor but I’m just going to take that time and spend it with my family and get healthy for the second half,” he said. “It’s best for me and this team for me to not go and rest for the second half.”

Skipping the All-Star Game could be viewed as disrespectful to MLB and its fans, but with no real benefit for participating aside from time in the spotlight and maybe some bonus money (the ASG no longer determines home-field advantage in the World Series), it is probably something that more players should consider doing … and one of those players is Shohei Ohtani.

After having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in October of 2018, Ohtani attempted to return to the mound during 2020’s shortened season but suffered a shoulder strain that resigned him to just two appearances as a pitcher, during which he went 0-1 with a 37.80 ERA. A tantalizing two-way player, Ohtani also flamed out as a hitter last season, hitting a dismal .190.

It’s been a completely different year for the Japanese Babe Ruth in 2021, as Ohtani is leading the league in home runs (32) and just made history by becoming the first player to be selected to the All-Star Game as both a position player and a pitcher.

Per Angels manager Joe Maddon, Ohtani will hit and pitch in the game on July 13 and also take part in the Home Run Derby the day before. “There’s a lot going on there,” Maddon said. “But Shohei is into it. It’s not like we’re trying to push him into doing anything. We’re just trying to figure out the best way to do it.”

The best way to do it, as much of a buzzkill as it would be, is to have Ohtani stay home.

For a player with a history of getting hurt who is clearly impacted by playing at less than 100%, the extra wear-and-tear of participating in the All-Star Game as a two-way player just isn’t worth it. And taking part in the Home Run Derby, which many players won’t do because they believe it can have a damaging effect on their swing, just seems foolish.

“I try to stay away from that,” Alex Rodriguez said of the Derby when he was the American League’s leading vote-getter for the ASG in 2008. “My responsibility is to the New York Yankees. I need my swing to be at its best.”

While it is up for debate whether the Derby “curse” is legitimate or not, the fact remains that Ohtani —  who has an ERA of 10.57 over the last two weeks (perhaps due to overuse) — has been operating like a well-oiled machine for most of the season.

But machines break down.

It would be a shame if that were to happen to Ohtani, because he’s having a historic season for the Angels (even if the team is not) and giving casual fans an electrifying player they can follow and root for during the dregs of a 162-game regular season. Ohtani’s a star, but he should take the All-Star Game off for the good of — if not just himself — all of baseball.

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