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MLB can now add legends to All-Star Game; here are five players who deserve consideration in 2022

In less than two weeks baseball’s best will gather at Dodger Stadium for the 2022 MLB All-Star Game. The All-Star Game rosters will be announced this Sunday (July 10). We already know Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and Braves wunderkind Ronald Acuña Jr. will start the All-Star Game because they were the leading vote-getters in their respective league in Phase 1 of the fan voting.

Earlier this week it was reported the new collective bargaining agreement includes a clause allowing commissioner Ron Manfred to unilaterally appoint players to the All-Star Game in recognition of their careers. It’s essentially a legends clause. Here’s the language in the collective bargaining agreement:

In addition to the 32 players elected and selected to the All-Star Game, the Commissioner may choose to add one player that he selects to each League’s roster, in recognition of each player’s career achievements. If special circumstances warrant, the Commissioner may select more than one player to each league’s roster.

The clause reads like it was written specifically to get Albert Pujols to this year’s All-Star Game. Pujols is retiring after the season and he is simply one of the greatest hitters to ever live. He has not been to the All-Star Game since 2015 and his play this season doesn’t warrant All-Star selection though, so Manfred can appoint him to the game, and his career can be celebrated. 

Now that the All-Star Game no longer decides home-field advantage in the World Series (can you believe that was once a thing?), it is truly a meaningless exhibition, and MLB is free to change the rules as the league sees fit. Last year MLB allowed Shohei Ohtani to stay in the All-Star Game as a hitter after exiting as a pitcher. Now we have a legends clause. Good clause. I like it.

What other players could be honored with the legends clause for this year’s All-Star Game? Here are four candidates in addition to Pujols, listed alphabetically.

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Unlike Pujols, Miguel Cabrera has not yet indicated he will retire after this season. In fact, Cabrera is under contract through next year, meaning he is likely to continue playing. Because of that, I don’t think this is the year to use the legends clause to get the future Hall of Famer to the All-Star Game. Wait until next year, which is more likely to be his last. Also, there’s a chance Cabrera is selected for the All-Star Game this year anyway as the Tigers‘ representative. He’s been their best hitter all season. 

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

This is a no-brainer. The All-Star Game is in Los Angeles and Clayton Kershaw is a franchise icon. He very well might be selected to the All-Star Game given his performance, but if not, Manfred should use the legends clause to get Kershaw to the game. How can you have an All-Star Game in Los Angeles and not have Kershaw involved? There’s a chance — a pretty good chance at that — Kershaw has more All-Star Game selections in his future. Those future All-Star Games won’t be in Los Angeles though. Get this man to Dodger Stadium.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals

Pujols’ longtime teammate is retiring after the season and, like Pujols, Yadier Molina is a future Hall of Famer. And again like Pujols, Molina’s performance this season doesn’t warrant All-Star Game selection, so the only way to get him to Los Angeles is the legends clause. The legends clause specifically says it is to be used in “recognition of each player’s career achievements,” and Molina’s career deserves recognition. He’s one the greatest catchers ever.

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

Why not go 3 for 3 with Cardinals legends? Adam Wainwright hasn’t definitively said this will be his final season the way Molina and Pujols have, but signs point in that direction. “I would be willing to tell you that I think it’s probably my last year, but I’m not going on record to say it is my last year,” he told in spring training. Wainwright has a chance to be selected to the All-Star Game on merit, in which case the legends clause is unnecessary. If not, I say bring him with Pujols and Molina, and have a little going away ceremony at the All-Star Game.

This is the first year of the legends clause and it would have been useful in the past. Ichiro Suzuki could have been at the 2019 All-Star Game, for example. Adrián Beltré and Joe Mauer would have been worthy uses of the legends clause in 2018. The tricky thing is we rarely know ahead of time when a player is retiring, like we do Molina and Pujols this year, and using the legends clause in something other than the player’s final season would be kind of weird (unless it’s a situation like Kershaw and an All-Star Game in Los Angeles this year). 

Manfred won’t abuse the legends clause — use it too much and it will get watered down — though it could be used on a few different players this summer. The All-Star Game is scheduled for Tuesday, July 19.

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