The Dodgers will be well-represented at the July 11 All-Star Game in Seattle, with outfielder Mookie Betts, first baseman Freddie Freeman and designated hitter J.D. Martinez voted into the game as National League starters.
Catcher Will Smith finished second to Atlanta’s Sean Murphy in fan balloting that concluded Thursday, but he appears well-positioned to earn his first All-Star nod, entering Thursday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies with a .283 average, .906 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 12 home runs and 41 RBIs.
Freeman, who last week became the 98th player in major league history to accumulate 2,000 hits and 300 home runs, far outpaced Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson, accumulating 60% of the vote to Olson’s 40%, to earn the seventh All-Star selection of his 14-year career. He entered Thursday with a .317 average, .938 OPS, 14 homers and 49 RBIs.
Betts, who entered Thursday with a .255 average, .869 OPS, 20 homers and 50 RBIs, also earned his seventh All-Star selection by earning 40% of the vote, the second most among NL outfielders behind Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr.
Martinez, who hit two homers Tuesday night to become the 156th member of baseball’s 300 home run club, earned his sixth All-Star selection by earning 53% of the fan vote, edging out Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper (47%). Martinez entered Thursday with a .257 average, .874 OPS, 18 homers and 51 RBIs.
“It’s always special to be in an All-Star Game — it means you’re doing something pretty good,” Betts said. “We have a great group of guys here, and [to have three starters] is a testament to our team, to our organization and the coaches.”
Betts also announced that he would participate in the home run derby for the first time, “even though I don’t know that I really want to do it,” he said with an impish grin. “The wife said I have to do it. It’s the last thing I haven’t done, so I’m gonna do it, have fun with it, and we’ll see what happens.”
Asked what reservations he might have about the event, which requires a flurry of full-effort swings in short periods of time, Betts said, “Um … I’m 5-foot-9, 170 pounds. I don’t think many guys my size win the derby. When I told my mom, she wasn’t too thrilled. She said I didn’t raise you to come in last, so the goal is not to come in last.”
Does his mother believe the derby myth that participating in the event can mess up a player’s swing for the second half?
“I’m sure that’s a part of it,” Betts said, “but I don’t think she’s a huge fan of seeing her son lose.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts applauded Betts for entering the derby but expressed some concerns about the physicality of the event.
“I kind of equate it to old-school Larry Bird in the three-point contest,” Roberts said. “Larry could shoot a set shot around the three-point line, and other guys used to have to shoot a jump shot. As you keep going and going, you lose your legs. Even if Mookie has a big first round and advances, it takes a lot for a guy who’s not that physical. I hope he does well, but I’m not betting on him.”
Betts asked Dodgers first-base coach Clayton McCullough to pitch to him during the event.
“I’ve had some really, really good coaches, and Clayton’s probably my favorite of all time,” Betts said. “The main reason is not what he teaches me, it’s how much he holds me accountable, how much he expects from me when I come to work, and he holds me to it. He’s my favorite.”
Said McCullough: “That’s flattering. I appreciate him saying that … especially coming from someone of his pedigree and how successful he’s been. But he’s helped me far more than I’ve helped him. He’s a good dude, he works hard, and we have a good relationship.”