- - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The unofficial title of Tuesday night’s midsummer classic at Marlins Park might have been the Major League Baseball 2017 All-Star Game – starring the Washington Nationals.

Four All-Stars in Nationals uniforms – outfielder Bryce Harper, second baseman Daniel Murphy, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and starting pitcher Max Scherzer – were part of the National League starting lineup, with a fifth All-Star, Stephen Strasburg, on the bench.

For Harper, the leading vote-getter on the National League squad with 4.6 million votes, it marks his fifth All-Star Game. That puts him ahead of Frank Howard’s four All-Star Game selections from the expansion Washington Senators.

In the previous version of the Senators, first baseman Mickey Vernon made the All-Star team seven times. Roy Sievers, who recently passed away, was a four-time All-Star with the Senators, selected to the 1959 squad twice when they played two All-Star Games in a season from 1959 to 1982. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game began in 1933, the brainchild of Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward.

All this is a long way from the days of reliever Matt Capps being the lone Washington National representative in the 2010 game (to be fair, Capps had his moment, striking out David Ortiz on a called third strike in the bottom of the sixth inning).

Yes, the pickings were slim in the early days of the Nationals – typically a single player selected. In their inaugural season in 2005, Livan Hernandez and Chad Cordero were both selected as All-Stars. After that, it was Alfonso Soriano in 2006, Dmitri Young in 2007, Cristian Guzman in 2008, Ryan Zimmerman in 2009, Capps in 2010 and Tyler Clippard in 2011.

It all changed in Washington’s first NL division-winning season in 2012, when four Nationals – Harper, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Ian Desmond (who wound up a late scratch because of a strained oblique muscle) – made the team.

This season, though, represented the greatest number of Nationals in the franchise’s short history in Washington.

In its previous existence as the Montreal Expos, the most players from that squad to be on the All-Star roster was 1982, when Montreal hosted the All-Star Game. Four players – Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Steve Rogers – were starters. Al Oliver was named as a reserve.

Washington not only dominated the 2017 All-Star roster – it turns out that the Nationals have the greatest presence at the Baseball Hall of Fame of the players on the 2017 teams.

Courtesy of our friends at the Baseball Hall of Fame, 30 of the 70 players on the All-Star rosters are represented in Cooperstown by artifacts in the Hall of Fame’s permanent collection.

No team’s players on this roster has more artifacts in that collection than the Washington Nationals.

Here is the list of Nationals memorabilia from its 2017 All-Stars that has made its way to Cooperstown:

Bryce Harper: Bat used to hit three home runs in a game on May 6, 2015, against the Miami Marlins.

Max Scherzer: Nationals cap worn during his May 11, 2016 no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers (he also has his Tigers jersey from Sept. 20, 2013 when he recorded his 20th win of the season).

Stephen Strasburg: Cap worn during his first Major League start, June 8, 2010.

Ryan Zimmerman: Cap worn on March 30, 2008, the first game in the Nationals’ new stadium, Nationals Park. Zimmerman ended the game with a walk-off home run.

Murphy is represented at the Hall of Fame as well – but from his days with the New York Mets. The hall has his road jersey worn in Game 5 of the 2015 National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon nearly joined the 2017 Nationals as a sixth All-Star – which would have been a record for the Nationals (they had five last year, but not four starters). But he came up short in the fans “Final Vote” tally.

It would be nice to have a repeat of this representation next season, when the game is at Nationals Park – and maybe with Dusty Baker in the dugout as the National League manager – a prize awarded to the NL pennant-winning skipper.

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network

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