In Tuesday's All-Star Game, we saw something that has only happened 25 times in the 80-game history of the Midsummer Classic: An intentional walk.
"There just should never should be intentional walks in the All-Star game," wrote Erik Manning on FanGraphs after Victor Martinez(notes) was issued a free pass by Heath Bell(notes) in the eighth after Curtis Granderson's(notes) triple and I can't disagree. Even if the game does count for home field advantage in the World Series, it's hard forgive a manager who takes the bat out of the hands of an opposing star.
Historically, the All-Star Game isn't the place for managerial tactics more advanced than the boatload of player switches they have to pull off. There have been 175 home runs in All-Star history, yet only 39 sacrifice bunts. On Tuesday night there were no homers and no sacrifice bunts, but there was one intentional walk, which was followed by Adam Jones'(notes) game-winning sacrifice fly, anyway.
How rare are All-Star intentional free passes? After Rob Dibble's 1991 walk of Rafael Palmeiro, baseball went 17 years without seeing one. The stars made up for lost time in 2008, though with three coming in extra innings: Joakim Soria(notes) intentionally walked Miguel Tejada(notes), and Aaron Cook(notes) intentionally walked Carlos Guillen(notes) and Justin Morneau(notes).
The four All-Star intentional walks this decade make it the most prolific such decade since the 1970s, when five were issued; no other decade saw more than three. (The 1979 game, like 2008, had three in late innings, and Jim Kern preceded Aaron Cook as one of the only two pitchers to issue multiple All-Star intentional walks.)
There are a couple of reasons that it seems profoundly silly for a manager to issue intentional walks in the All-Star game. First of all, the hitters have largely been chosen by fans who want to actually see them hit. Second, the pitching staffs have been chosen by the managers, who get to pick the best 13 pitchers in their league. If a guy is one of the best pitchers in the league, he should be trusted to pitch to Victor Martinez.
If not, should he really even be on the team?