Some thoughts on the All-Star weekend

Here are some semi-organized thoughts on this past All-Star Game break, in rough order of events save for the preamble at the beginning:

  • First, the elephant in the room: it being in Denver instead of Atlanta. Outside of the occasional quick joke in some of my less-serious fare or things included for historical context, I generally avoid politics on this blog. I will do so here as well. However, from a pure event standpoint, it was unquestionably a good thing that this year’s All-Star Game and surrounding festivities were in Coors Field. The Coors Field factor and the flying baseballs that come with it helped make the Home Run Derby one of the best-ever, and also no-doubt helped contribute to one of the signature moments of this year’s All-Star Game: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.‘s 468-foot bomb that led Fernando Tatis Jr. to put his hands over his head in awe.
  • One neat change this year to the ASG festivities was having the draft in the ASG city beginning on Sunday night, mere hours after the Futures Game. While the Futures Game itself continues to be unfairly ignored due to being played even as regular season MLB games take place, I think having the draft on Sunday night instead of the traditional “final ESPN game of the first half that no team wants to be in because it makes their stars late to get to the All-Star Game city and takes away precious hours from their other players’ mid-year break” is a good move that in most years (not this year because of how screwed up the sports schedule continues to be due to COVID) will allow it to get much more attention than it traditionally has. Having the first round be on ESPN as well as MLB Network also puts it more on par with some of the other leagues like the NFL, allowing fans two different broadcasts and sets of analysts to choose from for more perspectives.
  • I’m still surprised Kumar Rocker fell all the way to the Mets, though.
  • As I said earlier, the Home Run Derby was one of the best-ever. While the ever-changing format (now you don’t have to wait for the ball to hit the ground for another pitch to happen) clearly causes some problems as far as the TV broadcast since they can’t really let how far some of these balls are sink in (perhaps they can add a 10-second break if someone goes over 480 feet?), it was a fun night all around. We had Juan Soto‘s upset of Shohei Ohtani (which no doubt annoyed ESPN’s producers but was still great television), we had Trey Mancini making it to the finals less than a year since finishing chemotherapy, we had baseballs going over 500 feet, and we had Pete Alonso. Nobody seems to love anything as much as Pete Alonso loves the Home Run Derby. My only big disappointment was that Joey Gallo apparently decided to have the worst possible time to have the worst BP of his life.
  • Speaking of Alonso, it’ll be interesting to see how his role in the Home Run Derby is going forward. He obviously is now going to get invited basically every year, and he seems to genuinely love the event in a way that even people like Ken Griffey Jr. or David Ortiz didn’t. If I rewrote Monday’s post he would almost certainly be on it. However, there is also the fact that his cockiness and supreme confidence rubs some people the wrong way, which may lead him to become the villain of the Derby. This isn’t a bad thing, per se: it’d allow MLB to build up a storyline around it (“Can anyone stop Pete Alonso?) and could possibly draw in some players to challenge the champ who otherwise might want to skip it.
  • Moving on to the game itself: It was a classy tribute to Henry Aaron to begin, which followed the classy tribute of having everyone wear 44 during the Home Run Derby.
  • It was bad enough that they were wearing league uniforms instead of their team uniforms during the All-Star Game, but the fact that the uniforms looked like some sort of space-age slow-pitch softball pajamas made it even worse. Next year, get back to the uniforms of the players’ teams.
  • While it wasn’t what many people hoped (no strikeouts, 0-2 at the plate), it’s hard to call Shohei Ohtani’s performance in the game a failure, especially considering how exhausted he looked after the Home Run Derby just one day before. Besides, getting Tatis Jr., Max Muncy and (homecoming favorite) Nolan Arenado out 1-2-3 is impressive by itself.
  • It was ultimately Vlad Jr.’s show. Whether it was hitting that bomb of a home run, driving in an RBI on a ground-out or hugging Max Scherzer after nearly beheading him with a line-drive, “Vladito” was the center of attention while he was the in the game and was a highly-deserving MVP.
  • Two moments from the All-Star Game that people are going to forget but shouldn’t: Freddy Peralta‘s striking out of the side (I mean it wasn’t Pedro Martinez or Carl Hubbell, but it was still really impressive), and Jared Walsh‘s nice catch in left to end the last attempt at a rally by the NL. Walsh is primarily a 1B and when he does play outfield it is usually RF, this was the first time he was in left.
  • Cedric Mullins should have gotten a hit on that ball up the middle and the official scorer of the game should feel bad.
  • Liam Hendriks being mic’d up went as gloriously wrong as we all would have expected.
  • As MLB itself said: It was a global game. The winning pitcher was Japanese, the save was by an Australian, the MVP was born in Canada and raised in the Dominican, other home runs were hit by people from Florida and Oklahoma, and the best “caught on microphone” moment besides Hendriks’ swearing came when a Canadian-American (Freddie Freeman) complained about looking small next to Aaron Judge.
  • Seriously though…. change the uniforms back.

All-Star Wrap-Up and MVP of Yesterday update

Well, that was fun.

To be sure, there have been many better All-Star Games. But there have also been many worse All-Star Games as well. And, what’s more, the festivities themselves were above average- the Home Run Derby, for example, has been reborn thanks to the brackets and time limits. It certainly isn’t perfect, but for the first time in quite awhile, I felt like I was watching the Home Run Derby beyond the first round because I was enjoying it, not simply because it was on.

And then there is Mike Trout. He batted four times last night, and in some ways the game became his showcase. He homered, he walked, he beat out a throw to first to avoid a double play. He rightfully was named MVP, his second in a row (the first player to do that), and he’s only 24. It is not out of the realm of possibility that, one day, the quote “The All-Star Game was made for Willie Mays” will instead be “The All-Star Game was made for Mike Trout.”

Not surprisingly, Trout is the MVP of Yesterday, just as he was the MVP of the game. Standings, as always, after the jump:

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The new “bracketed” Home Run Derby format is a recipe for disaster

You probably have heard by now, but the Home Run Derby will have a new format this year. It will include semi-timed rounds (it’ll be timed, but home runs in the final minute, as well as particularly long home runs, will increase the amount of time), a limited number of timeouts (so that a player doesn’t take a minute after every swing to goof off with a teammate) and a bracket format.

I have a major problem with the bracket format, however. For the sheer reason that it means that, in theory, the person who hits the second most home runs in the first round could be knocked out, and in theory the person with the second-fewest home runs in the first round could go on.

Here’s an example of how it could happen. Let’s say one of the match-ups is Bryce Harper vs. Joc Pederson. Now, let’s say Harper hits 14, but Pederson hits 15. Harper is eliminated, even if nobody else has 14. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the bracket, it’s entirely possible that a player who had hit 2 HRs- or even just one- is going ahead.

And that… is bad. Sure, go and have the time-limit, it’ll make the event go faster. But the brackets are a disaster waiting to happen.

So… who’d be in the 2015 “In Memoriam” montage?

Last year, to great controversy, Major League Baseball didn’t do a thing to honor the memory of the great Tony Gwynn at the All-Star Game, leading many (including myself) to suggest that maybe MLB should take the opportunity every All-Star Game to pay tribute to the past and those we’ve lost by having a “In Memoriam” segment at the All-Star Game. One guy (Sully) even made a video on his own, and it was pretty good.

Well, we haven’t heard anything about a possible official “In Memoriam” video happening in a few weeks in Cincinnati, so I can only assume it won’t be happening, or it’s being kept a closely-guarded surprise. But, I (somewhat morbidly) wondered: who’d be in this year’s “In Memoriam” video anyway?

Here’s a list (and a semi-random order) I came up with, a * means that they’d get an extra emphasis, such as a highlight or interview clip about them:

Alvin Dark, 1948 Rookie of the Year, 3-time All-Star, lengthy managing career *

Frank Torre, member of 1957 World Champion Milwaukee Braves

Lennie Merullo, 7 seasons of MLB experience, last surviving man to have played in the World Series for the Chicago Cubs

Gordie Gillespie, all-time leader in coaching wins in college baseball (longtime NAIA coach)

Noella Leduc, winning pitcher of the last AAGPBL All-Star Game

Jim Fanning, longtime member of Expos front office, manager of Montreal’s 1981 playoff team

Riccardo Ingram, Twins minor-league roving instructor

Rocky Bridges, 1958 All-Star

Sy Berger, longtime Topps baseball card designer

Ray Sadecki, pitcher in 1960s and 1970s

Lon Simmons, Ford Frick Award-winning broadcaster for Giants and A’s*

Fred Gladding, 1969 NL saves leader

Jean-Pierre Roy, commentator for Montreal Expos from 1968 to 1984

Victor Sanchez, 20-year-old Mariners prospect

John Keenan, longtime Dodgers scout

Jose Capellan, pitcher during the 2000s

Bill Valentine, longtime umpire

Bill Slayback, 1970s Tigers pitcher, singer of “Move Over Babe (Here Comes Henry)”

Wendell Kim, longtime coach

Minnie Minoso, 9-time All-Star, 3-time gold glover *

Carl Long, Negro Leaguer who later helped integrate the Carolina League

Dave Bergman, 17 years MLB experience, 1984 World Champion

Dick Bresciani, longtime Red Sox PR Man

Jerry Lumpe, 1964 All-Star

Ulpiano Cos Villa, Spanish-Language broadcaster for Angels and CBS in 1980s

Jeff Robinson, pitcher in late 80s and early 90s

Oscar Taveras, young Cardinals star *

George Spencer, top reliever for 1951 Giants

Bernardo Fernandez, longtime Negro Leaguer

Jerry Gross, early Padres broadcaster

Alison Gordon, first female member of the BBWAA

Hank Peters, longtime executive, GM of Orioles from 1976 to 1987

Brad Halsey, MLB pitcher 2004-2006

Ollie Brown, outfielder in 1960s and 70s

John Winkin, College Coach

Stuart Scott, ESPN legend, creator of the “Boo-Yah!” HR call

Alex Johnson, 1970 All-Star and AL Batting Champion

Jerry Dior, creator of the MLB Logo

Don Bryant, catcher of Don Wilson’s second no-hitter, Bullpen coach of the 1975 AL Champion Red Sox

Nelson Doubleday Jr., former owner of the Mets

Al Rosen, 4-time Star, 1953 MVP, 2-time AL HR champion, longtime executive *

Andres Mora, member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame, 3rd all-time in minor league HRs

Jose Martinez, former player and longtime coach and executive

Bill Monbouquette, 3 (or 4, depending on how you count the multiple ASG years)-time All-Star and thrower of a No-Hitter in 1962

James Stillwell, an original owner of the Seattle Mariners

George Shuba, member of the 1955 World Series Champion Dodgers, minor-league friend of Jackie Robinson

Joe Simenic, co-founder of SABR

Russ Kemmerer, MLB pitcher in 50s and early 60s

Nick Peters, sportswriter and winner of 2009 J.G. Taylor Gordon Spink Award from HOF

Stu Miller, 1961 All-Star, 1958 NL ERA champion, member of Orioles Hall of Fame

Darryl Hamilton, 13-years MLB experience, MLB Network analyst

Ernie Banks, Hall of Famer *

 

 

My Votes for the “Franchise Fours” (with one exception that you’ll see at Hall of Very Good)

Tomorrow is the last day to vote for the “Franchise Four”, where you can vote on Mt. Rushmores of each franchise.

I, needless to say, have opinions on ALL of them (no write-ins allowed for the purposes of this article), and you’ll see them below, with one exception: I’m saving my picks for the Greatest Living Ballplayers for my next piece at “Hall of Very Good.”

So, this is a long post, so go below the jump for more:

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VIDEO WEEK: Michael Jordan asks Ken Griffey Jr. for an autograph

It’s VIDEO WEEK on the Baseball Continuum!

In 1994, then-baseball player Michael Jordan visited the All-Star Game. It provided us with two indelible images:

1) Confirmation that Cal Ripken Jr. was nearly as tall as Michael Jordan (going by listed heights, he was only two inches shorter than MJ).

2) Confirmation that Ken Griffey Jr. was such a big star that even the most famous athlete in the world would go out of his way to get his autograph.

On the “In Memoriam” Idea (Also: Sully Baseball’s video)

Note: This post was being written/outlined before Sully Baseball’s excellent video went up. Make sure to check that out- he does most of what I say in here.

As everybody and their brother said during the All-Star Game, Tony Gwynn really should have gotten a tribute. And, well, he didn’t, apparently because MLB didn’t want to make it about “any one person” (never mind that the entire game coverage was about Jeter and only a few years ago they did tributes to George Steinbrenner). So, everybody said, why not an Oscars-style “In Memoriam” segment, perhaps in the fifth inning?

 

I agree. Every year at the ASG, baseball should pay tribute to those it has lost since the last ASG with a Memoriam video of between two and four minutes, depending on how much of a bummer the year has been. It would feature (with examples of the types of people next to it):

  • Hall of Famers who had passed away (Tony Gwynn, Jerry Coleman, Ralph Kiner)
  • Players who had made All-Star Games, especially if they made multiple ones (Jim Fregosi, Bob Welch, Paul Blair, Andy Pafko, etc.)
  • Players who otherwise had roles in major moments in baseball history (perfect games, no-hitters, key roles in postseason, etc.) or won major awards
  • Individuals who were outright icons for various reasons (Don Zimmer)
  • Contributors off the field (Tommy John Surgery creator Frank Jobe, MLBPA president Michael Weiner, GM Frank Cashen, Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi)
  • “Gone Too Soon” individuals who aren’t in the other categories (Umpire Wally Bell, former pitcher Frank Castillo)
  • Exemplary players from outside Major League Baseball (Negro Leaguers, AAGPBLers, College coaches, particularly exceptional international players, etc.)

As for what music that could accompany it? Well, I’m sure a good orchestral score would work well, but want to know what else would work? The most melancholy and nostalgic of all baseball songs: Frank Sinatra’s “There Used To Be A Ballpark”.

Do it, MLB. Make it classy, and it could become an indelible part of the midsummer classic.

That was the worst Home Run Derby of the Modern Derby Era, but I know how we can save it.

Well, that stunk. Oh, sure, the 2014 Home Run Derby had it’s moments, but in my mind at least, it was the worst Derby since the Modern Derby Era began when ESPN started showing it live instead of on tape delay.

And I think the problem was format. Oh, sure, there were other things wrong: the rain was totally outside of everyone’s control, of course, and Target Field was never going to be the place to give us one of those Derbies that remind us why they hold the event in the first place (such as the 1999 one in Fenway, or Abreu’s performance in Pittsburgh or Hamilton’s in New York). But, mostly, it was the format.

Oh, sure, the new format of having brackets leading up to a showdown between the best HR hitter of each lead seemed good in theory, but in practice, it stunk. Mainly because it forgot the main reason we watch the Derby: to see lots and lots of dingers, especially those from BP legends like Giancarlo Stanton, who can (and did) send balls into parts of the stadium you never even knew existed.

With the bracket format, however, Stanton and Jose Bautista sat around a lot, and by the time they got back from their bye, they were rusty, and the now-truncated 7 outs (instead of 10) didn’t really give them much time to warm up. The result? Last night saw us see a lot of Todd Frazier (who isn’t bad, but is far, far from a Giancarlo Stanton, HR-wise) and very little Stanton and Bautista. Only the fact Yoennis Cespedes was still going throughout the whole thing kept it from being a total snoozefest.

So, here’s my idea on how they can fix the HR Derby:

9 Players: 4 AL, 4 NL and one Wild Card

Having “Captains” pick teams has been more good than bad, so that can stay, but for sake of time the number of players overall should go down. So, instead of picking four teammates, as they did this season, they will only pick three, as they did in previous years. However, a “Wild Card” spot would be added, to be decided upon by the powers that be. It could be a prospect who has impressed (like Joey Gallo), it could be a recently-retired slugger who probably still has some pop in his bat (imagine if Jim Thome, for example, had been swinging last night), or it could be for a MLB player who the captains just couldn’t find a spot for.

10 Outs, but Only 2 Rounds

Each batter would get 10 outs, but, to make the Derby shorter and less of a drag, there would only be two rounds: the first round of 9 (which would also act as a “AL vs. NL” round, with the winning team getting a bunch of dough for the captain’s charity), then a second, championship round of three.

And, hey, if they NEED to pad it out a little… why not have a third round of the top two who survive the round of three?

I’m just saying.

Speculating on future All-Star Game Locations

This year, the All-Star Game is in Minnesota. In 2015, it’ll be in Cincinnati.

So what’s after that? Well, Commissioner Selig has said that they want to keep it on the NL-AL-NL-AL rotation, but that leads to this little problem: there are more stadiums in the National League that haven’t hosted the ASG than the American League: After this year, the AL will have only two stadiums (New Yankee Stadium and Tropicana Field) that haven’t hosted an All-Star Game- and practically that just means that there is just one AL stadium still to host, since I doubt Tropicana will get ever get one. Meanwhile, the NL will, after next year, still have four stadiums (Philly, San Diego, DC, Miami) and will have another (the new Braves park) on the way.

 

So, it’s looking like the next decade or so will see a pattern of new stadiums (in NL years) followed by old stadiums (in AL years), with the exception of the year that New Yankee Stadium gets it or (less likely) in new Athletics or Rays parks.

 

Let’s look into the Crystal Ball (speculation is:

 

2014: Target Field, Minneapolis

This, of course, is already set.

2015: Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati

This also is already set.

2016: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Type in “2016 MLB All-Star Game” into Google, and the front page is almost entirely of articles talking about how Baltimore and Camden Yards are the front-runners for the game. The only other place mentioned is Wrigley Field (as 2016 would be the 100th Anniversary of the Cubs playing there), but that was from an article in 2011, and goes against the current schedule and also doesn’t take into account that Wrigley will be heavily remodeled in the next few years.

2017: PETCO Park, San Diego

The only things I could find on early 2017 speculation was around Nationals Park and Marlins Park. I don’t think either will get it. The Nationals won’t get it because I doubt MLB would have an All-Star Game site so close to the previous year’s site. The Marlins probably wouldn’t get it because it’s likely that the rest of baseball’s owners will still be angry at Jeffrey Loria, should he still own them, for being a constant PR nightmare who blows up teams every few years. By the way, if my current prediction is correct, the next Marlins fire sale should be in either 2016 or 2017.

So, instead, the game would go to PETCO Park in San Diego, partially due to process of elimination, and partially because San Diego is gorgeous.

2018: New Yankee Stadium, New York City

By 2018, it’ll have been five All-Star Games since the Mets hosted the All-Star Game in 2013. That, coincidentally, is also the span of time between when old Yankee Stadium hosted and when the Mets had it. So, by 2018, it should be safe for the All-Star Game to come back to the Bronx.

2019: New Atlanta Braves Stadium, Cobb County GA

With the exception of teams that are unlucky enough to have new stadiums dangerously close to when their neighbors gets All-Star Games or that are borderline pariahs (the Marlins), Major League Baseball likes getting the All-Star Game to them, particularly if the local government paid for most of the stadium’s construction. So, the new Braves Stadium, due to open in 2017, would be a prime candidate in 2019. Another possibility: Wrigley Field.

2020: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada

By 2020, the Blue Jays will be playing on grass, not turf! That will change a lot about the once-Skydome, and will make it a more appealing place to hold an All-Star Game.

2021: Nationals Stadium, Washington DC

By 2021, it’ll have been long enough since the Orioles’ held it for DC to hold the ASG. Alternate possibility: renovated Wrigley Field.

2022: New Athletics Stadium, Who-Knows-Where

Technically, the Athletics recently signed a 10 year extension to their captivity at the Oakland Coliseum, but, I’m sorry, if the Athletics stay in the Oakland Coliseum as it currently is for the next 10 years, I’ll eat my hat. Maybe the Raiders will move to LA (again) and they’ll blow up Mount Davis and turn the Coliseum into a baseball-only venue. Maybe they’ll finally move to San Jose. Maybe they’ll go to Montreal, San Antonio, San Juan, Las Vegas, Portland or any of the other bugaboos that are drummed up anytime a team wants a new stadium. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that by 2022 the Athletics will be in a new place.

If not, uh, I dunno, Texas maybe? Or Cleveland?

2023: Marlins Park, Miami

Loria will have either sold the Marlins or died by this point, and even if he hadn’t the turnover in MLB ownership would have been enough where maybe there won’t be enough people who dislike him enough to keep the All-Star Game away from him. If neither of those things are true: Wrigley Field.

2024: Fenway Park, Boston

It’ll be the 25th Anniversary of the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park. That was the All-Star Game when Ted Williams came out and waved to the crowd. I can only presume that he can be stitched back together and unthawed in time to repeat the feat in 2024.

 

So, what do you think of these predictions? Too pessimistic on the chances for Miami or DC?

Also, if you are wondering why Philadelphia isn’t listed, it’s because they are on record as wanting the game in 2026, as part of America’s 250th birthday. Of course, that would require a break in the current rotation of AL-NL, but, hey, there’s 12 years to figure that out.