My annual anti-All-Star Game rant


I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time getting my All-Star rah-rah on. I hate to fall in line with all of those other cranks, but the fact is that the All-Star Game ain’t what it used
to be. Which would be fine — exhibitions can be fun — but the whole home field advantage in the World Series thing goes and messes it up even on that level.  Home field matters, and here we have Charlie Manuel putting Andre Ethier in center field and writing Ryan Howard in the cleanup spot against a lefty for some damn reason.  That’s galling enough all things being equal, but seeing as though my Braves have a non-trivial chance of winning the pennant this year I’m starting to take it personally. And I love me some Charlie Manuel, so getting irked at him is not a fun experience at all.

You know my other complaints before I give voice to them: there are too many players. Too many pitchers coming in to fire gas for an inning and thus
lowering offense so much that even a pitching guy like me finds the proceedings boring. How much better would the game be if they’d simply cut down the rosters a bit and get rid of the every-team-must-have-a-player rule? We’ll never know because it ain’t gonna happen, so I should probably just stop my grousing now.

I guess what really gets me here — and stop me if my nostalgia is interfering with, you know, the facts — but I really do feel like the All-Star Game mattered a lot more back in the day, even if it didn’t count for anything as important as home field advantage. Maybe not to the players. I don’t buy that “they cared more back then” line that people fall for. Everyone likes to trot out the Rose-plows-into-Fosse story, but (a) I think Rose would be knocking over guys if he played now too; and (b) I think guys tried hard then and now in equal measure. Some care, some don’t, They just played more innings back then so it looked like more cared.

No, it’s to the fans that it doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. It used to be that the only chance we had to see of a lot of guys was during the All-Star Game, but now we have multiple national games a week and if you have the Extra Innings package or you can see any player just about any night.  And that was the thrill for me, really, seeing guys like Dave Parker or Mike Schmidt in my American League TV market back in the early 80s. There’s really no novelty to it anymore.

I’m prepared to admit that I’m falling into baseless cliche here, and if I am, tell me so.  But for the past several years of blogging about baseball I’ve been unable to escape the feeling that the game I love devotes a night to unorthodox and aesthetically unsatisfying play with the added annoyance of something actually important being decided, and I just can’t abide it.

I’m a sucker, though, so as always, I’ll watch it. But as I do I’ll be asking myself: why?

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.