Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks

We’re doing it wrong: 2011 All-Star Game preview

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Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is supposed to be a grand spectacle, a chance for baseball fans to see all of the sport’s current greats in one stadium on the same night. And it is that.

But a rule made official in 2003 now dictates that the winner of the Midsummer Classic is awarded home field advantage in the World Series — the chance to host four games of a potential seven-game series.

Major League Baseball wants the outcome of the All-Star Game to matter in order to boost interest and competitiveness (and, thus, television ratings), so we’re forced to take this all way too seriously.

(If taking it “too seriously” involves half-hearted and mostly blind analysis).

Our guess at the starting lineups:

American League

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Josh Hamilton
RF Jose Bautista
DH David Ortiz
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
C Alex Avila

Bench

C Matt Wieters
C Russell Martin
1B Miguel Cabrera
2B Howie Kendrick
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Carlos Quentin
OF Michael Cuddyer
OF Matt Joyce
DH Michael Young

National League

SS Jose Reyes
CF Matt Kemp
LF Ryan Braun
1B Prince Fielder
DH Joey Votto
RF Lance Berkman
C Brian McCann
2B Rickie Weeks
3B Placido Polanco

Bench

C Yadier Molina
1B Gaby Sanchez
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Chipper Jones
SS Starlin Castro
SS Troy Tulowitzki
OF Justin Upton
OF Hunter Pence
OF Jay Bruce
OF Carlos Beltran
OF Matt Holliday

Both lineups are stacked with power and a nice dose of speed. Jeter is no longer an All-Star caliber player, but neither is Polanco and there’s plenty of danger in the heart of each order to make up for those minor holes. Plus, these starting lineups won’t remain intact beyond the third inning with crowded and talented benches on both sides. The offensive production is going to be a toss-up, especially at Chase Field where home runs fly often. Both clubhouses boast superb power-hitting. The only reason we might favor the National League lineup is because Jeter seems likely to be the sentimental pick at leadoff for American League skipper Ron Washington, and Reyes-Kemp-Braun functions a little better than Jeter-Granderson-Gonzalez.

To the pitching staffs:

American League

SP Justin Verlander
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Gio Gonzalez
SP Josh Beckett
SP David Price
SP James Shields
SP Jered Weaver
SP C.J. Wilson
RP Chris Perez
RP Jose Valverde
RP Aaron Crow
RP Mariano Rivera
RP Brandon League

National League

SP Roy Halladay
SP Clayton Kershaw
SP Cole Hamels
SP Tim Lincecum
SP Jair Jurrjens
SP Matt Cain
SP Cliff Lee
SP Ryan Vogelsong
RP Jonny Venters
RP Joel Hanrahan
RP Heath Bell
RP Tyler Clippard
RP Brian Wilson

We’ll get a better idea later this week as to which pitchers are actually going to be available for the All-Star Game. For now, we’re left only to analyze the staffs as a whole. With Verlander, King Felix, Beckett, Price, Weaver, Shields and Gonzalez, the American League boasts the better rotation arms. All eight starters, including Wilson, have the ability to dominate opponents deep into games. The National League has a trio of excellent Phillies, two young studs in Kershaw and Jurrjens, and a wild card in Lincecum, whose delivery can be awfully tricky for batters who are unfamiliar, but manager Bruce Bochy’s selfish decision to choose Cain and Vogelsong over guys like Tommy Hanson and Anibal Sanchez might be the kicker in the end. Then again, you have to wonder what might happen if the American League is forced to rely on someone like Crow in the later innings. The National League would seem to have a better crop of bullpen arms.

This analysis, of course, is arbitrary. Baseball is a sport played across 162 games, where small sample sizes mean little and any squad has a shot on a given day. The worst team in baseball each season still wins 50 games. It’s going to come down to individual performances. Will Granderson go yard? Will Reyes steal a bunch of bases? Are Joe Buck and Tim McCarver actually gonna provide some enthusiasm?

See you in Phoenix.

Is Bud Black the favorite to be the next Braves manager?

Bud Black
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We talked last week about how Fredi Gonzalez is likely a dead man walking as the Braves manager. They stink, he’s a lame duck and part of the team’s whole marketing thrust is “2017 will be a new beginning,” what with the new ballpark and all. It stands to reason that Mr. Gonzalez doesn’t have long for this world.

Last week I suspected he’d be fired tomorrow, the Braves off day before a home stand. They’ve won in the past week, but it still wouldn’t shock me. Even if firing Gonzalez would be an act of scapegoating. It’s the roster that’s the problem, not the manager, even though Fredi doesn’t exactly inspire anyone.

Today Bob Nightengale throws this into the mix:

As of yet he hasn’t followed that up with an actual column or more tweets about who, exactly, considers Black to be the heavy favorite, but there’s a definitiveness to that which makes me think he’s heard something solid.

Black, as you know, was the long time Padres manager who had an unsuccessful flirtation with the Nationals before they hired Dusty Baker this past offseason. Black is now cooling his heels with his longtime boss Mike Scioscia in Anaheim, in what is clearly a “wait for his next managing opportunity” posture.

Could it be in Atlanta? At least one national writer and some nebulous group of insiders believe so, it would seem.

The Reds bullpen set a record for futility

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher J.J. Hoover reacts after giving up a solo home run to Chicago Cubs' Javier Baez, left, during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, April 22, 2016, in Cincinnati. The Cubs won 8-1. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Associated Press
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I mentioned this in the recaps this morning but it’s worthy of its own post.

The Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen gave up two runs last night. In so doing it made for the 21st consecutive game in which it has allowed at least one run. That’s a new major league record, having surpassed the 2013 Colorado Rockies’ record of 20, according to Elias.

Last year the Reds set a record — shattered it, really — by going with rookie starting pitchers in 64 straight games to end the season. Those guys aren’t rookies anymore, but they’re still really inexperienced. They could probably use some better bullpen help than they’ve been getting.

Headline of the Day– A-Rod: “Trophy Boyfriend”

Alex Rodriguez
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For as long as there have been couples, the woman in a couple has been publicly defined by the man’s life and accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if the woman cures cancer, walks on the moon or wins the Eurovision Song Contest, when news stories or obituaries are written, she is invariably referred to as “wife of ___” or “girlfriend of ___.” Even if the guy is a grade-A schmuck.

While that pattern still persists, it’s nice to see someone flip the script on it once in a while. Like The Cut did in its story about a new, high-profile couple going public:

 

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The couple: Alex Rodriguez and Anne Wojcicki. Who, if you were unaware, is a Silicon Valley biotech CEO and a billionaire. She went to Yale, played varsity hockey in college and is a mother. Alex Rodriguez is accomplished and famous, but outside of the sports bubble he’s a padawan to Wojcicki’s master Jedi. Despite this, in places other than The Cut, it would still not be surprising to see her referred to as “A-Rod’s girlfriend,” because that’s just how people roll. Here’s hoping others take The Cut’s lead when referring to women in the public sphere more often.

A related note: in the rare cases when a famous male personality is identified in reference to his female partner and not the other way around, people like to make jokes and like to question the masculinity of the man. Which is equally stupid. And, to the man in question, should be utterly beside the point.

To that end, I think it’s worth noting that Alex Rodriguez has been involved with several women who, outside of baseball, are far more famous than he is and it’s never seemed to be an issue for him whatsoever. People like to say a lot of things about A-Rod’s ego and personality, but in this respect I bet he’s a hell of a lot better adjusted, grounded and self-assured than the vast majority of men who might find themselves in his place.

Video: Jeff Samardzija breaks a bat over his knee after striking out

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 8.23.03 AM
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Jeff Samardzija had a great night last night. He allowed one run on three hits over eight innings and picked up the win. In the early going he’s proving wrong those who thought that the Giants overpaid for him and is providing solid performance from the third spot in the Giants rotation. It’s all good.

But good is not always good enough for a professional athlete. Especially one like Samardzija, who excelled in multiple sports and likely can count his lifetime athletic failures on one hand. No, when you’re wired like that you get upset even when you’re excellent because sometimes you want to be perfect.

For example, most pitchers don’t get too worried about striking out. They’re there to pitch, not bat. They turn on their heel and calmly walk back to the dugout. Samardzija, however, got a bit irate when he struck out. Then he did this: