Forget Yasiel Puig and just make the All-Star Game a game

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Upwards of 80 major leaguers will again call themselves All-Stars this year. 34-man rosters mean than a ridiculous 68 players will be eligible for the game. Another eight, 10, 12 or maybe more will be ruled out for the game because of injuries or because they were starting pitchers that pitched the Sunday before the game. In 2011, there were actually 84 All-Stars.

And that’s ridiculous. Unless we’re going 15 innings, it takes no more than 42 players to play a major league baseball game (two 25-man rosters, minus the eight starting pitchers going unused on any given day).

The draw of the All-Star Game is to see the best players face off against one another. Ideally, that’d happen for nine innings. Instead, it happens for four or five before the backups start taking over.

That’s what I’d like to see change. First, the All-Star Game needs to be pushed back to Wednesday, a simple move that brings any Sunday starters back into the contest. The Home Run Derby can be Tuesday instead. And, ideally, this would give the Futures Game its own day on Monday, instead of being played on Sunday while the major league action is still going on. The Futures Game, showcasing many of baseball’s very best prospects, is typically far more entertaining than the Derby, but it’s seen by only a handful while airing opposite major league games.

Second, just slash the rosters all to hell. I’d go 13 hitters and nine pitchers. Or we can do 25 if we have to, in case we do go beyond 10 innings. But let’s only invite the best of the best. Let’s have Miguel Cabrera facing Craig Kimbrel in the ninth. Last year, Elvis Andrus, Billy Butler and Matt Wieters made the final three outs of the game, facing three different National League pitchers. How incredibly lame is that?

Also, please spare me the argument that including the hot-shot young prospect makes the game more interesting. No one is tuning into the All-Star Game just so that Yasiel Puig can get a single at-bat 2 1/2 hours into the contest. It’s not 1985 anymore. Anyone curious about Puig can get their fill of highlights on demand.

I say we pencil in three starting pitchers for the first six innings and three relievers from there, with another three guys serving as mid-inning replacements if needed. Free up the managers to keep the position players in for nine innings and only make changes when warranted. Stop the silly “everyone has to play” ideal. It lessens the game. With 22-man rosters, it’ll be more of an honor just to be invited, whether the player is going to get that one seventh-inning at-bat or not.

Of course, this change also necessitates the ditching of the “every team gets a rep” rule. And to that I’d say good riddance.

I don’t believe any of this is going to happen. But it seems to me that the league (and FOX) seems more interested in getting people to tune into the All-Star Game for a spell rather than actually watch it from beginning to end. There’s a more compelling game to be had here if the league would trim the fat.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).