American League All-Stars Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees stands with Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Home Run Derby in Kansas City

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.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.