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Bye-bye All-Star Game, bye-bye New York

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I was at Citi Field until way after midnight last night then it took a good hour to make it back to my hotel. Then I was wired from my first All-Star experience and didn’t get to bed until it was way closer to my usual wakeup time than it was my usual bedtime. Waking up at, like, 9AM is insanity. I don’t know how you lazy people do it.

I’m getting ready to head out of New York, having taken in my first All-Star Game. Gotta say, the entire experience exceeded my expectations.  Some random observations as I prepare to book it back to America’s Heartland:

  • The Futures Game was more fun than I figured it would be. I touched on it a bit on Monday morning, but there is a lot of fun to be had seeing players you’ve never seen before. Sadly, however, way fewer people see the Futures Game than really should. Note to Major League Baseball: do not schedule the Futures Game opposite actual Major League action on Sunday. Give it its own day on Monday, move the Home Run Derby to Tuesday and the All-Star Game to Wednesday. You’d get yourself three days of feature programming and way more people could enjoy the Futures Game.
  • The Home Run Derby is probably the least interesting of the three main on-field events during All-Star Week. I don’t know how to spice it up. Maybe make a baseball triathlon of sorts, with a skills competition. Something involving running, throws from the outfield, precision bunting, whatever. I don’t know. The Derby just gets so tedious after a while, and I feel like the only reason it’s as long as it is is to justify a block of three hours of programming on ESPN. A baseball game is worth that. Batting practice isn’t.
  • Some people are saying last night’s game was uneventful. I don’t care. It felt way more like a real baseball game than a lot of recent All-Star Games. Good defense and some fun running and things. It put me in mind of 1988 baseball. And I really love 1988-style baseball. Except defense is way better now than it was in 1988.
  • I was happy this morning to wake up and read that the bulk of the commentary about last night’s game focused on Mariano Rivera being wonderful rather than “why didn’t Jim Leyland let him get the save?!” arglebargle. I’m sure some of that exists, of course. And if you think that you probably need to re-examine your priorities.
  • I rode the media bus back to Manhattan with former Royals/Rangers/Yankees/Pirates catcher Don Slaught last night. Slaught owns a company called RightViewPro which does video imaging of ballplayers for scouting and training purposes. He has come to nine straight All-Star Games where he sets up cameras to capture the swings of players, which he then breaks down, compares to others, uses for scouting and training and stuff.  Sounds like a neat operation, and not just because he claims that, if you do a video comparison, Ichiro and Mickey Mantle essentially have the same mechanics at the point of contact. Smart guy and a nice guy. And he’s fully aware that his 1990 and 1992 Strat-o-Matic cards are wonderful.
  • I’m not sure how it happened, but there are a lot of you in comments and on Twitter who got it in their head that I hate New York. Nothing could be further from the truth. New York is wonderful and amazing. To visit. Which is what I am doing, so this has been a fantastic few days. To the extent I’ve been critical or complainy it’s way more about me and my sensibilities not being all that compatible with life in a giant city for more than a few days, not a criticism of the city itself. In other words, it’s not you, New York, it’s me. And I know that. Besides, this place is beautiful. Even at 1AM:

source:

Thanks for everything New York. Hope Minneapolis is just as much fun for next year’s All-Star Game.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.