Major League Baseball needs to shift the All-Star week schedule

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — As I write this, it’s just about 4PM Eastern time on Sunday afternoon. There are 10 Major League Baseball games going on and four more will start within the next 10-15 minutes. Also, and you may have heard about this, the World Cup Final is going on. It’s tied 0-0 at the half at the moment and it’s totally dominating my Twitter feed and the consciousness of, oh, a billion or two people.

Also happening: batting practice for the Futures Game, which will get going in less than an hour. Tell me: how many sports fans plan on tuning in to the Futures Game?

I can’t imagine many, which is a damn shame. The Futures Game is one of the more overlooked events in all of baseball. We spend so much time talking about prospects, obsessing about prospects and, if the team we root for is not on the path to a championship, placing an inordinate amount of our hopes and dreams on the shoulders of these prospects. Yet, when 50 of the best young players in the world come together to play an all-star game, it’s almost an afterthought.

Can anyone explain to me why Major League Baseball doesn’t do something about this? Such as moving the Futures Game to Monday night and getting rid of the Home Run Derby? Or, if the Home Run Derby is too much to lose from a financial perspective, shifting everything forward a day, with the Futures Game on Monday, the Home Run Derby on Tuesday and the All-Star Game on Wednesday? Heck, if we were to do that more pitchers could take part in it due to the extra day of rest. Plus: we won’t have the utterly and totally dead baseball night on Wednesday.

As it is: Target Field is not going to be full for the Futures Game. Just as Citi Field was not full for it last year. While I presume the ratings will be good for an MLB Network broadcast, serious baseball fans will be watching their local team’s broadcast, not this. Certainly nowhere near as many as would be watching it if it had prime time exposure and no competition from regular season big league games and the biggest sporting event on the planet.

MLB has done so much in the past decade or so to improve on its marketing and promotion. Why they haven’t done anything to rescue the Futures Game from obscurity is beyond me.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.