The 2014 All-Star Game Preview

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — The salad is finished. Bring on the steak.

We have spent 48 hours looking at the Future, watching a sideshow and gazing at baseball’s navel. Now that that is over the All-Star Game itself is at hand. And, no matter what you think of it, the fact that it is the only baseball game around makes it worth your time.

The starting pitchers and starting lineups are set. Here’s the order A.L. starter Felix Hernandez will face to start things off:

NATIONAL LEAGUE:

CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Yasiel Puig
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Paul Goldschmidt
DH Giancarlo Stanton
3B Aramis Ramirez
2B Chase Utley
Jonathan Lucroy
LF Carlos Gomez

And the hometown nine, technically speaking anyway, which will do battle with N.L. starter Adam Wainwright:

AMERICAN LEAGUE:
SS Derek Jeter
LF Mike Trout
2B Robinson Cano
1B Miguel Cabrera
RF Jose Bautista
DH Nelson Cruz
CF Adam Jones
3B Josh Donaldson
Salvador Perez

The National League seems to have the stronger set of starters on paper. It’s certainly no walkover, but the outfield defense is unusually strong here, and that could make a big difference.

Of course, the starters may have the lease amount of impact on this game. Given how All-Star managers have taken to trying to get every player on the roster into the game at some point, bench players and relievers are going to play a large part in how this All-Star Game goes.

But make no mistake: no matter what happens on the field, the star of tonight’s show is going to be Derek Jeter. He’ll lead off to a huge amount of applause and he’ll be paid multiple tributes both at the ballpark and on the Fox broadcast. If he does anything notable — say, hit a homer in his final All-Star Game like Cal Ripken did several years ago, Katie bar the door.

Yes, it’s an exhibition, but it’s one with a great pedigree. And one, as the name promises, that is loaded with stars. It’s easy to get cynical about a lot in this world, but if you’re cynical about the All-Star Game, well, I feel kinda bad for you.

Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday

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This Sunday three players will be honored in Cooperstown as Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez become the 313th, 314th and 315th members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz will be inducted as well, making it 316 and 317.

Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy, all of whom got more plaudits at the time. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that period and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Rickey Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). That Raines had to wait until his last year of eligibility was in large part due to him being a very similar player to Henderson. Which is kind of an unfair comparison — Henderson is one of the best players of all time — but that’s how the voters operate sometimes.

Bagwell likewise had to wait a bit longer than he should’ve, mostly due to thus far evidence-free beliefs that he used PEDs. On the merits, Bagwell was one of the best first basemen of all time, with a career line of .297/.408/.540, 449 homers and 1,529 RBI. Between 1994 and 2001, he averaged — averaged! — a line of .306/.428/.589, 37 homers and 120 RBI while playing in perhaps the worst hitters park in history in the Astrodome.

People whispered about Rodriguez and PEDs just as much as they did Bagwell, but he got in on the first ballot, suggesting that the BBWAA is getting over its hangups. He is also clearly deserving of induction. Rodriguez, the 1999 AL MVP, was named to 14 All-Star teams and he won 13 Gold Gloves. He finished his career with a .296/.334/.464 line, 311 homers and 1,332 RBI. His 2,427 games caught is a major league record. He was, without question, the best defensive catcher of his era and many believe he was the best of all time. If he’s not, he’s in the top two or three.

As for the executives: we’re long on record as believing that Bud Selig’s induction is a disgrace. It was nonetheless a foregone conclusion, as the Hall of Fame has tended to view induction as part of retiring commissioners’ severance package. If there was any remaining doubt about him getting in, the fact that the committee which elected Selig was, more or less, hand-picked by people loyal to Selig and/or Major League Baseball put it to rest.  John Schuerholz is clearly deserving as he was one of the top executives of the past half century, starting out with the Orioles and then building winners in both Kansas City and Atlanta, sustaining those organizations’ success for far longer periods than most teams experience it.

Beyond those two, ESPN’s Claire Smith will be on the stage to accept the 2017 J. G. Taylor Spink Award, given to baseball writers. She is the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor.  Athletics broadcaster will be honored as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting. Smith passed away in 2005.

The ceremony will be held on a big lawn a mile south of the Hall of Fame. If you’re in the neighborhood, admission is free and lawn chairs and blankets and things are welcome. If you’re not in the neighborhood, the festivities will be broadcast live on MLB Network and will be shown via webcast at http://www.baseballhall.org.

Aaron Judge broke a tooth celebrating the Yankees walkoff win

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Brett Gardner hit a walkoff homer last night, giving the Yankees a dramatic 11-inning win. A grand celebration ensued. And then a trip to the dentist presumably ensured for Aaron Judge.

Seems that Judge broke a tooth during the scrum, as Gardner’s helmet — which was bouncing around, not on Gardner’s head — bounced up and smacked Judge in the mouth. Judge quickly went to the clubhouse and wasn’t available for comment afterward. If he was, he likely would’ve said “Thith wath a great win. Gardner juth looked for hith pitch and put a good thwing on it.”

Judge is expected to make the start tonight for the Yankees.