Aaron Judge. Robinson Cano show why it’s so hard to hype MLB stars


Aaron Judge was probably the biggest individual story of the first half. While he didn’t come completely out of nowhere, he certainly exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations. He leads all of baseball with 30 homers, leads all of baseball in on-base and slugging percentage, is fifth in batting average and seventh in RBI. If the season ended today, he’d almost certainly be the AL MVP. In light of that, it’s not surprising that he was the primary focus of the All-Star festivities. His media scrums were the largest and his story was the biggest.

It was understandable to play up Judge in the days leading up to the All-Star festivities. His is a good story and he has an affable presence. It was also understandable to play him up heading into the Home Run Derby specifically. There are only eight contestants in that event and he was an obvious favorite. And, of course, Judge obliged those who put great All-Star expectations upon him by winning the thing. The preferred storyline of the baseball press corps was playing out nicely.

But pregame hype and a home run exhibition are one thing. Expecting Judge, or any other single player, to shine in a single baseball contest is quite another. Baseball, obviously, doesn’t work like that. Unlike with superstars in basketball or quarterbacks in football, you can’t count on any one baseball player — or at least a position player – figuring into the game’s storyline. The utility infielder may very well have the biggest hit.

There was clearly an effort to fight this dynamic with Judge, however. There were some who felt — or maybe wished — that Tuesday night’s game would be the Aaron Judge show. Over the past several days Judge was the obvious center of attention. He was asked, on multiple occasions, about being the new “face of baseball.” There was a palpable desire for Judge to be the All-Star Game’s shining star:

I love Castrovince. He’s one of the best in the business. But in no other situation would he or anyone else, an hour and a half before the first pitch, suggest that any one player would shine in any one game. Which is what he is saying with that MVP comment. Either that or else he’s suggesting a strong inclination among those in the press box to name Judge the MVP if he did anything short of fall on his face. Which, frankly, may very well have been the case. If it had happened, it would’ve put a nice cap on a week’s worth of hype and validated a week’s worth of writer and editor-driven storylines.

Baseball, however, did not cooperate. Judge went 0-for-3, striking out swinging in his first at bat, grounding out in his second and flying out in his third. Such a thing does not take a thing away from Aaron Judge and such a thing should not have been shocking. Even with his MVP pace, Judge has taken 0-fers 20 times this year. That’s how baseball works. If you strip away the hype, last night was just a Tuesday night. One on which Judge was facing better pitchers than he usually does. It would’ve been weird to pre-write a hero narrative for him or anyone else.

Yet I get the sense many did. Check out this from Jerry Crasnick’s column at ESPN.com. Again, Crasnick is one of the best in the business. He, more than most, understands how baseball does not lend itself to NFL and NBA-style kingmaking:

Probably worth noting that Robinson Cano, in addition to being an “ex-Yankee” happens to be in his fourth season with the Seattle Mariners, but I suppose that’s the topic of another rant.

Crasnick doesn’t write the headlines — I didn’t see him calling this “Aaron Judge’s All-Star Party” this week — but the framing of his column certainly notes just how much the past several days have been about Aaron Judge:

MIAMI — For much of this week’s All-Star schedule in Miami, the focus was on young players, trendy players, and a running debate over which player will ultimately emerge and lay claim to the designation of “Face of the Game.” Commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t quite bestow New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge with that distinction when asked for his opinion Tuesday. But he had to admit, the kid has lots of potential.

So it was heartwarming for nostalgia buffs to see a different player with a Yankees pedigree provide the most enduring image from the 88th All-Star Game.

Column writing on deadline is hard so I don’t begrudge Crasnick for that framing. That framing, however, does not make any sense unless there is a clear understanding that last night was supposed to be Aaron Judge’s coronation. A coronation both predicted and hoped for.

Hoping for such things is folly. Baseball can’t hype its stars the same way the NBA or NFL can and it shouldn’t try to. Fox can’t run a commercial for a weekend tilt between the Nationals and Cubs with “HARPER! BRYANT! THIS SATURDAY! BE THERE!” Harper and Bryant may combine to strike out five times. Even Babe Ruth went 0-for-4 on occasion. In doing so with Judge this past week, baseball forgot what it is for a little bit. It may have been understandable, but it was still misguided for it to do so.

Baseball defies prediction and prepackaged storylines. It can be eagerly anticipated and enjoyed in the moment, but it can only truly be understood and analyzed after the fact. Baseball just happens and what happens is far more random than what happens in any other sport. That may make it hard for those who want to sell a storyline, but it’s what, in my view, makes it wonderful.

Wayne Huizenga, founding owner of the Marlins, dies at 80

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MIAMI (AP) H. Wayne Huizenga, a college dropout who built a business empire that included Blockbuster Entertainment, AutoNation and three professional sports franchises, has died. He was 80.

Huizenga (HY’-zing-ah) died Thursday night at his home, Valerie Hinkell, a longtime assistant, said when reached at the family residence Friday. She gave no details on a cause of death.

Starting with a single garbage truck in 1968, Huzienga built Waste Management Inc. into a Fortune 500 company. He purchased independent sanitation engineering companies, and by the time he took the company public in 1972, he had completed the acquisition of 133 small-time haulers. By 1983, Waste Management was the largest waste disposal company in the United States.

The business model worked again with Blockbuster Video, which he started in 1985 and built into the leading movie rental chain nine years later. In 1996, he formed AutoNation and built it into a Fortune 500 company.

Huizenga was founding owner of baseball’s Florida Marlins and the NHL Florida Panthers – expansion teams that played their first games in 1993. He bought the NFL Miami Dolphins and their stadium for $168 million in 1994 from the children of founder Joe Robbie, but had sold all three teams by 2009.

The Marlins won the 1997 World Series, and the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, but Huizenga’s beloved Dolphins never reached a Super Bowl while he owned the team.

“If I have one disappointment, the disappointment would be that we did not bring a championship home,” Huizenga said shortly after he sold the Dolphins to New York real estate billionaire Stephen Ross. “It’s something we failed to do.”

Huizenga earned an almost cult-like following among business investors who watched him build Blockbuster Entertainment into the leading video rental chain by snapping up competitors. He cracked Forbes’ list of the 100 richest Americans, becoming chairman of Republic Services, one of the nation’s top waste management companies, and AutoNation, the nation’s largest automotive retailer. In 2013, Forbes estimated his wealth at $2.5 billion.

For a time, Huizenga was also a favorite with South Florida sports fans, drawing cheers and autograph seekers in public. The crowd roared when he danced the hokey pokey on the field during an early Marlins game. He went on a spending spree to build a veteran team that won the World Series in the franchise’s fifth year.

But his popularity plummeted when he ordered the roster dismantled after that season. He was frustrated by poor attendance and his failure to swing a deal for a new ballpark built with taxpayer money.

Many South Florida fans never forgave him for breaking up the championship team. Huizenga drew boos when introduced at Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino’s retirement celebration in 2000, and kept a lower public profile after that.

In 2009, Huizenga said he regretted ordering the Marlins’ payroll purge.

“We lost $34 million the year we won the World Series, and I just said, `You know what, I’m not going to do that,”‘ Huizenga said. “If I had it to do over again, I’d say, `OK, we’ll go one more year.”‘

He sold the Marlins in 1999 to John Henry, and sold the Panthers in 2001, unhappy with rising NHL player salaries and the stock price for the team’s public company.

Huizenga’s first sports love was the Dolphins – he had been a season-ticket holder since their first season in 1966. But he fared better in the NFL as a businessman than as a sports fan.

He turned a nifty profit by selling the Dolphins and their stadium for $1.1 billion, nearly seven times what he paid to become sole owner. But he knew the bottom line in the NFL is championships, and his Dolphins perennially came up short.

Huizenga earned a reputation as a hands-off owner and won raves from many loyal employees, even though he made six coaching changes. He eased Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula into retirement in early 1996, and Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, interim coach Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron and Tony Sporano followed as coach.

Harry Wayne Huizenga was born in the Chicago suburbs on Dec. 29, 1937, to a family of garbage haulers. He began his business career in Pompano Beach in 1962, driving a garbage truck from 2 a.m. to noon each day for $500 a month.

One customer successfully sued Huizenga, saying that in an argument over a delinquent account, Huizenga injured him by grabbing his testicles – an allegation Huizenga always denied.

“I never did that. The guy was a deputy cop. It was his word against mine, a young kid,” he told Fortune magazine in 1996.

Huizenga was a five-time recipient of Financial World magazine’s “CEO of the Year” award, and was the Ernst & Young “2005 World Entrepreneur of the Year.”

Regarding his business acumen, Huzienga said: “You just have to be in the right place at the right time. It can only happen in America.”

In September 1960, he married Joyce VanderWagon. Together they had two children, Wayne Jr. and Scott. They divorced in 1966. Wayne married his second wife, Marti Goldsby, in April 1972. She died in 2017.

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