Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

Michael Saunders and Brandon Belt win the All-Star Final Vote

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The Final Vote for the final All-Star slot on each team concluded at 4pm eastern today. If you were on Twitter it was impossible to avoid the hashtags. Clearly, it’s the best form of democracy we have to offer. Anyway, the winners are in: Michael Saunders of the Blue Jays and and Brandon Belt of the Giants.

Belt just edged out yesterday’s leader, Starling Marte, who finished second. Then came Trevor Story of the Rockies, Jake Lamb of the Diamondbacks and Ryan Braun of the Brewers who, shockingly, did not win a fan popularity contest. Didn’t see that one coming.

In the AL Saunders beat out George Springer of the Astros, Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox, Ian Kinsler of the Tigers and Evan Longoria of the Rays.

So there’s your last All-Stars. At least until the next five guys get replaced for injuries and things.

Max Scherzer replaces Stephen Strasburg in the All-Star Game

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We’re running out of snubs as the result of subs. The latest: Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer has been added to the NL All-Star roster as a replacement for his teammate, Stephen Strasburg, who will not pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game due to him being scheduled to pitch tonight and thus won’t be on enough rest to pitch on Tuesday.

Scherzer is no stranger to the All-Star Game. It’s his fourth in a row. He was the American League’s starting pitcher at the 2013 All-Star Game. This has not been his greatest season — he’s set a pretty high bar for himself — but he’s still one of the better pitchers in the NL and he’s striking out guys to beat the band. In 18 starts this season he’s 9-6 with a 3.21 ERA and a Major League-best 155 strikeouts in 120.2 innings pitched against 32 walks. On May 11 he tied a Major League record with 20 strikeouts in his start against the Detroit Tigers.

He’s a big star. He deserves to be an All-Star.

Landon Donovan talks about making baseball fans as passionate as soccer fans

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U.S. soccer great Landon Donovan was on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM with Mike Ferrin and Jim Bowden today. Donovan is a big, big baseball fan. A Dodgers guy to be precise. Mike and Jim talked to him about how soccer does well engaging with young fans and keeping them interested and what baseball can learn from it.

Donovan had a couple of good insights. First, he noted the difference inherent in baseball and soccer fans, and that’s that baseball fans are more casual, at least until the playoffs, where soccer has a smaller fan base but a more “crazy and passionate” group. You could probably say the same about hockey fans too. I think a lot of it has to do with the number of games and meaning of each game. If baseball had 40-80 games I imagine it’d pare things down to a smaller, harder core as well. It’s hard to maintain that super fan level of intensity for 162 games over six months.

Ferrin asked Donovan about how baseball can get younger and more passionate fans the way soccer has. Donovan said that it’s about capturing short attention spans and highlighting the short bursts of excitement. Oftentimes people say baseball is doomed in this regard in that it’s an inherently slow game. Interestingly, though, Donovan noted that soccer, like baseball, is often accused of being boring and slow — he cited 0-0 games — but noted that at the stadium there is always something going on, be it chanting or cheering, which is often an organized activity. You see this in Asian baseball as well. In only the smallest of pockets of baseball stadiums do you ever see such things, and it usually only lasts an inning or two. In San Francisco last week I noticed some visiting A’s fans at AT&T Park doing organized cheers. The Yankees and Mets have a bit of this, but they don’t exactly capture the whole stadium.

They all noted how smart phones, iPads and similar devices are a near constant fact of young people’s lives as well, and talked about how better integrating those things into the in-stadium experience would help.

Interesting perspective from a knowledgable outsider. Listen: