Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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Matt Harvey to undergo season-ending surgery

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The choice has been made: Scott Boras tells ESPN’s Adam Rubin that his client Matt Harvey will undergo surgery to fix his thoracic outlet syndrome. The surgery, which requires a recovery time of at least four months, will end Harvey’s season.

As we noted yesterday, thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition that results from excess pressure on the nerves or blood vessels between the rib cage and collarbone that can cause pain in the shoulder and neck. The condition has caused Harvey to pitch poorly this year, resulting in a record of 4-10, an ERA of 4.86 and 76 strikeouts and 25 walks in 92.2 innings.

While, if everything goes well with his surgery, Harvey should be ready for spring training, there is a long list of pitchers who were never the same after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Good luck to Harvey in beating some tough odds against his return to dominance.

The All-Star Game is comically awash in corporate sponsorship

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This is not one of those “oh, the All-Star Game” is horrible columns people like to write. With the exception of the home field advantage thing and some minor complaints about how voting is conducted and rosters are filled out, I like the All-Star Game well enough. It’s still a real baseball game in most respects, which can’t be said for its football, basketball and hockey counterparts. The Home Run Derby, especially with the tweaks made for last year, is a good deal of fun. It’s basically harmless and sometimes quite enjoyable.

But one thing has been sticking in my craw about it over the past couple of years, and that’s the level of corporate sponsorship involved.

Don’t get me wrong: I know it’s a business and that everyone wants to make a buck. This is not some pinko liberal commie anti-corporate screed. It’s more bemusement than beef. I’m bemused at what the All-Star sponsors think they’re getting out of their sponsorships given how diluted each of them are.

I get a lot of press releases from Major League Baseball in the runup to the All-Star Game, and by doing a cursory search of those in my inbox, I found the following sponsorship notes attached to the Midsummer Classic. I’m probably missing a few:

  • On Tuesday night we will witness the Major League Baseball All-Star Game presented by MasterCard;
  • Before the first pitch is thrown on Tuesday there will be multiple performances by Grammy-winning recording artists, whose names will be identified first by the name of their record labels which, you can imagine, gave some sort of consideration to MLB and/or Fox to get their artists on the telecast;
  • The actual All-Star Game will be preceded by Monday’s Gatorade All-Star Workout Day;
  • The key part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day is the T-Mobile Home Run Derby;
  • Before we get to that, however, there will be All-Star Sunday featuring the SiriusXM Futures Game;
  • All of these things will be taking place at Petco Park, but stadium sponsorship is pretty quaint by now I suppose;
  • A great many of the participants in the All-Star festivities were selected by fan voting, which was sponsored by Esurance, culminating in the 2016 Esurance All-Star Final Vote (note: all the press releases heavily hashtag these things despite them not having links);
  • This week and over the weekend there are a lot of side events in and around San Diego, including youth league field refurbishment events sponsored by Scotts, a 5K presented by Nike, a group yoga event sponsored by something called Soul Pose and a block party sponsored by Pepsi.

Again, most of these events are probably pretty cool in their own right. Some of them have charitable aspects to them, separate and apart from the many charitable activities MLB will hold in the coming days. I don’t begrudge their existence or the fact, in and of itself, that they’re sponsored by some company. We all have a price. If Pepsi or Esurance wants to throw some money my way I’ll hold some event and allow them to put their logos all over it.

I just can’t help but wonder what, say, MasterCard gets from being the official sponsor of the All-Star Game when there are a dozen others sponsoring a dozen other aspects of it all. Well, I don’t get what MasterCard gets from advertising at all, actually, given how people choose their credit cards, but that’s another topic. How about Gatorade having a subset of its “workout day” sponsored by T-Mobile. Etc.

Mostly, though, I just wonder who or what the All-Star Game is supposed to be serving. The fans? The league? The sponsors? I guess it’s not a mutually-exclusive proposition, but it I imagine all of those complicated business relationships make changing any one aspect of the All-Star Game, if baseball wants an aspect changed, pretty complicated. I imagine that, even if we’re not super unhappy with the All-Star Game, little things that could make it better are unlikely to occur without a lot of meetings and hassles, and who wants any of that? I imagine that the sponsors get the final say on anything that even remotely enters their bailiwick.

This post has been brought to you by “Jason Bourne,” in theaters July 29th, from Universal Pictures.

Stop it: The Home Run Derby does not harm its participants

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Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times has a case of the vapors this morning about Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager participating in the Home Run Derby this year. It’ll mess up his swing, Plaschke laments, as he claims “[h]istory is littered with Derby winners who collapsed in the second half of the season.”

A lot of people believe this, but it’s bunk. It has been proven to be bunk over and over and over again. Yes, a lot of guys do worse after they participate in the Home Run Derby, but they don’t do worse because they participate in the Home Run Derby. To claim otherwise is a simply erroneous.

To be fair to Plaschke, the reason so many believe this, himself included one presumes, is that Bobby Abreu famously claimed that the Derby did, in fact, mess him up. He won the thing in 2005, following a power-packed first half of the season. Then his power went away and the Derby was to blame, Abreu said. Whenever another player had a worse second half than his first half post-Derby, the Derby is cited as the cause.

One player’s subjective impression of his experience, however, does not establish the existence of a curse. Or, short of a curse, it does not prove, as Plaschke implies as has been proven, that the Home Run Derby messes up guys’ swings. The matter has been studied over and over, in fact, and it has never been established that the Derby has a negative impact on its participants. For a sampling of that, go herehere, here, here, here, here, or here. There are a ton more if you want to Google it yourself. The most recent study, from Yahoo’s Will Laws, reveals that of the 16 most recent Derby victors, nine saw their home run rates increase after winning the contest, including Yoenis CespedesPrince FielderRobinson Cano, Vladimir Guerrero, Ryan Howard, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, and Sammy Sosa. The winners, of course, end up taking far more allegedly damaging swings than anyone, so if anything they’d be the most harmed by participating. Not so.

If the numbers don’t impress you, you can just talk to players. Plaschke did, but it didn’t seem to change his mind. Most of them say that the Derby isn’t deleterious to their performance. Indeed. Adrian Gonzalez tells Plaschke specifically that the Derby is not really any different than batting practice, in which all players spend some time swinging for the fences. In other stories, like ESPN’s Jim Caple’s debunking of the Derby Curse from 2009, players talk about how it takes 30 days for muscle memory to set in and thus one evening’s worth of grip it and rip it swinging is not going to do much harm. Heck, just show up to the park early for BP one day. If you can get close enough to the cage you can pretty frequently here guys challenging each other, bragging about their power and competing to see who can hit it farther.

So, if players do decline after the Derby — and yes, some do, such as Abreu and last year’s winner Todd Frazier — what causes it? Regression for the most part. The guys chosen to be in the Derby were chosen specifically because they had outstanding numbers in the first half. Spectacular performance is always going to come back to Earth, at least a little. In this the Derby Myth is akin to the silly Sports Illustrated or Madden cover jinxes. The very reason people are chosen to be on those covers is because they’ve been AMAZING. Everyone peaks and then regresses. As some of those linked studies show, however, the players rarely come back to Earth harder or faster than their non-Derbying peers. As the season wears on, guys get tired and hurt. No one is as fresh in September as they were in May. That’s just baseball. Some, and Abreu is a great example of this, significantly outperformed their career norms in the runup to the Derby. Their allegedly stark falloff is more a matter of getting back to career norms.

None of this is to say that the Home Run Derby is a totally safe and perpetually harmless thing. It involves physical exertion and, as we’ve seen, any sort of physical exertion can, theoretically, lead to an injury. At some point, if the Derby continues on, someone will inevitably strain an oblique or, heaven forbid, break a hamate bone or something, as those are things guys do on swings sometimes. I hope it doesn’t happen, but on a long enough timeline anything is possible. But anything is possible in a baseball game too, and we’re not keeping guys from playing baseball.

That concern aside, the Home Run Derby is nothing to be afraid of. Maybe one day the mountain of evidence establishing that will be acknowledged by the Bill Plaschkes of the the world.