This is my first All-Star Game but reporters I spoke with said that, by far, the players are far more accessible this year than they have been at All-Star Games past. Just saw a good example of this down on the field as the AL Players were coming out for warmups.
Here are Max Scherzer and Mike Trout signing autographs for troops who are here to participate in pregame ceremonies:
This wasn’t one of those orchestrated deals where players appear to have been told to go do things for the troops. They are just walking back and forth from the clubhouse to the field, past throngs of fans hanging over the rails, the reporters and the assembled hoi polloy. Because they have places to be they obviously can’t stop for everyone. But most of the players — not just Trout and Scherzer — are stopping for the troops. Who, by the way, are over the moon each time one stops.
The vibe here is so friendly. So relaxed. I’ve sort of complained that everyone keeps saying “I’m just happy to be here.” But really, they all appear very happy to be here.
Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.
McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).
McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.