Major League Baseball needs to shift the All-Star week schedule

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — As I write this, it’s just about 4PM Eastern time on Sunday afternoon. There are 10 Major League Baseball games going on and four more will start within the next 10-15 minutes. Also, and you may have heard about this, the World Cup Final is going on. It’s tied 0-0 at the half at the moment and it’s totally dominating my Twitter feed and the consciousness of, oh, a billion or two people.

Also happening: batting practice for the Futures Game, which will get going in less than an hour. Tell me: how many sports fans plan on tuning in to the Futures Game?

I can’t imagine many, which is a damn shame. The Futures Game is one of the more overlooked events in all of baseball. We spend so much time talking about prospects, obsessing about prospects and, if the team we root for is not on the path to a championship, placing an inordinate amount of our hopes and dreams on the shoulders of these prospects. Yet, when 50 of the best young players in the world come together to play an all-star game, it’s almost an afterthought.

Can anyone explain to me why Major League Baseball doesn’t do something about this? Such as moving the Futures Game to Monday night and getting rid of the Home Run Derby? Or, if the Home Run Derby is too much to lose from a financial perspective, shifting everything forward a day, with the Futures Game on Monday, the Home Run Derby on Tuesday and the All-Star Game on Wednesday? Heck, if we were to do that more pitchers could take part in it due to the extra day of rest. Plus: we won’t have the utterly and totally dead baseball night on Wednesday.

As it is: Target Field is not going to be full for the Futures Game. Just as Citi Field was not full for it last year. While I presume the ratings will be good for an MLB Network broadcast, serious baseball fans will be watching their local team’s broadcast, not this. Certainly nowhere near as many as would be watching it if it had prime time exposure and no competition from regular season big league games and the biggest sporting event on the planet.

MLB has done so much in the past decade or so to improve on its marketing and promotion. Why they haven’t done anything to rescue the Futures Game from obscurity is beyond me.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.