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.
You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.
On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.
During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.
The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.
Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.
Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.