Here’s an idea for a new and fun tweak to the All-Star Game


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Everyone has an “improve the All-Star Game” idea. I have a bunch. Most of them, however, tend to deal with roster construction or player use patterns. Here’s an idea from one of my readers — Ian Neilly — that may not have any immediate change on the game itself but which (a) adds an element of drama and P.R. opportunities in the runup to the game; and (b) in the long run may bring about some sort of change in how the game is approached.

The idea: instead of making the previous year’s pennant-winners the managers, put the manager of the teams with the best first half record in charge. Here’s Ian’s rationale:

1. With the game determining home field advantage in the World Series, there would be more incentive for the manager of a team with the best record in the AL or NL to approach the game as more of a real game, or a playoff game, and less of an exhibition game (e.g., in 2014, Boston was out of the pennant race at the break, so there was less personal incentive for the AL manager, Farrell, than there would’ve been for Showalter, or the manager with the best record in the AL);

2. For people who like the added juice of the game determining home field advantage, it will continue to do so, and for people who believe the team with the best record should have home field advantage in the WS, it would represent a bit of a compromise as the managers of teams with the best record each league will play a significant role in the game that determines home field advantage; and

3. There would be some day-to-day “drama” in the first weeks of July as managers come closer to “clinching” management of the AS game, and more drama in the game itself (e.g., in 2015, with St. Louis having the best record in baseball, there would have been slightly more drama with Matheny managing for home field advantage than Bochy).

Now, to be fair, if asked Bruce Bochy would never say that he has no designs on the World Series this year and it’d be silly to count the Giants out now given what they’ve done in the past several years. And, to be sure, it still would’ve been Ned Yost for the AL this year.

But it’s worth noting that Yost used his best player, Mike Trout, more than any All-Star player has been used in a game in seven or eight years. And in some seasons, such as last year with Ferrell, there really is a manager who, at least privately, likely realizes that, for him, home field advantage in the World Series is a lot more theoretical than anything else. Maybe this changes little immediately but maybe, over time, we’d see more best-player-usage if we had managers with slightly more vested interests.

In any event, the run-up idea — “who will clinch the manager job?” — could lead to some excitement too. Maybe you put a cutoff on it for logistical reasons, like a week before the All-Star Game, but it could be a fun late-June, early-July topic of conversation.

Anyway, I rather like this idea. What say you, commenters?

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.