And now the main event: the actual All-Star Game

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SAN DIEGO — We’ve had a couple of days of hype, but now we get an actual baseball game. At least insofar as you can call the All-Star Game real baseball. It certainly has its challenges in this regard, focused mostly on player usage, but unlike the other sports’ All-Star games, each individual interaction here — pitcher vs. batter and the reaction of defenders — is good and true. Unless of course Jose Fernandez has anything to say about it.

Before the game gets started there will still be some pomp circumstance and the like. A brief rundown:

  • The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown by Padres (team) Hall of Famer and 1976 National League Cy Young Award Winner Randy Jones. Jones started for the National League in the 1976 All-Star Game and is a local institution here in San Diego;
  • The U.S. National Anthem will be performed by pop star Rachel Platten. The Tenors will perform the Canadian National Anthem. We will have no Dominican Republic or Venezuelan National Anthem, but we really should;
  • The giant flag will be held by 275 Marines. Unlike past displays of military appreciation and patriotic fervor at other ballparks, the military also happens to be the primary local industry here in San Diego, so it’s particularly appropriate here. We’ll also get a flyover of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
  • The official game ball will be delivered by Padres (team) Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman. He’ll be a Baseball Hall of Famer one day too.
  • 2015-2016 Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year Whitney Stewart will yell “Play Ball!” prior to the game.

As a reminder, here are the lineups:

American League Lineup

1. Jose Altuve 2b
2. Mike Trout CF
3. Manny Machado 3B
4. David Ortiz DH
5. Xander Bogaerts SS
6. Eric Hosmer 1B
7. Mookie Betts RF
8. Salvador Perez C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr. LF

Chris Sale of the White Sox gets the start.

National League Lineup:

1. Ben Zobrist 2B
2. Bryce Harper RF
3. Kris Bryant 3B
4. Wil Myers DH
5. Buster Posey C
6. Anthony Rizzo 1B
7. Marcell Ozuna CF
8. Carlos Gonzalez LF
9. Addison Russell SS

Johnny Cueto of the Giants is the starter.

As far as predictions go, eh, who knows? How do you predict this stuff? But let’s try:

Bill: National League 5, American League 3
Craig: American League 6, National League 4

Non-outcome prediction:

Bill: Stephen Vogt racks up 10 passed balls on Steven Wright‘s knuckleball
Craig: David Ortiz is named MVP of the game, even if he goes 0-for-3 and falls asleep during the game. Some things are pre-ordained.

Finally, go to NBC Sports’ Facebook page to go see my Livestream video from before the game here. Go there after the top of the fifth inning for a second livestream I’ll be doing from here at Petco during the game.

Play ball!

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.