All Star Game

Taijuan Walker Highlight Of All-Star Game

It seems every year there is a debate over whether every team should really be represented in the All-Star Game. Last night was another example of why it matters. It was great seeing the newest New York Met take the mound in the sixth inning.

That’s not to say Taijuan Walker was an All-Star only because of that rule. That clearly wasn’t the case with his great first half. Rather, there’s just something extra special about that game when you see players from your favorite team out there among on the best in the game. Certainly, Walker has shown himself to be that.

Walker showed the type of stuff which led to him being an All-Star when he struck out Whit Merrifield. His outing was marred a bit by Mike Zunino hitting a homer. That said, he pitched great, and he definitely showed he deserved to be there, and more importantly, he showed that this may not be his last appearance.

That is certainly special given Walker’s story. This is a pitcher who only received an offer from the Mets in free agency despite having a strong 2020 season. Previous to his joining the Mets, Walker had been traded twice, non-tendered, and dealt with various injuries including his needing Tommy John surgery. More than anything, Walker appearing in that All-Star Game was a story in perseverance.

Regardless of the outcome, Walker being an All-Star was a truly special moment. It is what we all love about sports. Walker had a great first half and a special moment. None of it is going to compare to what he will have in store in the second half and his raising that World Series trophy come October.

 

All-Star Game Jerseys Just Like Universal DH

If you see the reaction, almost no one likes the All-Star Game jerseys. Most of compared them to soccer jerseys, but the main gist is they’re just awful.

Generally speaking, who cares? After all, it’s just a workout jersey. It’s just something players wear during workouts, prospects wear during the Future’s Game, and the celebrities and legends wear during the softball game. Beyond that, it’s just another jersey purchased by a limited portion of fans.

Except, it’s not that this year. No, this year, the players are going to wear these jerseys in the field breaking an 86 year tradition of players wearing their team jerseys. Much like the swoosh on the jerseys, it’s another instance of MLB eliminating sacred tradition for a little extra money from Nike.

We could walk through the arguments how it makes players less recognizable on the field thereby making it more difficult to market the game. There are other arguments related to the impact it must have on first time players who don’t get to fulfill a lifelong dream of wearing their team’s jersey in an All-Star Game.

In the end, none of it really matters. The game will be played, and the fans will watch. That said, it’s going to come at a cost.

It may not be significant enough at first to matter, but some fans will be turned off by this. They’re not going to like it, and their interest in the game is just that much less.

It’s just like the universal DH. In the end, it accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t increase runs per game, it reduces strategy, and in the end, despite all the narratives, there’s actually less interest in the DH style of baseball.

More than that, the universal DH only serves to strike a blow at the interest and love of the game of the hardcore fans. These are the fans who the sport relies upon not only to watch everyday and buy merchandise, but they also need them to pass the game down to their children and grandchildren. Baseball seemingly needs this more than any other sport.

It’s the same with the All-Star Game jerseys. You can add three pitcher minimums, no intentional walks, seven inning doubleheaders, runners on second, and whatever cockamamie rule they come up with next.

If MLB keeps pushing the envelope, the hardcore fans aren’t going to care nearly as much. They’re going to watch and follow but not with the same intensity. They’re also not going to be as interested in passing the game onto the next generation.

In the end, Rob Manfred will get the complete opposite of what he wanted. He’ll get less interest in the game. Considering all he’s done, that seems fitting, and those ugly All-Star Game jerseys can be symbol for all he’s done wrong to this game.

MLB Should Kick Off The 2020 Season With The All Star Game

According to reports from MLB, while there is hope to resume the baseball season in May and play all 162 games, there are indications the baseball season may not be able to start until July. Overall, the optimistic view is Memorial Day weekend, and the pessimistic view is Fourth of July or All-Star Weekend.

Actually, the pessimistic view is no 2020 season, but we’ll address that at some other time.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume baseball cannot resume during the month of May, and there is going to need to be some form of Spring Training in June before baseball can begin anew. At that time, even the most casual of baseball fans will be baseball starved, and they will want to see any form of baseball as soon as they can.

Now, the later the season goes, the chances of the All Star Game actually being played become increasingly more remote. That’s problematic for the Los Angeles Dodgers who were awarded the game, and they cannot get the game back until 2022.

When you think about it, there is no reason for the Dodgers to lose the All-Star Game. After all, it is just an exhibition designed to give fans baseball at at time players are getting a mid-season break. On a related note, it is an event baseball wishes they could garner more interest leaving them to try different things like “making the game count” or miking up players in the field.

In some ways, COVID19 presents a real opportunity for MLB to get as much possible interest in the All-Star Game. If MLB were to start the 2020 season with the game, instead of using it as the midway point of the season, a baseball craved fanbase and sports starved world will likely tune it to watch at record numbers.

If you think about it for a second, the All Star Game is well suited for Spring Training anyway. Pitchers can only pitch a maximum of two innings. Position players play a couple of innings. There’s light workouts mostly generated in getting fan attention. In essence, the All-Star Game is really just a hyped Spring Training Game.

If it’s really just a Spring Training game with really good players, let’s make it a Spring Training All-Star Game, at least this one year. After all, it is not unprecedented to begin a professional sports season with a marquee event. For example, NASCAR begins their season with the Daytona 500, an event they deem their “Super Bowl.”

Seeing how this is fan driven event with each team getting a representative, allow the fans to pick the representative from their team. It’s a fun way to do it too. We can see Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso squre off. Maybe this could lead to another video of Alonso and Jeff McNeil to make their case as to why it should be Alonso.

Other teams can have similar fun and interesting debates. For Yankee fans, is your guy Aaron Judge or Gleyber Torres, or are you already star struck by Gerrit Cole? Do Dodgers fans love Clayton Kershaw that much, or is Cody Bellinger their guy now? Like Yankees fans, maybe it is the new guy Mookie Betts.

Really, the only team who is a 100% lock for a player is the Angels with Mike Trout. Then again, maybe the large contingent of Japanese fans will vote for Shohei Ohtani.

There are fun possibilities, and honestly, it gives baseball fans something to argue and debate leading up to the start of the season. If people are searching for things to talk about now, just wait until there are no sports in March, April, and May. Fighting over who should and should not be an All-Star will be at a fevered pitch, at least that’s the hope.

Once there are 15 players selected by the fans for each squad, the players can fill out the rest of the 34 man roster. After all 34 players are named, the fans can then vote who from the pool of players should be starters in the All-Star Game.

Again, the concept here is to get fans engaged with something to discuss and to give people baseball even when MLB can’t give them baseball. Then, finally, when MLB can give them baseball, they will start the abbreviated season with a must-see event with the best players in the game taking the field.

Overall, it allows us to have the All-Star Game, and it gives us something to look forward to, which at a time like this is something we really need.

Only Mike Trout Can Hit Jacob deGrom

For the third time in his career, Jacob deGrom took the mound in an All Star Game. Tonight, he once again proved himself to be an All-Star among All-Stars.

He only needed seven pitches to get through the third inning. He’d strike out George Springer before getting DJ LeMahieu to ground out and Mike Trout to pop out. Getting Trout to pop out was a small measure of revenge with Trout homering off him last year.

So far, deGrom has faced 10 batters in the All Star Game, and he has struck out five of them. That’s right. In a game featuring the best of the best, deGrom still goes out and dominates.

Seeing his All Star Game appearances, the 2015 postseason, and last year, deGrom has established himself as the best of the best. Really, you could make the argument he’s the best out of anyone not named Mike Trout.

Of course, deGrom is not the only story. Pete Alonso won the Home Run Derby, made a slick pick at first base, and he would deliver a two RBI single against Brad Hand in the eighth.

By the way, between taking out Carlos Santana in the first round of the Home Run Derby, making the pick robbing Santana of a base hit, and getting the two RBI single off Hand, Alonso may want to stay out of Cleveland for a while.

Perhaps, the best moment of the night was Jeff McNeil entering the game and playing left field a year to the date when Mickey Callaway informed the press McNeil wasn’t getting called up because he was just a second baseman.

Overall, the NL lost to the AL 4-3. However, the Mets came out as winners tonight, especially deGrom.

All Star Game Still Fun

One of several mistakes Bud Selig made as Commissioner was trying to make the All Star Game “count.” This was a complete overreaction to a tie game in the 2002 All-Star Game held in Milwaukee when both teams ran out of pitchers. Instead of just acknowledging this was a one year fluke and maybe make provisions to add pitchers to the roster, Selig did what he did and tried to radically overhaul things. Fortunately, he is gone and so is the All-Star Game counting nonsense.

What remains is a game that is great on its own merits.

When you break it down, the All Star Game has always been about moments which have always arisen because you have the beset players in the game sharing the same field. It is Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a home run. It’s Pedro Martinez electrifying the home crowd striking out five. It’s Alex Rodriguez moving to third base to let Cal Ripken, Jr. playing shortstop in his final All-Star Game. For Mets fans, it’s Jacob deGrom striking out the side on 10 pitches:

In addition to the moments, it’s about seeing the young players on the stage for the first time. The 2015 All Star Game was his first one. In that moment, Mets fans got to see one of their aces measure himself against the best in the game, and he became a sensation. It also became a prelude to what deGrom would do in the NLDS.

This is similar to 2006 when David Wright was an All Star for the first time. He was a surprise second place in the Home Run Derby, and he followed that up with a home run in his first at-bat as an All-Star. As much as anything, the 2006 All Star Game launched Wright from Mets star to superstar.

This is what is in front of Pete Alonso. He beat Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. in one of the best Home Run Derbies ever. In that Home Run Derby, Alonso introduced himself to America. This is like Wright in 2006 and deGrom in 2015. He’s a fun personality who hits the ball harder than anyone.

If not him, maybe it is Jeff McNeil. He’s the type of player old school fans and more modern families love alike. You could see him playing all over the field today while slashing hits all over the place. If the National League needs a big hit late in the game, McNeil could be that guy.

That’s what makes the All Star Game great and fun every year. We get to see players like Alonso and McNeil introduce themselves to America. We get to see other fans see what we see everyday and appreciate how others appreciate them. We also have the satisfaction of knowing they are Mets. They can create the great moments we will be talking about for years to come.

Let Fans Pick Their Own All Star

In an effort to make the All Star voting more enticing and draw interest to the game, Major League Baseball has changed the voting for this year. Essentially up until June 21, the fans get to vote like they always did. After that, there will be a “Starters Election.” The Staters Election has the fans vote for the starters from the now reduced list over a 28 hour window.

This is a change for its own sake, and it gets it partially right (more on that in a moment). Really, if Major League Baseball wants to get fans interested in the game, let the fans pick their own All Star. In this instance, their own All Star means the player they want to represent their favorite team.

Take the Marlins for example. Are any of their players really All Star worthy? Maybe Brian Anderson who has a 1.8 WAR this season. The problem there is Anderson is 10th among NL third baseman in WAR meaning if he’s selected a worthy player is going to be left off in his stead.

Now, that’s the way it is and will always be so long as every team is represented. If this is going to continue to be a fan spectacle, you do want to see every team represented. After all, even a team like the Marlins, who draw worse than some Triple-A teams, has fans, and you want them to tune in to watch. You want to see Anderson, or whoever their representative is play in the game.

But if you’re going to want to entice the Marlins fans to watch, why not let them pick who they want to watch. For them, it could be Anderson, Miguel Rojas, Caleb Smith, or whomever else it might be. If you boil it down, if you are keeping a representative for every team to keep fans engaged, let them pick their representative.

By doing so, you not only keep them engaged, but you also prevent them from seeing a player they don’t want to see in the game. For example, Mets fans saw Bobby Bonilla as their lone All-Star in 1993 and 1995 despite the fans likely wanting to see players like Dwight Gooden, Rico Brogna, or John Franco in the game. Remember, if you are trying to entice fans, you should entice them with players they want to see play.

That includes being able to vote for pitchers. There are logistical issues with pitchers being available to pitch in the game. However, that should not prevent fans from having their favorite players on the roster even if they cannot participate in the game.

Remember that this would create a pool of just 15 players on a 34 man roster. That’s just seven additional players. Certainly, you could accommodate this by adding six more roster spots if deemed necessary. After all, September rosters are 40. If a manager can handle 40 players in September, there’s no reason he cannot handle that in an exhibition game where managers try go get everyone into the game.

Really, when looking at it that way, there’s no real reason why fans couldn’t or even shouldn’t pick their own team’s representative. Let the Marlins pick their one guy. Mets fans seem to want to push for Pete Alonso. Let them see him in the game. Let Yankees fans send CC Sabathia for one last All Star appearance before his possible Hall of Fame career ends. Again, let fans see who they want to see who they want.

You can do a results show on MLB Network announcing those players. You can then do another show announcing the pool of elected players. Then, you can do the Staters Election Major League Baseball has implemented. Only this time, fans are picking from the actual All-Stars. Then, you can hold the results until the game.

You get fans tuning in a little earlier to find out exactly who the starters are because they won’t know until player introductions. If all done properly, you get more interest because fans are seeing who they actually want to see, and you get more people tuning in earlier in order to see the results. Ultimately, this is the best way to handle every team represented and creating the highest possible level of fan interest in the game.

 

Trivia Friday: Mets Elected All Star Starters

While Ron Hunt might’ve been the first Mets player to start an All Star Game, he was not the first Mets player to be elected an All Star by the fan vote. That would not happen until 1971, one year after the fan vote was reinstated. In total, the Mets have had 12 players elected as All Star starters with none of them coming since 2013.

Can you name the Mets who have been elected All Star starters?  Good luck!


Bud Harrelson Willie Mays Dave Kingman Darryl Strawberry Keith Hernandez Gary Carter Howard Johnson Mike Piazza Carlos Beltran David Wright Paul Lo Duca Jose Reyes

The Mets are really pushing Pete Alonso for the All Star Game. You can understand why. He was a sensation in April, he’s threatening Darryl Strawberry‘s Mets and Mark McGwire‘s MLB record for homers by a rookie. On top of that, he’s a fun player who has quickly become a fan favorite.

The problem with pushing Alonso is he shouldn’t be an All Star first baseman. Trailing Max Muncy, Freddie Freeman, and Josh Bell in WAR, and he’s tied with Anthony Rizzo. What may come as a shock is Alonso trails all but Muncy in wRC+.

Now, it’s not a travesty if Alonso makes it. In fact, he’s had a good enough season where his being named an All Star is more than merited. It would be good for him and baseball. Then again, there are more deserving candidates.

There are also more deserving Mets. Front and center is Michael Conforto.

Conforto is currently in the top six in WAR among outfielders meaning he should solidly be an All-Star. He’s also sixth in wRC+. Defensively, he’s just 16th in DRS, but that does qualify as fourth best among right fielders.

Overall, Conforto has been terrific this year, and looking at the numbers, he absolutely should be an All-Star. Considering his production and what he’s been for this team, there should be a push among fans and the team to elect him an All Star starter.

It’s not happening. Instead, the team is pushing Alonso and Jeff McNeil. As an aside, McNeil is very deserving as well. That said, neither McNeil nor Conforto are among the top nine. They should be. Perhaps, if the Mets and their fans cared to notice how good they’ve been they would be.

More Focus Should Be On Hader’s Growth And Where He Goes From Here

Up until some old tweets resurfaced, you would have to say the All-Star Game was going to be a smashing success for Major League Baseball.

Bryce Harper electrified the crowd and baseball winning the Home Run Derby.  After years of baseball’s most ardent fans begging him to become more marketable, Mike Trout would not only allow himself to be miked during the game, he would also do some shtick with the weather with Ken Rosenthal.

This really was about letting players be themselves and showing their personality on the field.  While it was a good game that went into extra innings, the highlight was really the interactions players on the field had with the booth including Francisco Lindor, Matt Kemp, Harper, and Trout.  It was seeing them have fun playing a game they and we love:

Speaking of those interactions, how great was it to see hear Harper refer to Trout as the best player in the game?

Well, it was about as great as it was awful to see some of Josh Hader‘s tweets from seven years ago.  Actually no, seeing those tweets were much worse than that.

There’s no need to republish those now deleted tweets here.  You can find them if you want.  Suffice it to say, they were racist and homophobic. Post-game, he was left searching for an explanation:

It was something that happened when I was 17 years old. As a child, I was immature. I obviously said some things that were inexcusable. That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today. And that’s just what it is.

*     *     *     *     *

I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve said and what’s been going on. And like I said, that doesn’t reflect any of my beliefs going on now.

*     *     *     *     *

When you’re a kid, you tweet what’s on your mind.

In some corners, his blaming it on his youth is probably going to go over about as well as the statements themselves.  Perhaps rightly so, there will be people who didn’t think or say those things when they were 17, and they are going to judge a 23 year old man about things he said as a 17 year old.

There is a real problem approaching it that way.

We don’t know Hader’s life experiences and influences when he was growing up in Millersville, Maryland.  We don’t know the beliefs of his family, his school, his friends, and the like.  Whether people want to admit it or not, what Hader said as a 17 year old is a true reflection of his upbringing and his area because someone or something made him believe it was alright to not just speak like that, but to also publish it on Twitter.

That’s not excusing anything he said.  No reasonable person will excuse it or take this to say Hader is blameless.  He’s not.

What is important was Hader was a young person who said some incredibly stupid things.  What is more important is Hader is a 23 year old man.  The hope in life is you have matured as you grow older.  As you mature and grow older, you should become wiser and more tolerant.

Put another way, you don’t expect a 23 year old man to think and say the things a 17 year old teenager would.

To that end, there should be more interest in how and why Hader has matured to the point where he now disavows those statements. In many ways, it is of more importance Hader said those statements don’t reflect who he is now or what his current beliefs are.  We should hear more about that transformation, and he has the exact platform he needs to do it.

Remember, baseball is a sport with its own racist past.  It is also one which did a brave thing and broke not just it’s own but professional sport’s color barrier with Jackie Robinson.  It’s now a sport which names its humanitarian award for Roberto Clemente, a Puerto Rican.

If a sport like baseball full of bigots could grow to become much more inclusive, then so can someone like Hader.

Given how the offensive statements were made right before he was drafted, it’s quite possible it was Hader’s experiences in baseball were those that made him mature and see how wrong he was.  Major League Baseball and Hader should be at the forefront in the coming days and weeks to explain how it was baseball and his interactions with people that led him to mature and become a better person.

Don’t hide behind anything.  The comments are public, and out in the open. There’s no more hiding.  Rather, own up to them, and explain to everyone why you are a better person.  More importantly, tell us how you became a better person.

Who knows?  Maybe there is a 17 year old out there right now who thinks the same way Hader did back in 2011.  Maybe, just maybe, Hader speaking out now will help reach that person and make them a better human being.  When that happens, we need to listen and be accepting of his being a better person.

Really, some good can come of this.  Hopefully, everyone will do their part to make sure that happens.

Brandon Nimmo Should Be Playing Tonight

Each and every year, there are a number of notable All Star snubs.  While some would argue it’s attributable to the every team represented rule, it’s really a function of how many good players there are in Major League Baseball.  Mostly, it’s a function of some really bad decisions by people who are supposed to know better.  For example, look at the players who were selected as outfielders for the National League:

Two things should be immediately noted: (1) none of these players were their team’s lone representative for the All Star Game; and (2) each one of these players were selected by either fan or player vote.

When looking over this list, immediately Blackmon jumps off the page as undeserving.  Harper is probably close to it, but with his track record, the game being played in D.C., and his being elected via the fan vote, you can certainly understand why he was an All Star this year.

What isn’t as understandable is why Brandon Nimmo isn’t an All Star.

At the close of the first half of the season, Nimmo is the National League leader in wRC+ (137) meaning he was the best offensive outfielder in the National League.

His 2.4 WAR puts him above everyone except Cain, Markakis, and Yelich.  Although it should be noted if we used fWAR instead of bWAR for the analysis, Nimmo would be ahead of Yelich.

More than that, Nimmo is a player from the largest market in the country who is an eminently marketable player.

Nimmo is a guy who is always hustling, and he does everything with a smile on his face.  No matter the score, Nimmo gives an honest effort on the field.  It’s a large reason why Mets fans adore him.  If he was exposed to a larger audience, other fanbases would get a chance so see him, appreciate him, and adore him as well.

And you know with how lazy national broadcasts are, they would go on and on about Nimmo whenever he entered the game.  There would be discussions about how he’s always smiling, he sprints around the bases on a walk or homer faster than most players do on a double, and his pointing to the heavens after a walk.  Again, marketing him is easy.

In the end, Nimmo and Mets fans lost out on his being an All Star snub.  Mostly, baseball missed out on a guy who is everything that is right about the sport.  They missed out on an opportunity to market a guy who has had a smile that has lit up the entire city of New York.