Matthews: How I'd Fix Baseball's All-Star Game

posted by Bob Matthews - 

HOW I’D FIX BASEBALL’S ALL-STAR GAME

When I was a kid, I loved the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. I remember when Willie Mays would lead off for the National League and he and the other top players would bat at least three or four times.

I never had a feeling that the players weren’t giving their all. I thought they really cared if their league won. I have vivid memories of All-Star Games past.

But times change – not for the better as far I’m concerned regarding baseball’s All-Star Game.

Here’s what I’d do to change it:

Rosters would be 22 players per league – not 33. I want to see the best players play more innings and bat more times. I don’t want to see the managers caring more about getting squeezing every player on his roster into the box score than the outcome of the game.

Not every team would need to be represented. Fans of terrible teams know when none of their players deserve to be token picks for the All-Star Game.

Only 9 pitchers per league – including three relievers. I want the starting pitchers to work at least two innings. I don’t want to see a parade of relievers throwing 100-plus mph to one or two batters. All-Star Game pitchers would not be permitted to work the weekend before the All-Star Game in order to make them available to work at least two innings Tuesday night.

$100,000 per man to the winning team and $10,000 per man to the losing team. They’re professionals. The $$$ gap between winning and losing should make the game more competitive.

Each league would have one added roster spot for a future Hall of Famer who deserves a nod for past accomplishments (i.e., maybe Albert Pujols or Adrian Beltre and Chase Utley this year).

The game would be nine innings. That would all but eliminate running out of pitchers. In event of a tie, the teams would divide the $110,000 per man purse for participating.

Does anyone deny that my suggestions would make the All-Star Game more appealing to watch?

ON DJOKOVIC AND SERENA WILLIAMS

Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber are the 2018 Wimbledon singles champions.

Djokovic was the No. 12 seed and Kerber was the No. 11 seed in a tournament that will be remembered for the huge number of upsets. The top 10 women’s seeds bowed out quickly and dreams of another  epic Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal showdown in the men’s Final were dashed in the semifinals.

Djokovic has wondered why Federer and Nadal are more fan favorites than he is. Looking at their head-to-head records, I can see his point: Djokovic is 23-22 vs. Federer and 27-25 vs. Nadal. He’s also 25-11 vs. Andy Murray.

Their ATP career records are remarkably similar: Nadal; 908-188 (82.85 percent)...Djokovic 808-172 (82.45 percent)...Federer 1,161-254 (82.05 percent).

Grand Slam singles titles are a big difference: Federer 20 (6 Australian Open, 8 Wimbledon, 1 French, 5 U.S Open)...”King of Clay” Nadal 17 (1 Australian Open, 11 French Open, 2 Wimbledon, 3 U.S. Open...Djokovic 13 (6 Australian Open, 1 French Open, 4 Wimbledon, 2 U.S. Open).

They’re 1-2-3 in career tennis earnings: Federer $116,603,146...Djokovic $114,136,035...Nadal $110,564,598. Djokovic is five years younger than Federer and 1 year younger than Nadal. Assuming he stays in shape and wants to pass them in career earnings, he probably will.

I don’t know why Federer and Nadal are more revered by most tennis fans than Djokovic. But I don’t disagree that they are. Maybe the fact that Djokovic craves and begs for more love and respect has something to do with it.

The women’s Final probably will be best remembered for Serena Williams’ valiant comeback from a difficult childbirth and a life-threatening blood-clotting issue than for Kerber’s victory. Serena wasn’t in great tennis shape and she knew it.

Serena needs one Grand Slam single victory to tie Margaret Court’s record 24 in the Open Era. Serena figures to be closer to top form in for the U.S. Open (starts August 29 and the women’s Final will be September 8) and she figures to be a crowd favorite on her home court more than ever before. How could any American not be rooting for her?

NEW GOAL FOR THESE RED WINGS: A WINNING RECORD

The good pitch-weak hit Rochester Red Wings aren’t likely to make the International League playoffs this season and this time we can’t blame the unfair format to qualify out of the six-team North Division.

The Red Wings have been bouncing around the .500 mark for months – they’re 43-46 after Sunday’s 3-1 road loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- and show no signs of a prolonged winning streak to earn a spot in the postseason.

A new and more-reasonable goal for the 2018 Red Wings: A winning record for the sixth straight season. No other team in the 14-team IL has more than a four-year active winning streak.

The pitching has been fine. No problem.

The offense has been the worst in the league and I don’t blame the parent Minnesota Twins at all.

The attack plan was simple: Proven Triple-A hitters like Zack Granite (.338 with the 2017 Red Wings), Nick Buss (2017 Pacific Coast League batting king with a .348 average with El Paso), Leonard Reginatto (.303 with the 2017 Wings) and Ryan LaMarre between stints with Minnesota would get on base.

Big boppers Kennys Vargas (35 HRs with the Twins since 2014) and then Chris Carter (2016 National League co-home run champion with 41 HRs for Milwaukee) and Cameron Rupp (30 HRs with the 2016-17 Phillies) would drive them in and produce runs in bunches.

You’ve seen what happened. Granite is hitting .212 with 3 RBI in 64 games. Reginatto is hitting .207. Buss was hitting .239 when he was released after 47 games.  LaMarre hit .313 in 13 games but was lost via waivers to the Chicago White Sox.

Vargas started slowly and is hitting .235 with 13 HRs and 42 RBI in 82 games.

Minnesota signed Carter and Rupp as insurance in case the Twins had a shot at winning the AL Central. That no longer appears likely and the two veteran big-leaguers were released.  Carter hit .187 with 7 HRs and 15 RBI in 36 games. Rupp hit .141 with 3 HRs and 6 RBI in 20 games.

It has been a strange season for the Red Wings but despite the disappointments they still have a shot to finish with a winning record.

SHORTSTOP ROYCE LEWIS ON FAST TRACK TO TWINS

If Rochester baseball fans are fortunate, Royce Lewis will be playing shortstop for the Red Wings on Opening Day 2020 – at the latest.

Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 June amateur entry draft out of high school, was promoted from Single-A Cedar Rapids to Advanced-A Fort Myers last week. In his second game Sunday for the Miracle, he was 4-for-5.

Lewis turned 19 years old on June 5 and figures to be Minnesota’s shortstop for a long time.  It’s a matter of when – not if. Shortstops Carlos Correa (Houston) and Francisco Lindor (Cleveland) became major-league regulars quickly (Correa played 288 games in the minors and Lindor played in 416) and Lewis could follow their lead – we hope with a stop at Frontier Field.

Lewis started slowly due to a minor injury this season at Cedar Rapids, but Baseball America’s No. 10 overall prospect (MajorLeagueBaseball.com’s No. 11 prospect) has been on a roll. In 75 games with Cedar Rapids he batted .315 with 9 HRs and 53 RBI. He stole 22 bases in 26 attempts.

EASIEST PATH TO 2019 NBA FINALS – THE CELTICS

The Golden State Warriors still are the NBA’s best team but I believe Boston will have the easiest path to the 2019 Finals...partly because the Celtics are very good but mainly because the competition in the Eastern Conference will be so weak.

The current issue of Sports Illustrated compared the two conferences: Active NBA MVP winners – West 7, East 0...Active First-Team All-NBA – West 13, East 3...2017/2018 All-NBA players – West 10, East 5.

The jump of LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers means Cleveland is no cinch to make the East playoffs.

Boston’s 10-man rotation looks awesome on paper: Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Marcus Short, Terry Rozier, Greg Monroe and Aron Baynes.

MEANINGLESS COMPARISONS TO JOHN CYNN

John Cynn, a 33-year-old touring professional poker player from Indianapolis, won the $8.8 million first-prize Sunday morning in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. He paid an entry fee of $10,000 and outlasted an original field of 7,874 players.

!n the 2016 WSOP, he finished 11th and last among the players on the unofficial final table bubble. He had to settle for $650,000. Between the 2016 and 2018 WSOP, he made around $200,000 in poker tournaments.

For the record, around 130 Major League Baseball players are averaging $ million-plus per season on their current contracts.

The two all-time richest bowlers, Walter Williams and Pete Weber, according to PBA stats, had  combined earnings of around $8.793 million on the PBA Tour and needed a combined 76 years on Tour to do it.

WORLD CUP 2022 IN QATAR SHOULD BE VERY INTERESTING

By all accounts, Russia was a terrific host for the 2018 World Cup. Some critics claim it was among the all-time most exciting World Cups. Controversial 2022 host Qatar has a tough act to follow.

Many observers were surprised that Qatar, a relatively rich nation of around 2 million, won the bidding over the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia. There were charges of corruption in the bidding process and complaints about alleged mistreatment of immigrant laborers.

Qatar officials have pledged to have all six-to-eight stadiums ready for the 32-nation competition. Qatar will be the first Arab nation to host the World Cup and the first host country to have never participated in a World Cup. Alcohol reportedly will be allowed.

There are a few big challenges. The tournament will be from late November through December 16 because the heat is excessive in the summer.

Most host nations count on home fans to supply a large percentage of the crowds. But Qatar doesn’t figure to be competitive – even in the Group Stage. Qatar ranked 98th in FIFA World Rankings entering World Cup 2018.

TV ratings figure to be a problem, particularly in the United States if USA fails to qualify again. Qatar is seven hours ahead of New York City and the World Cup will be up against the NFL, college football and the NBA.

I’m not saying World Cup 2022 will be a disaster but I believe the USA/Canada/ Mexico will not have a tough act to follow in 2026.

BRAZIL FAVORED TO WON 2022 WORLD CUP; USA 60-TO-1

It took only a few hours after France won the 2018 World Cup for the ever-ready Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook to post odds to win the 2022 World Cup.

Five-time champion Brazil is the 6-to-1 favorite. France is the second choice at 6.5-to-1 and Germany is 7-to-1. Belgium is 12-to 1 and Croatia is a generous 30-to-1.

USA is 16th in the odds at 60-to-1 and I would not recommend a wager if the odds were 600-to-1.

Qatar is 150-to-1. At least the host country gets an automatic bid in the 32-team field.

The longest odds are Guatemala and Georgia (the country, not the state) at 2,000-to-1.

THE YANKEES HOME-RUN METER

The New York Yankees hit the All-Star Game break with 160 home runs through 95 games. They’re on page to smash 273 HRs this season. The MLB record is 264 HRs by the 1997 Seattle Mariners and the Yankees record is 245 in 2012 (good trivia: Curtis Granderson led the Yankees with 43 HRs).

The Yankees already have seven players with at least 12 HRs. Closing in on double-digit HRs are Brett Gardner (90) and Greg Bird (8). Bird is heating up (3 HRs and 11 RBI in his last 6 games) and Mark Sanchez and Gleyber Torres are expected to return to the lineup soon.

SPRAYING BASEBALL HITS TO ALL FIELDS

Pittsburgh beat Milwaukee 7-6 Sunday to complete the first five-game sweep in Major League Baseball in nearly 12 years (when the Yankees swept the Red Sox August 18-21, 2006).

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny was fired Saturday despite a fine record of 591-474 (+117) for six-plus seasons. The Cardinals made the playoffs in his first four seasons but not in 2016 or 2017. I don’t believe it was fault.

Colorado is a tough team to figure. Sunday’s 4-3 home win completed a four-game sweep over Seattle and a 10-2 run has boosted the Rockies to 51-46 at the break.

The Dodgers beat the visiting Angels 5-3 and have hit a NL-most 129 home runs.

Oakland is 21-6 in the last 27 games after a 6-2 win at San Francisco. The A’s are 9-3 in their last 12 games and lead MLB with 85 HRs on the road. The Giants have only 6 HRs in July.

The Orioles removed Manny Machado from Sunday’s 6-5 home win over Texas after he hit a home run. It was a rainy day and the O’s didn’t want to risk an injury to baseball’s prime trade bait before the trade-without-waivers deadline July 31.

Shin-Soo Choo (Texas) has reached base in a team-record 51 straight games. It helped him make the AL All-Star Game roster for the first time.

Boston is 68-30, the team’s best record entering the All-Star Game break since 1949. The Red sox are 12-1 in their last 13 games. Mookie Betts has a MLB-best .359 batting average and J.D. Martinez has a MLB-best 80 RBI.

Minnesota beat Tampa Bay 11-7 on Sunday to cap a 9-2 homestand after a 1-8 road trip.

The Yankees open a three-game series at home Friday against the Mets. Yankees fans can’t be very worried but maybe they should be facing Noah Syndergaard Friday and Jacob DeGrom Sunday.

SHORT SHOTS

Popular 2018 Red Wing Willians Astudillo, who finally reached the majors with the Minnesota Twins this season, made his MLB-pitching debut in Saturday’s 19-6 loss to visiting Tampa Bay.  In the ninth inning, he allowed 5 hits and 5 earned runs. His ERA is 45.00. He’s doing better as a hitter: .263 (5-for-19) in 7 games.

International League playoff appearances since 2006 – Buffalo 0 (longest playoff drought in the IL)...Norfolk 1...Syracuse 1...Richmond 1 (no longer in the league)...Charlotte 2...Gwinnett 2...Leigh Valley 2...Rochester 2...Toledo 2...Louisville 3...Indianapolis 4...Columbus 5...Pawtucket 5...Durham 8...Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 9.

Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J., began taking legal sports bets on Saturday. It is only six miles from New York City and figures to do huge numbers for NFL games assuming New York politicians continue to deny sports bettors to get in on the action in their own state.

The North Carolina Courage, formerly the Western New York Flash, continue to dominate the National Women’s Soccer League. Lynn Williams scored three goals Saturday in a 4-0 romp on the road against Sky Blue FC in Piscataway, N.J.  The Courage clinched a playoff berth and boosted their record to 14 wins, 1 loss, 3 ties (including 8-0-1 on the road). They’ve outscored opponents 41-14 (+27; no other team is better than +5).

Former Rochester Rhinos coach Bob Lilley’s USL Pittsburgh Riverhounds are 9 wins, 1 loss, 7 draws and have outscored opponents 21-12. The Hounds lead the league with 12 shutouts in their 17 matches.

Agent Bob Jobson talked jockey Jamie Rodriguez into returning to Finger Lakes Race Track this season after he campaigned on the Ohio circuit most of last year. So far, so good. Rodriguez leads the rider standings: 50 wins, 45 places and 40 shows out of 238 mounts.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Monday, July 16

Gareth Bale (29)...Timofey Mozgov (32)...Carli Lloyd (36)...Zach Randolph (37)...Adam Scott (38)...Aaron Glenn (46)...Barry Sanders (50)...Claude Lemieux (53)...Miguel Indurain (54)...Terryl Pendleton (58)...Gary Anderson (59)...Ron Yary (72)...Jimmy Johnson (75). Will Ferrell (51) is invited to the birthday party.

Tuesday, July 17

OG Anunoby (21)...Adam Lind (35)...Ryan Miller (38)...Marc Savard (41)...Luke Bryan (42)...Eric Moulds (45)...Calbert Cheaney (47)...Bryan Trottier (62)...Charlie Steiner (69)...Daryle Lamonica (77). Angela Merkel (64), David Hasselhoff (66) and Donald Sutherland (83) are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

July 16

62 years ago (1956), the Detroit Tigers and Briggs Stadium were sold for a then-record $55 million...30 years ago (1988), Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones were married in Edmonton...15 years ago (2003), Lance Armstrong and Serena Williams won Best Athlete honors at the 11th ESPY Awards.

July 17

77 years ago (1941), Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak ended...44 years ago (1974), Bob Gibson became the second pitcher with 3,000 strikeouts...42 years ago (1976), the 21nst modern Summer Olympics opened in Montreal with 33 nations boycotting due to New Zealand playing rugby in apartheid South Arica...40 years ago (1978), Yankees manager Billy Martin and slugger Reggie Jackson fought in the dugout after Reggie refused to bunt...35 years ago (1983), Tom Watson won the 112th British Open...30 years ago (1988), Seve Ballesteros won the 117th British Open...24 years ago (1994), Brazil beat Italy 3-2 on penalties to win the World Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

 

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