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I’m not a huge All-Star game fan. I appreciate what the contest used to be back when Hall of Famers played half or more of the game and they went all out in an effort to win for their league.

I’m less a fan these days when the bigger emphasis is on glitz and making sure almost everyone has an opportunity to play. There’s even been talk from Adam Wainwright that he grooved the first inning pitch that Derek Jeter lined for a double – much like the talk that the pitch Cal Ripken hit out of the yard against Chan Ho Park in the 2001 game was soft-tossed.

That wouldn’t have happened in the old days. Continue reading

On some Major League teams this year Tommy Milone, with his six wins and 3.55 ERA, would be approaching the level of Ace.  On this year’s Oakland Athletics squad, even with season-ending injuries to AJ Griffin and Jarrod Parker, he has been reduced,  to the role of Triple-A insurance policy.

The A’s have been the league’s most dominant team this year, at least according to winning percentage and run differential. And Billy Beane is going for a trophy, as evidenced by this weekend’s acquisition of Ace Jeff Samardzija and middle-of-the-rotation guy Jason Hammel.

The deal coincided with an agreement between the Athletics and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority (which still needs approval from the Oakland City Council) whereby the team will remain in what I guess is now called the Coliseum.

I love this. The market settles at least some of its differences with the team, agreeing to make some upgrades to the nearly 50-year-old venue by Opening Day 2015. The team makes a commitment to try to build on the strong first-half of the season by acquiring arguably the best starting pitcher available in this year’s trade market – giving up a stud shortstop prospect in the process of doing so. Continue reading

Atlanta Braves teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were selected to the Hall of Fame with 97.2 percent and 91.9 percent, respectively, of votes. Frank Thomas, the Big Hurt, also eclipsed the necessary 75 percent in order to be inducted. All three were eligible for the first time.

Maddux, who won 355 games during his career, received votes from 97.2 percent of voters to lead the 2014 class. Glavine was next at 91.9 percent. Thomas received 83.7 percent.

Here is the complete list of players eligible for votes. Full results of the voting are here.

The trio joins Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who were elected in December by the Expansion Era Committee. The group will be enshrined July 26 and 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

In something of a surprise, second-year eligible Craig Biggio, who played catcher, second base and outfield for the Houston Astros, missed by .2 percentage points.

Players with the taint of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs tied to their names continued to struggle in their efforts to reach the hall. Barry Bonds received 34.7 percent of votes while Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro scored 11 percent, 7.2 percent and 4.4 percent respectively.

Jack Morris was foiled again in his 15th and final year on the ballot.

Three contributors posted Hypothetical Hall of Fame ballots earlier today. To read about who Brad Beneke, Marshall Garvey and Andy Tellijohn would have voted for, click their names.

I like that it is difficult to get into the Hall of Fame. To me it’s better to keep a great player out than to be too loose with your entry standards and let a less than excellent player in. Now, the Baseball Writers Association of America took that to an extreme in 2013 by not inducting anyone. But I might be the only person in America who wasn’t overly offended that Craig Biggio didn’t make it in his first year of eligibility.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Biggio is a Hall of Famer. He did everything well. And he’ll get in, most likely this year. But his career numbers, while impressive, don’t jump off the page at me and scream “This guy has to go in on his first shot.” Then again, in my eyes, few do.

1. Greg Maddux

Few get in on the first ballot, but Greg Maddux is one of the exceptions. The Cub, Brave, Padre and Dodger starter was pinpoint, posting at one point seven consecutive sub-3.00 ERAs – that included back-to-back seasons of 1.56 and 1.63 ERAs. He won 355 games in an era where 300-game winners were heading toward extinction. His 3.16 career ERA and 1.14 WHIP and four Cy Young awards … Maddux was an all-timer. Continue reading

I was just about to tweet out a congratulations to the Seattle Mariners and CEO Howard Lincoln for walking away from negotiations when Jay Z allegedly changed the terms of a nearly agreed upon 9-year deal by requesting a 10th.

But before I could get to my desk to start typing, news emerged that the parties were back at the table and that Cano would, in fact, get his 10th year — and $240 million to boot.

Way to hold firm, Mariners. Continue reading

I’ve been reading and watching a lot lately about the Washignton Nationals and their plans to shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season – including any potential playoff run – after 160-something innings.

I come away with three observations.

1 – I can totally understand why teammates, fans, former players and even Strasburg himself might be upset by this situation (though it’s arguable just how upset they are). Players’ careers are short and chances to go deep into the playoffs don’t come along every year. Look how often the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s appeared to be the league’s best team only to falter in the postseason. Continue reading

Commissioner Bud Selig has argued the last few seasons that Major League Baseball has solved its competitive balance issues by levying a luxury tax against teams that spend too much, but local television deals may be bringing those issues back with a vengeance.
Teams on the West coast with new ownership groups, television contracts and competition for popularity were the biggest winners of this year’s non-waiver trading period, which ended a few hours ago.

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants competed for the top honors, trading respectively for outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence on deadline day. I’ll give the trading period edge to the Dodgers due to their additional acquisition of Hanley Ramirezfrom Miami.

In the American League, the Rangers trumped the Dodgers at the deadline by acquiring Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster. But the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had already made their big rotation move, adding Zack Greinke.

One similarity among all those teams is HUGE new television contracts that are dwarfing the numbers being housed by teams in the Midwest. The Dodgers were purchased for $2.15 billion in March by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter in a deal that stunned sports industry observers.

Part of what made the deal work, according to the Wall Street Journal, is the opportunity the team will have in 2013 to either launch a regional sports network in the second largest market in the country or “hold an auction for the rights to telecast Dodgers games.”
Recent rights deals signed by the Angels and Rangers are reportedly worth $150 million a year. Lee Berke, a sports media consultant, told the Journal the Dodgers’ status as the top brand in the market could command even more than $150 million annually – perhaps as much as $300 million annually, according to the Journal’s story.
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I peeked at the American League East standings last week and for a moment I thought they had been printed upside down. Perennial powerhouses in New York and Boston were languishing in fourth and fifth place while Baltimore sat atop the division with Toronto and Tampa jockeying for second place.

Another look this morning shows that things might be normalizing a bit. The Yankees have edged into third, overtaking Toronto. But the Red Sox remain in last and the Orioles still top the East, although just 4.5 games separate the top from the bottom.

So with a questionable starting rotation and injuries to David Robertson, Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda and Brett Gardner hampering their season so far, just exactly where will the Yankees ultimately end up? We enlisted the assistance of Brandon C., co-manager of Pinstripe Alley, to provide some insight. Here’s what he had to say:

Brushbackpitch: What were your expectations for the Yankees heading into the season and what are they now? Continue reading

The Miami Marlins have a new ballpark, a new manager, a new name and a number of high-profile free agent signees joining a solid nucleus of young players who are developing into solid players. Adding Ozzie Guillen as the field general alone would make Miami a team to watch, but all these other factors make the Marlins one of the most difficult teams to project heading into the season.

There’s already been a couple dust-ups with the stream-of-consciousness speaking Ozzie. His comments about his post-game drinking raised eyebrows. Then his expression of admiration for Fidel Castro infuriated Miami’s Cuban population. But that’s what you get from Guillen, a hard-nosed baseball guy who has no filter when speaking.

None of us at project the Marlins as a playoff team, but I do believe this is a team that could find itself right in the mix as the season winds down. So just how high is the ceiling for this team? Michael Jong, manager of the fan blog Fish Stripes, shared his thoughts with Here’s what he had to say:

Brushbackpitch: Marlins added Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to Hanley Ramirez and youngsters like Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason, so they’re very talented. But they’re also in a division with Philadelphia, Atlanta and up-and-coming Washington. How good can this team be?

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The Dallas Mavericks were hosting the Miami Heat in an NBA Finals game tonight about a half-hour away from the Ballpark at Arlington, leaving a lot of empty seats and plenty of room for me to roam about as I made my first trip to see the home of the Texas Rangers.

And plenty of roaming there is to do. There’s the suite level. On my budget nobody was going to let me in the rooms but a friendly usher did let me wander around a bit. The rooms are named after Hall of Famers and are decorated with art featuring their namesakes.

There’re plenty of restaurants and concessions stands, some fairly generic with the typical ballpark fare and others Irish pubs or wine bars.

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