Friday

All-Star Review & Trades, Signings and Grumblings


Hello again everybody...

Sorry I didn't have anything for you on Wednesday. Bottom line, it was my birthday and I had other stuff to do. But I'm back and feeling better and wiser than ever!

So today I'll review this week's All-Star festivities for you. And then run down the flurry of trades and signings this week. As well as offer an opinion on some grumblings from the agent of a Twins pitcher.

"I don't believe what I just saw!"
- Jack Buck, after Kirk Gibson's game winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series


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I'm sure I wasn't the only one reflecting on Buck's classic call as I watched Josh Hamilton launch moonshot after unbelievable moonshot into the stands at Yankee Stadium in Tuesday night's Home Run Derby.

For those of you who missed it, or missed the news, Texas OF Josh Hamilton set a new Home Run Derby record by hitting 28 Home runs in the first round of the competition (the previous record belonged to Bobby Abreu - 24 in 2005). Included in Hamilton's 28 first round homers were 13 on 13 successive swings and 3 shots that surpassed 500 feet. It was an amazing performance in the ultimate baseball setting.

Unfortunately for Josh, those 28 might have taken a little too much out of him and he ended up losing to Minnesota's Justin Morneau in the final round.

First of all, let me offer kudos to Morneau who handled the situation with a lot of class. In the post-Derby interview, Morneau said, "I was lucky that we got reset after the first two rounds. He [Hamilton] deserved to win it. I was lucky he got a little tired. That was one of the most amazing displays I've ever seen."

Well said Justin. He was honored to win it, but clearly understood that the bigger story was about Hamilton's record-setting round. Oh, and for those folks who think that Derby rules should be changed so that totals aren't reset for the final round?

Shhhhhhh. Take that thought and just let it go. Keeping running totals sucks all the drama out of the event. Yes, Hamilton's first round was fantastic. But if they didn't reset for the finals, they might as well have ended the contest right there. Nobody was going to catch him.

And not only would running totals take away the drama of the finals, but it eliminates the strategy involved too. You want to go for a record in the first round? Be my guest. But if you're too tired to win it in the final round, that's your own fault.

It was a classic event and probably the best Derby I've ever seen.

And speaking of classic contests, the All-Star Game itself was quite the battle. The American League came out on top for the 11th time in the last 12 years (thank you Bud Selig's tie), winning 4-3 in 15 innings. Sure it went on longer than most viewers would've liked, but there was a series of amazing plays made by the NL to keep them in the game. And in fact, the game-winning run - scored by Justin Morneau, wow, what an All-Star break for him - was on an extremely close play at home-plate.

The true problem was that both sides were down to their last pitcher. And in the case of the American League's Scott Kazmir (Tampa Bay), it was a guy who had just thrown over 100 pitches on Sunday and wasn't supposed to appear except in an emergency. In All-Star game parlance, 15 innings is an emergency. So okay, guys like Kazmir and Arizona's Brandon Webb, who'd similarly pitched on Sunday, had to pitch in the All-Star game. But what would've happened if the game had gone 16, 17 or even 18 innings? Who pitches then? Position players?

Not a good idea. And you can't have a tie anymore. Not now that MLB has decided to place this ridiculous "Winner Determines Home-Field Advantage in the World Series" stipulation on the game. What are you going to do if you declare a tie? Flip a coin?!

Perhaps the most popular solution is to expand the rosters and add a couple more pitchers per side. The problem with that idea is that All-Star managers already feel compelled to make sure everyone who can play, gets to play. So if you expand the rosters, they're just going to try and jam that many more guys into the expected 9-inning game.

I think the best solution is to allow the managers to bring a couple of pitchers from their own teams. Not guys who are voted as All-Stars, but guys that the managers feel deserve some recognition, and are brought along for the expressed purpose of pitching only in long drawn out extra-inning games. Make it a starter and/or a long-reliever. Someone who can soak up some innings once you get past the 10th or so and make sure that guys like Webb and Kazmir don't risk hurting their arms needlessly.

Call it a privilege for the All-Star managers. Sure the Players Association will want those guys' contractual All-Star clauses to kick in. But that can all be negotiated out without much difficulty.

One way or the other, MLB has some tweaking to do, or they will end up with another mess on their hands sooner or later.

Next up, I'm going to run down a few transactions that have occurred during the break:

- The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired 1B Tony Clark in a trade with the San Diego Padres for a minor league pitcher. I love this move for the D'backs. Sure, Tony's only hitting .239 with 1 home run and 11 RBI. But he's only gotten 88 at-bats with San Diego, and will get far more opportunities with Arizona. Far more important than his numbers is his presence. This is exactly the kind of "veteran presence" I've been saying that the D'backs need for ages. And kudos to Arizona G.M. Josh Byrnes for not being so egotistical that he can't admit it was a mistake to let Clark go in the first place.

- The Philadelpia Philles acquired P Joe Blanton in a trade with the Oakland A's for 3 minor leaguers. Blanton certainly isn't the front-line starter that CC Sabathia and Rich Harden were. But he's a nice piece to have. And with the surge the Mets have been on as of late, the Phillies were wise to make a move now. And considering that the centerpiece of the trade for the A's was a minor league 2nd baseman who had no shot of getting to the big leagues with the Phillies (Chase Utley isn't changing positions any time soon), it really worked out well for both clubs.

- The New York Yankees signed free agent 1B/DH Richie Sexson who'd been cut by the Seattle Mariners. This move makes a ton of sense for the Yanks. With LF Hideki Matsui's bat out of their line up indefinitely, the Yankees need a guy with the potential to generate some power. Sexson can definitely do that. Yes, he struggled this year with the Mariners. But in Seattle, he was one of the core guys. In New York, he's just another part of the line-up. Probably no more than a 7-hole hitter. Not nearly the same kind of pressure. And if it doesn't work out, the Yankees are only on the hook for a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum salary. Thanks to the wonder of baseball's collective bargaining agreement, the Mariners are on the hook for the rest of Sexson's $14 million salary. God bless guaranteed contracts I guess.

And finally, I have to throw in a quick 2-cents on Fransico Liriano. Yesterday, Liriano's agent, Greg Genske, formally asked the Players Association to investigate why the Minnesota Twins haven't called Liriano up from AAA Rochester, despite 3-straight solid outings. Apparently the agent is suspicious that the Twins are trying to limit Liriano's service time to push back his arbitration eligibility.

As my co-worker Don Shelby might say, hogwash.

The Twins haven't recalled Liriano because there's no room for him on the major league roster. The popular candidate to be replaced, Livan Hernandez, is also the only starting pitcher the Twins have with any significant starting experience. And I promise you, if Minnesota's in the hunt down the stretch, that experience will be invaluable. So sorry to those of you looking to give Livan the boot, he's not going anywhere.

And you can add to that the fact that each time the Twins have tried to rush Liriano back from one of his many maladies, it's only served to exacerbate the problem. So the Twins are well served in this case to let Liriano get as many innings in as he can at AAA, so long as he isn't directly needed with the big club.

I don't put this on Francisco. He's a young guy who doesn't know any better than to let Genske run amok like this. Unfortunately, this is another example of an agent creating an adversarial relationship between a player and the club that simply doesn't need to exist.

On Monday I mentioned Liriano as a possible trading piece for the Twins. So maybe Genske thinks this will move the Twins closer to making a trade that will land Liriano in the majors with another club. Unfortunately for him, I think all this does is make it less likely that the Twins will recall the left-hander any time soon.

That's all for today ladies and gents. Have a wonderful weekend. Don't forget to go see The Dark Knight! I'll be seeing it in just under 7 hours myself. Not that I'm counting!

I'm back on Monday with more Sports Take goodness for you. Until then, thanks for reading!

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