Can the All-Star Game fulfill any element of its proposition to a serious skeptic?
I'll admit, I've been an All-Star skeptic for a long, long, long time. When I was blessed with the absolute certainty of youth, I would derisively laugh off the All-Star Game as merely a baseball-flavored entertainment. I haven't watched any portion of an All-Star Game since seeing Bo Jackson turn Rick Reuschel into the All-Star Game's answer to Craig Ehlo back in 1989*, usually treating the break as just that, a time to relax and review, what had happened and what could be coming, both before and after the launch of Baseball Prospectus for 1996.
That didn't change even now that the contest “counts,” a product of Czarist pique and union tractability after the embarrassment of the tie of 2002. It's not a worse idea than the previous method of letting World Series home-field advantage be alternated annually, but as someone who figures that home-field advantage should simply belong to the team with the best record—especially if we're going to have interleague play—it isn't exactly the sort of thing that makes you settle into your seat, intent on the outcome because of what's at stake.
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Some major-league clubs better not look back because the U.S. Futures Game team might be gaining on them.
I don’t remember much about my baseball card-collecting days, but my overtaxed neurons still cling to a few isolated remnants. The way I divided the cards according to All-Star status, believing that an appearance in the Midsummer Classic conferred some indefinable air of greatness upon the likes of John Hudek, or signified that Scott Cooper was bound for Cooperstown. The times I toted around huge binders on family trips, bringing offerings of cardboard to an oracular cousin in Virginia (who, in retrospect, may well have been a false prophet) to be deemed worthy or unworthy of prominent display. And one particularly memorable series of cards, affixed with the tagline “The Future is Now,” composed of 15 players age 25 or under who represented the promise of innumerable productive seasons to come. Those cards rest not 10 feet from me as I write this—no, my mom never threw them out—but it would take me hours of flipping, sorting, and page turning to track them down. Fortunately, through the kindness of the strangers populating the internet, I don’t have to. After a Boolean search or two, I’ve located my quarry.
As it turns out, that group of 15 contained several Hall-worthy names, but it also included a number of players whose best work was already behind them (Steve Avery, Carlos Baerga, Rod Beck, Jason Bere, Aaron Sele) by the time the cards were placed into packs. That a third of Upper Deck’s picks failed (to varying degrees) to pan out, despite the fact that all of them had reached their mid-20s as established major leaguers before being featured, drives home the difficulty of forecasting performance. With that, I’ll conclude my detour into the domain of Josh Wilker—and to think, if I hadn’t wasted my youth in card collection, I could’ve spent my time on Rec.sport.baseball, working toward becoming the youngest founding member of BP.
Sony's popular video game improves the realism of watching an actual game.
One thing that you can depend on with Sony's MLB: The Show franchise is that it will deliver an entry worth purchasing each season, even if you aren't the kind of person to buy every edition of a sports game. Each year, Sony's San Diego studio releases the best version of the game—this isn't a mere roster update, as customer criticisms are addressed without compromising the offers of the previous games—by adding on to what, at its core, is the best baseball game on the market—if you aren't familiar with The Show, check out reviews from the past two years to get a feel for the core game.
What The Show strives to do each season—and it gets closer every year—is to provide you with an experience as authentic as watching a game on your television. If it happens in the games, then chances are good that it happens in the latest edition of The Show. New to the game this year are real-time presentations: a broadcast camera is employed, so now everything is in real-time. If the camera pans to the dugout or bullpen, you will see interactions and movements of the players and coaches like you would on television, not static or robotic AI characters sitting around. Since the same engine is used for these moments in real-time as in gameplay—there's no disconnect between cut scenes after a play and plays anymore—everything moves fluidly and fits in realistically. Players no longer just stand around dumbly after a play is completed, as they continue to walk around, toss the ball—there are over 1,250 new gameplay animations to go along with 400 additional personalized pitcher and batter animations. This from a series that already prided itself on a successful replication of player movement. You will also notice improvements to the slow-motion replays, as players do not move around as awkwardly as in previous editions of the game—motions are much smoother and keep you immersed in the experience more in MLB 10.
If a team carries 12 pitchers on a post-season roster, is it because they failed to check out their schedule?
Tossing out the Sunday night opener, MLB teams play 162 games over 182 days, with no scheduled doubleheaders and a three-day break in the middle of the season. That means roughly 19 games every 21 days, with some 21-day stretches that include 20 games. There aren't a whole lot of breaks, and as the schedule has evolved over time, with planes replacing trains, and doubleheaders going the way of pullover jerseys and Ladies' Days, player usage has evolved. The five-man rotation is a rational approach to the elongation of the schedule, and while there's a case to be made for the four-man rotation, this adaptation seems to be permanent.
Having once been involved in the selection process for the Futures Game, I can tell you first-hand that it's not a simple process. Just like the All-Star Game, there are limitations imposed to ensure that each team is represented, and the US vs. World set-up creates additional challenges certain positions. Still, when the game kicks off (ESPN2 on Sunday at 2 pm ET), there will be plenty of top prospects in action, and for so many fans, it also represents the first time to get an actual look at players you've been reading about, at times for years, so here are some things to look out for.
Team USA is dealt in, the Yankees begin hoarding chips, and the White Sox hold.
The idea of sending a baseball Dream Team to the Olympics has been dead a while now. Major League Baseball would never consider shutting down its season for two weeks to send an All-Star team to an Olympiad, and furthermore, baseball will be discontinued as an Olympic sport after next month's games in Beijing. The opening ceremonies are August 8, and the baseball competition will be held from August 13-23. Thus, baseball will be taking a back seat to a lot of other sports in the Olympics. You have to search to find the games on television, and strain even further to find much coverage online or in print.
The Futures Game deserves better than the billing it's gotten.
The Futures Game deserves better than it gets. It takes place on the wrong day at the wrong time, causing what should be a glimpse at the game's future to be lost amidst a full schedule of its present. If it's important enough to have, it's important enough to have at a time when baseball fans are actually likely to watch it.
Why the heck is the Futures Game scheduled for Sunday afternoon, when MLB
games are still being played? I caught bits and pieces of yesterday's contest,
held at 3 p.m. Central at Houston's Minute Maid Field, but was too distracted
by the great finishes in Philadelphia and Boston to pay it too much mind.
Having missed three innings, I was never able to get fully into the game.
It's as if MLB wants to bury the Futures Game by putting it up against
regular-season games. Speaking mostly for myself, I would much rather the game
be, say, this afternoon, than have it be up against the last few games of the
first half. Having the Futures Game on Monday creates a practical issue--how to
have the Game, the All-Stars' batting practice, and the Home Run Derby in the
same place on the same day while selling tickets to either one or two
sessions--but that can be dealt with by either moving the Futures Game to a
different location or truncating the day's BP sessions.
The Home Run Derby is a turgid two hours that exists largely because no one
seems to know how to stop getting corporate sponsorship for it. Making the
Futures Game the centerpiece of All-Star Monday would make the day shine,
while giving the players in it a proper stage for their skills.
This Sunday at 5:30 p.m. EST, Major League Baseball will present the fifth annual showcase of the premier minor league talents in the game. It receives an ESPN2 time slot usually reserved for reruns of the 1976 World Strongest Man competition and gets about the same amount of national attention, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better place to watch talent assemble. There are eight major league All-Stars this year who have participated in one of the four Futures Game contests, and that number will only rise as improving players like Lance Berkman, Joel Pineiro, and Brett Myers find their way to the big stage in the coming years. However, since the game doesn't receive much in the way of promotion (shocking, I know), people still ask questions. So, here are some answers.