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It’s 80 degrees and sunny, and I’m staring at my glove, planning to play a little catch later today. Do you really think I can focus?

  • The Futures Game, already stuck in a ridiculous time slot, was victimized by a four-hour rain delay that completely mucked up the proceedings. Kevin Goldstein makes the key point: the game shouldn’t have been picked up after the rain, due to field conditions that elevated the risk of injury to the most valuable properties in the game to unacceptable levels. MLB’s insistence that their prospects take the field late yesterday afternoon was a mistake, and it is a tribute to their never-ending good fortune that this criticism isn’t accompanied by the picture of a talented young player grimacing in pain.

    The only saving grace of the rain delay is that it shoved the Game almost into a decent time slot. Playing the thing on a Sunday afternoon with 11 MLB games up against it (and eventually 15 being played during its scheduled window) is an unconscionable waste of an opportunity to showcase future stars. The vast majority of baseball fans, given a choice between a minor league all-star game and their team’s contest, will choose the latter. Those who aren’t choosing are out in a park, on a beach, on the water, or doing all the things people do on a Sunday in July. The Futures Game ends up being a showcase for scouts, GMs, and a subset of people in the host city, and that’s all.

    It deserves better. There are no games today. There are no games Wednesday. Would it really be that hard to stick the Futures Game on one of those days? Maybe having it Wednesday would be annoying for people who want to fly that day, but honestly, I know a ton of people who go to the All-Star city just for that game, so they’d just have to come in for it anyway. It would be less convenient for the fans in the local city, but so what? You’re trading off 30,000 people for a potential audience 20 or more times that, watching the only baseball game in town in prime time on a weeknight. That’s 600,000 people being introduced to Jason Heyward and Chris Tillman and Eric Young Jr. That’s how you sell baseball’s future.

    I want more people to see the Futures Game, and until it’s moved from its utterly ridiculous Sunday afternoon slot, that won’t happen. Something as simple as playing the celebrity softball game first and the Futures Game after it, say at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. local time, would allow for a larger audience.

  • Then again, that’s not my real argument. My real argument is this: play the Futures Game on Monday night, and just shoot the Home Run Derby dead. The latter takes far too long, isn’t terribly interesting, and occasional cool moments aside, is kind of a numbing experience, a one-hour BP session stretched to three hours.

    The counter for this argument is “Josh Hamilton.” Here’s my re-counter, the AL’s team in the Derby:

    • the “33rd man” All-Star and his career .402 SLG
    • an injury replacement with 44 career homers
    • an injury replacement for a second baseman
    • A guy with one homer for every 40 AB in his career

    Really? I mean, not for nothing, but were the injury replacements made to do this as a quid pro quo? Was the balloting for Brandon Inge-the weakest candidate on the AL list-tweaked at all to reflect his willingness to participate? Was Carlos Pena slotted to replace Dustin Pedroia not just because his manager was also the AL’s manager, but because he agreed to fill out the field? Joe Mauer is the only primary-path All-Star in this group. Hamilton, who owes much of his fame to this event, won’t return to it. Justin Morneau won’t defend his title. Evan Longoria and Mark Teixeira, the real power in the AL lineup, both passed.

    The field is a bit better in the NL, although it includes a guy in Ryan Howard who’s an All-Star like I’m a vegetarian. A first baseman with a .257/.341/.529 line and, at best, so-so defense? He was a homer pick, selected by his manager to play in his hometown, probably with an eye towards the Derby. It’s not even the worst crime this year, just another data point in the case for Howard being the most overrated guy in the game.

    My point is the the Futures Game is a better event for baseball. It’s better marketing, better entertainment, and if not better TV, certainly not worse, and better for the attendees. The players, warranted or not, are voting on the All-Star Game with their feet; that AL team is an embarrassment. Pull the plug on this event and give the spotlight to the prospects.

  • The Nationals fired Manny Acta last night, a move that was as inevitable as it was unwarranted. Acta is a smart baseball man with very good people skills who was handed an impossible job, inheriting a roster built by an organization still recovering from the threat of contraction and the years of neglect which followed. Acta was never given sufficient talent with which to win, and in fact, has his job made more difficult by the organization’s curious approach to talent acquisition.

    Firing Acta and turning the team over to Jim Riggleman is the kind of pointless move bad franchises make. It would not surprise me at all to see the Nationals play well enough from here on out, simply by regression, for the organization to make the terrible move of falling in love with the interim and keeping him on rather than going through a legitimate search. That move never, ever works out, and is a hallmark of winning organizations such as the Royals, Blue Jays, and Reds.

    Manny Acta will eventually be hired to manage again, maybe as soon as this offseason. (He’d be a two-win upgrade for the Mets right now.) When he does, he will succeed, just as Terry Francona just needed the right situation to succeed. Manny Acta will reach the postseason before the team that just fired him did.

  • Yovani Gallardo didn’t pitch well yesterday, which doesn’t change the fact that he should be pitching on Tuesday. If he and Adam Wainwright, both overqualified for the All-Star team, were not selected because they were starting yesterday, then the process is broken. You pick the best players and deal with it later.

    I mention Gallardo because he was up against Clayton Kershaw, five days after facing Wainwright, 10 days after facing Johan Santana. Despite the perception that number-one starters face number-one starters, and so on, the fact is that pitcher draws tend to balance out over the course of a season, with no pitcher seeing a more difficult or less difficult slate of opposition hurlers. Gallardo, however, seems to have had one brutal draw this year. In addition to the three guys listed above… actually, let’s just run a list, including Gallardo’s opposition ranks on their team and in their league in pitcher VORP:

    
    Pitcher                 League     Team
    Randy Johnson            102         8
    Edinson Volquez          105         8
    Johan Santana             22         1
    Felipe Paulino           311        16
    Ian Snell                240        15
    Paul Maholm               76         6
    Ryan Dempster             40         4
    Wandy Rodriguez           14         1
    Chris Carpenter           11         2
    Micah Owings             136        10
    Jair Jurrjens             10         2
    Aaron Cook                29         3
    Jeremy Sowers            188        14
    Justin Verlander          10         2
    Matt Cain                  3         2
    Johan Santana             22         1
    Adam Wainwright            6         1
    Clayton Kershaw           12         1
    

    The numbers probably don’t do the list justice. Volquez was one of the best pitchers in the league last year, and Johnson has his moments. Santana’s VORP ranking is low, but he’s nothing less than one of the three best pitchers in baseball, and has twice beat Gallardo 1-0. Since late May, Gallardo has made 11 starts, and in nine of those he’s been up against pitchers ranking no lower than 29th in their league in VORP. He’s faced one of two best pitchers on the staff in five straight starts, and in eight of 11. That’s an insane run of opponents, and is a partial explanation for why Gallardo has an 8-7 record despite being the eighth-best starter in the league.

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sweptaway3641
7/13
Why can't they have the game today? Its workout day/interviews/that nonsense. Why not have that stuff go on from 10-2, have BP from 2-4, then play the Futures Game from 5-8, then have the home run derby? More people would be in the stands, and more people would watch on tv.
Richie
7/13
Re Derby vs. Futures, the All-Star game draws the very casual fan. The very casual fan couldn't care less about any Futures guy who's not with his/her franchise, but does have some interest in homers, particularly by a guy or two he/she's actually heard of. The simplicity of the contest also makes it more graspable for them, while boring us cognoscenti.
Richie
7/13
A manager with Acta's record has to get fired. If you're going to drill accountability for results into the players - which you darn well ought to - it's very difficult to teach that lesson while just (even accurately) saying "we know the manager's a really smart guy, so for him the results don't matter".
Scartore
7/13
So the dolts who run the Nats get a pass for putting Manny in this position by providing him with an atrocious team (Zimmerman and Dunn excepted) but they get Kudos for firing Acta cuz that will impress the players? Accountability for results? The Nats problem is not a matter of effort. It's a matter of immense suckitude. Trying harder will not turn that team around. Acquiring better players is what will turn this team around. Tell yah what, I'll take the under on Joe's proposition. Rigglemans had plenty of opportunities to show how much he stinks. My bet is the Nats continue to suck. Hard.
TheRiz
7/14
I think that you, me, or Jesus himself couldn't win with that Nats crew. I personally hope that Manny gets the Indians job when Mark Shapiro comes to his senses and finally fires Eric Wedge. As a transient for a few years here in Washington, I think the fans here have lost sight of the fact that: 1. Your (former)GM is under FBI investigation for bonus skimming. 2. You have not hired a permanent replacement GM. 3. Your new park is mediocre at best and hasn't drawn any fans. 4. You are storming the manager's office with torches and pichforks despite the above factors. I bet the Nats brain trust can even ruin Strasburg.... if they can spell their team name right on their uniforms. 4.
jmkearns
7/13
This may not be a popular position here, but I'd much rather watch the Home Run Derby than the Futures Game. And I'd consider myself more than a casual fan - I follow multiple baseball websites year-round, perform near the top of multiple fantasy leagues annually, watch maybe 120 of my home team's games each year and a few dozen involving other teams, and read the overwhelming majority of the articles on this site. I actually attended the Futures game in 2004, and the only player I remembered from it - until I happened across the program a couple months ago - was the fizzled prospect from my hometown team. I didn't even remember that Prince Fielder had been in it, and I certainly knew who he was at the time, both from his father and from Moneyball. My feeling is that the Futures game is essentially meaningless to 99% of fans or more. Sure, we'll know who these people are in a few years, but we don't right now. Players we've heard of - even if they're in the 70-80th percentile instead of the 98th - are a lot more fun to watch. And it may be glorified batting practice, but who doesn't like watching stars take BP? And are you really telling me the Futures game is any more meaningful? It would make sense that most people a baseball analyst would know would prefer the Futures game in prime time. I live in a pretty liberal town, and everyone I know voted for Dukakis. That's not a representative sample, and if the folks at MLB assumed it was, they'd be making a grave mistake.
antonsirius
7/14
"Sure, we'll know who these people are in a few years, but we don't right now." If only there was some way to change that... perhaps some sort of nationally televised exhibition game to promote and hype the stars of tomorrow...
antoine6
7/13
Even if Howard is "the most overrated player in the game", isn't he an argument FOR the Home Run Derby? Personally, I think it's pretty fun to watch a guy like him destroy baseballs. Personally, I think they should have a HR Derby featuring him and Adam Dunn every year, whether or not they're all-stars. You just couldn't resist getting in more shots at Howard though, could you? I mean, if there's one thing he CAN do, it's hit home runs. So isn't he PERFECT for a home run derby?
FalcoT
7/13
Howard's just lucky he gets to pick a right handed pitcher for the Derby, right? That or he'd need a platoon mate to enter for him.
jeffsol
7/14
I have to agree with the general sentiment here that why is participation limited to all stars? The NBA never limited participation in either the dunk contest or the 3 point contest (the most successful event of this type) to all stars. Ryan Howard should not be an all star but most certainly SHOULD be in a HR derby. also, as mentioned other places, there should be an umpire and strikes called, so the players can't watch dozens of pitches go by waiting for a perfect one.
havybeaks
7/13
How about using a HR derby to break a tie in the All-Star game after the 10th inning? Kind of like a shoot-out in hockey.
mglick0718
7/13
Joe, love your stuff, but I just don't get the Ryan Howard shpiel. 'Most overrated guy in the game'? That's nuts. I'm sorry, regardless of position, defense (which you even say is 'at best so-so', not abominable), and home park with a career .276/.375/.582 line can possibly be a candidate for those honors. Yes, big platoon splits, but he's still a career .750 OPS hitter v. lefties. Overrated, sure, and clearly he had no business winning the 2006 MVP, but the frequent repitition of your extreme position is hardly the conclusion of good analysis.
jsheehan
7/13
I stand by it. One completely undeserved MVP, nearly another, and in neither case should he have been on the map. This year's All-Star pick, ahead of a whole mess of better players, first basemen included. Who's more overrated than a guy with that resume. It's not "Ryan Howard sucks"--it's that he's overrated.
sanott
7/14
lets see how many HR he hits in the derby if they get a lefty BP pitcher...
antoine6
7/13
Most people have learned to tune out Sheehan's near-regular jeremiads against Ryan Howard (and the Phillies in general). FWIW, Howard has been a better player this year than Carlos Pena (higher WARP, better defensively, better AVG and better SLG), and yet I see no articles calling Pena the most overrated All-Star. Joe most really love those 20 points of OBP across a half-season, considering Howard is better in every other aspect of the game. Howard has just started to heat up, and has consistently been a better second-half performer (though I'm sure Joe will discount this). I'd be willing to bet he ends up with a line around .265/.365/.570. And yet he will continually be denounced on here. Odd. He also had the Phillies picked below the A's before the season, and just picked the Mets to win the NL East this year in his chat. Seriously. So, fair to say, he doesn't really have the highest regard for the Phillis in general.
birkem3
7/13
Are you ignoring defense where Pena is far superior to Howard?
jsheehan
7/13
He's going off of the DT cards, which have Howard better than Pena. I can't begrudge him or anything else for doing that, but I don't use our stuff for defense. Sue me. Checking the +/- numbers, Pena has been better in every season until now, when he trails Howard by five runs in half a season. With apologies to Clay, there's no universe in which Ryan Howard, improved though he is, is better defensively than Carlos Pena. Pena's the better hitter--I have no idea how the poster just handwaves OBP--and it's worth nothing that he plays in the AL East, and frankly, every player in the AL East deserves some kind of bump. Every one.
antoine6
7/13
You're right Pena deserves a bump for AL East. Fair point. The OBP I dismissed this year because it's 20 points over a half season, well within any reasonable range of statistical variance. Over their careers, Howard has a higher OBP. And higher SLG. And higher AVG.
antoine6
7/13
Howard is also two years younger and has better total WARP since 2006, much higher VORP, higher career OPS+, and more HRs (in almost 250 fewer games). But yeah, Pena is clearly the better player. What was I thinking?
lurgee21
7/13
"I don't use our stuff for defense. Sue me." Come on, Joe. You can't just dismiss your own site's defense stats because it doesn't support your argument. Fact is, I agree that Howard shouldn't have been added to the roster. He's had some good moments this season, especially lately, but with Pujols already on the roster, Howard's only purpose is to take part in the HR derby. But you can't say that Howard is overrated with a straight face on a site dedicated to using statistics to back up arguments about quality.
birkem3
7/14
In defense of Joe's statement about the site's defense stats, I can't remember the last time Joe used BP's defensive metrics in one of his articles. I recall him using things such as UZR and +/-, but not FRAR or FRAA. So he isn't just dismissing BP's defensive stats because it doesn't support his argument. He's dismissing them because he doesn't believe in them.
antoine6
7/13
UZR has Howard as a better defender. Not sure where +/- and other systems have them ranked.
Mountainhawk
7/13
I've found it best to just assume that Joe's opinions about the Eastern divisions will have a severe bias towards the NYC teams. It nevers fails. The Mets will be lucky to finish with 80 wins this season.
Ophidian
7/13
Actually, Joe gives a fair bit of props to the Jays, Rays, and Orioles for their efforts competing in the AL East. The stats also back him up, remember that the Jays were actually the 4th best team in all of baseball last year by underlying stats like Run Differential and 3rd order win percentage. If you need more proof, look at the beating Toronto laid on the AL Central and AL West to start the season before heading into a heavy dose of AL East competition. Most of the past few years they'd be a playoff team in any other division in baseball.
hyprvypr
7/14
You've seen Howards regression the last four years I guess? He's falling from superstardome, no wait, he's CRATERING... His line this year will probably be sustained.
birkem3
7/13
If Howard's not the most overrated player in the game, who is? I can't think of someone more overrated. It's usually guys in the Juan Pierre mold, but even they seem to have fallen out of favor in the public eye. Figgins?
antoine6
7/13
How about Jose Reyes? He's never posted an OBP above .358, and yet he's considered one of the best players in the game. His defense is considered top-notch by many, but advanced metrics have him relatively average. He steals bases, but also gets caught stealing a ton.
Mountainhawk
7/13
I would go with Reyes or Papelbon.
hyprvypr
7/14
The difference with Reyes is that he contribues just about everywhere besides the mediocre OBP. Howard is a one, maybe two trick poney - homers and walks. That he's good at one is the only reason he has a job, there are dozens of hitters in the minors with light tower power.
antoine6
7/14
I was comparing Jose Reyes to the perception of Jose Reyes, not Reyes to Howard. Joe was talking about the most overrated player in the game. I hear all the time that Reyes is one of the top young superstars in the league, but he's a leadoff hitter with mediocre OBP skills, a SS with average defense (according to UZR, I don't have +/- in front of me), and a basestealer who gets caught too much of the time to truly be a game-changer with his feet. I hear all the time about how good Reyes, Wright and Beltran are. I agree about Wright and Beltran. But I think Reyes is hugely overrated.
HugeShoulderpad
7/14
bozarowski
7/13
The reason not to pair the days was shown at Yankee Stadium last year. I went to all three days of All Star festivities and they had a completely packed stadium for the Home Run Derby and the ASG - but they also had a solid turnout for the Futures Game/Celebrity Softball game. Three gates and concessions > 2 gates and concessions. Sadly more people arrived for the softball than the futures game and Paul O'Neill hitting one over a fence roughly 200 feet away was pretty much the only thing to awaken the crowd all day. Look I'm not saying the Home Run Derby is the greatest creation of baseball, but I'd definitely argue that it's a better experience for the fans in the ballpark than the Future's Game. The Home Run Derby atmosphere that I saw, thanks, of course, to Hamilton was much more excited than at any point during the ASG, let alone the Future's Game. While the Derby could certainly use some tweaks (is the final ever not anti-climactic?), I think the Derby is a fun event that is, arguably, more popular than the game itself and is extremely appealing to casual fans - and the casual fans are necessary for the health of the game.
bozarowski
7/13
I'd like to see a 12 man Home Run Derby, 6 players from each league. The top 3 advance to the finals - there is no semi-final. Adding four more batters and an extra finalist (at the expense of the second round) keeps the networks happy by allowing for roughly the same number of commercials as the normal Derby would.
birkem3
7/13
They could even go to a team format to put more focus on the players' interactions with each other. By focusing on NL vs. AL or US vs. World or whatever, you'll get the players more into it and create more fan interest (on TV anyway).
bozarowski
7/13
Love the US vs World idea. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but that really reinvigorated hockey ratings-wise when they went in that direction, right? Not sure how I feel about it yet but something to think about: traditionalists would have an aneurysm but US vs World could work for the All Star game itself too. Though I guess we'd end up with some of those melodramatic is A-Rod a Dominican or American sort of tabloid fodder, and it would be a mess for fan balloting. Then the World Series home field could be based on whichever league is better in interleague or as a reward to the team with the best overall record. I have to acknowledge my irrational love of the WBC probably makes me open to this sort of notion...
taylorcp
7/13
Hockey has since abandoned the Canada v. World format. Couldn't have been that big of a winner.
coryschwartz
7/16
The HR Derby was done in a USA vs. World format in 2006 in concert with the WBC. The most memorable part of that event was Jason Bay winning the ground ball hitting contest.
NathanJM
7/14
My fear would be that the Futures game would get a prime time slot, draw terrible ratings, and be abolished all together. You'd need some sort of transition. Maybe integrate a few slugging prospects into the HR derby: kids vs pros or something. The pros might clean up but who cares? You're there to see HRs. And I suspect most prospects can hit BP fastballs.
Mountainhawk
7/13
The Home Run Derby is almost the "main event", while the Game itself often feels like the undercard. As far as the Howard argument, Joe just likes to keep turning the knife. I'm not sure why, because it hurts his credibility in other aspects of his work, where he does do solid analysis. With his next HR, Howard will get to 200 HR for his career, and it'll be done in about 550 fewer plate appearance that Albert Pujols, and as far as I can tell, fewer than anyone in the history of the sport of baseball. (This could be wrong, I could not find a definitive list.) When one person towers over history in an aspect of a sport, it's hard to imagine that he is the "most overrated", even acknowledging that he has flaws in other parts of his game, which he constantly works to improve.
birkem3
7/13
If Albert Pujols wasn't in the majors until he was 24, he would've gotten to 200 HR much quicker in terms of plate appearances too.
cdt719
7/13
He "towers over history" because he began his first MLB season at the age of 26 with a home park that inflated home runs by 20% and 40% in his first two seasons. (2008 and 2009 so far have been close to neutral.) Your "towers over history" statement is a great example of why he's overrated--he's a very good player, but certainly not an historically good one.
hyprvypr
7/14
You have to take his home park into context as well as the rest of his abilities. Frankly, Howard is quickly turning into a one-trick poney. His walk rate has dropped, he's fanning even more often then before(maybe this is where he 'towers' - lol), he can't hit for average and his defense is mediocre. Russell Branyan is the same player - though he may take a few more walks - and Branyan usually can't find a job. Howard is playing on reputation alone - well that and people like home runs.
Wharton93
7/13
Joe Sheehan hates Ryan Howard. How can Ryan be overrated if his own team isn't giving him a long term deal (they realize his weaknesses) and just arbitration him every year? Overrated would be giving him a Pujols or AROD contract. That would be stupid. How can Ryan be overated if he led his league in HR last year? And in RBI? It is a lie to say he led the league in those categories? Did he hit 25 HR and 75 RBI last year but we all sat around and said "Ryan is the BESTEST in the WORLD!!" ? Nobody says that. Guys who lead the league in HR and RBI go to the all star game---it just is. True, he doesn't lead in VORP. True, he's not the 2nd best or 3rd best all around first baseman. But he hits bombs, and lots of them, and plays for the world champions. He probably has 1 more really good HR/RBI left him before he does the swan dive off the Mo Vaugn/Cecil Fielder/Ortiz plank.
Mountainhawk
7/13
The Phillies did sign him this year to a 3 year deal, didn't they? It wasn't $20M+ money, though ... 3 years/$54M or something like that.
DavidK44
7/13
The HR Derby is absolutely no different than NBA's Slam Dunk contest. Great for casual fans, and at most a mild "that was impressive" interest for "hard-core" fans. Casual fans outnumber hard-core fans. If you put the Futures Game and the HR Derby on at the same time on Monday night at two different stadiums and broadcast one on ABC and one on CBS, the HR Derby would absolutely destroy the Futures Game in ratings. I do agree the Futures game should be moved to Sunday Night, but the HR Derby is a huge event for baseball that draws ratings, interest, fans and $. Ending it would be absolutely silly. Don't like it? Don't watch. I do think, however, they shouldn't restrict the field to All-Stars and should focus more on who can actually put on a show. If you're not going to pull in the "big names", then I see no reason not to pick the guys who can absolutely mash the ball over people who may actually be better ball players. The Slam Dunk contest featured Nate Robinson, who is not exactly one of the leagues best players, or even an all-star. That, I think, is the key. Once the big names decline, then just get the absolute mashers, even if they're not all-stars. This event was designed for Adam Dunn, Russell Branyan and Jim Thome. Let them go out there and put on a show. I also wish they would do a 60 yard dash tournament between the fastest guys. Although you'd need Joey Gathright to really make it a true test.
bozarowski
7/13
How cool would a baseball skills competition be? Maybe do it on the off days during the World Series. The inside the park home run competition; the hit the ball to targets bat-off; most accurate throws from center field; home run derby - I'd definitely watch that. I'd love to see that dash competition with Gathwright, BJ Upton, Brett Gardner, Juan Pierre, Michael Bourn, Ichiro, Reyes, etc. Guess this is the former track runner in me coming out...
DrDave
7/14
Was this sarcasm? If so, I approve. There *was* a skills competition at the ASG, back in the day, and it was great. But nobody cared, and the players didn't much like it either, so they killed it.
sanott
7/14
i always think of hockey where the guys are hitting targets in all corners of the net from far away...then i used to envision clemens (enter joke) breaking clay targets one by one at home plate in a show of command...or something like that. but i agree, there are skills that could be demonstrated to spice things up at the ASG.
uberjt
7/13
The other major similarity to the Slam Dunk competition is that it offers MLB a tremendous opportunity to build mainstream recognition for players from non-core markets. Just look at what happened with Josh Hamilton last year—yes, it was a good story, and some people probably would have heard about him anyway, but it was the performance at the Home Run Derby that put him in the public spotlight and got him face time on national MLB commercials, etc. Yes, for the most part, it's not a tremendously /meaningful/ competition, but that doesn't mean it isn't unbelievably valuable for the game in building and marketing its players.
phduffy
7/13
Why the crack at the Blue Jays? Cito Gaston is not an 'interim' manager this time, and the last time they made him 'interim' manager he eventually won them a World Series (two actually)
Ophidian
7/13
Since the World Series days, the Jays have repeatedly foregone a proper search to just hire the interim guy. It happened with Tim Johnson, it happened with Carlos Tosca, it happened with John Gibbons, and it happened again with Cito. I'm willing to give Cito a pass since he was more parachuted in and has a lot more credibility than the others, but none of them were particularly standout managers. As for Riggleman, the new regime in Seattle showed zero interest in bringing him back after last year and the Nats are the only team that was worse than the Mariners last year. They probably shouldn't get all excited about Riggleman.
jmkearns
7/13
I also just looked at the field. The AL players are weak, sure, but Pujols/Gonzalez/Fielder/Howard for the NL? They're the four biggest home run hitters in the NL almost without question, and you could argue they're the four biggest in the game right now. I love your work, Joe, but you need to learn when to give it a rest. There are lots of ways to enjoy this incredible sport, and yours is only one of them.
DavidK44
7/13
And I say this as someone who attended both the Futures Game and the HR Derby last year. Although yes, part of it was the time of day / scheduling, the amount of people who wanted to go to the HR Derby (and were willing to pay through the nose to do so) vastly outnumbered the number of people who wanted to go to the Futures Game. The Futures Game is a great event, but it's ultimately more for the truly immersed fan. The HR Derby is for casual fans and it does a great job at it. And it's the exact kind of thing MLB should be doing - attracting casual fans in a way that does NOT ailenate the hardcore fans. The problem is when a sport (the NHL does this all the time) does something in an attempt to attract casual fans that negatively affects the hardcore fans (Joe would argue the Wild Card did exactly that). But the HR Derby has no affect on hardcore fans, so it's the perfect thing.
Scartore
7/13
We'll take Manny Acta, just help me lure Dusty Baker onto this tramp steamer...
Scartore
7/13
BTW, everybody needs to just back on up outta Joe's face on the Ryan Howard thing. Somebody hasta be the most overrated player in the game. Joe has nominated Ryan Howard. He did not accuse Ryan Howard of child molestation. Heck, he didn't even accuse Ryan Howard of being a bad player. I'm fairly certain Joe does not HATE Ryan Howard. He's just not as good as people think, and making such propositions is one of Joe's JOBS here at BP. Disagree? Fine. Nominate someone else. Derek Jeter anyone?
antoine6
7/13
Just wait till you see the comments in Joe's article on Thursday, when I'm sure he will tell us how the Mets are actually a lot better than the Phillies, and will come back to win the division in the 2nd half. That should be a fun one.
bozarowski
7/13
Considering Jeter's improving defense the last two seasons and that the guy is hitting .321/.396/.461 with a 125 OPS+, all are above his career averages I don't think it's fair to all him overrated. Actually I think he might be a bit underrated as I think the perception is that he's the worst defensive SS in baseball and it just isn't the case anymore, be it because of an increased use of scouting (which he's acknowledged), a new focus on lateral movement in offseason training or the influence of Mick Kelleher - Jeter is no longer a bad defender. I like antoine6's thoughts on Reyes. How about Vladimir Guerrero? The man seems to be completely done (and is hurt again) but no one in the mainstream media has picked up on it the way they have for Ortiz.
hyprvypr
7/14
He's overrated, for sure. Most defensive metrics have his defense somewhere between bad and horrific. He's a very solid hitter, but at this point he should probably be playing 2B or 3B which would take the gleam off his triple-slash line pretty quick. He's great for being a Captain on a four-time winner ten years ago, but his current contributions are that of a decent, not-great, shortstop.
sweptaway3641
7/13
The concepts of "overrated and underrated" are just toys created by media types to have something to talk about that can never be proven right or wrong, just provide them a soap box to either talk up or talk down players that they either like or dislike. You can never prove that someone is overrated, because you can't really qualify "rating". What is Howard's rating? His MVP shares? That seems like an arbitrary way to measure it. Is it how many magazine covers you're on? How many times your name appears in a headline? What is rating? Can you list the 5 most overrated/underrated players? Is there a consensus? Of course there isn't. I personally think that's become an issue not just here, but in the writings of many people on the sport. Stop focusing on how a player is perceived by the masses, focus on his actual production and value. Don't tell me about Howard's overratedness or underratedness, tell me how his numbers, ie, what hes done, stack up against his peers. When you start talking about things that can't be quantified, you may as well abandon all facts and just make it up as you go. I do know that Ryan Howard has a .299 EqA and a 5.2 WARP3. I also know that Carlos Pena has a .309 EqA and a 5.0 WARP3. So I know, looking at that, that Ryan Howard has been slightly more valuable this season. Since you, Joe, argue that the All Star Game should essentially be an old boys club restricted to guys with great careers, should Carlos Pena be there over Ryan Howard? Prior to 2007, Carlos Pena was close to a negative value player, with EqA's in the .275-.282 range. And if we're going to point out Howard's steep decline, we should also point out that Pena went from a .351 EqA/7.5 WARP3 in 2007 to a .313 EqA/6.8 WARP3 in 2008 to a .309 EqA/5.0 WARP3 so far in 2009. Is he on a steep decline at this point too? Forget overrated/underrated and the stuff like it. Focus on facts.
bozarowski
7/13
While I agree with what you're saying in principle the issue being discussed here is manager selection in the All Star Game. Charlie Manuel is not looking at rosters and picking players based on their WARP3 or some advanced stat like that so what matters (in the context of this discussion) IS the perception of a player. I think it's fair to say the general perception of Howard is that he's an MVP caliber (or top tier) player whether or not the advanced metrics fully support that claim. Again, I'm not saying it's right but when we're talking about All Star selections (and MVP and Cy Young and ROY Awards etc), that is awards based on perception and voting, then comparing what the numbers tell us as opposed to the general perception of a player is a worthwhile exercise.
sweptaway3641
7/14
But as I mentioned in a previous comment, its just a whole lot of misdirected hostility toward Howard. This isn't a new phenomenon. Joe Torre was one of the more serial offenders when it came to taking his entire team to the ASG. Its one of the spoils for winning the World Series. And its not like Howard is going to be in there for 3 AB against the toughest lefties on the planet. If the situation calls for it, Howard will get to pinch hit and face a RHP. He murders RHP. Were there better choices? Sure. But to slam Howard and degrade everything he's done just to get one of your favorites on the team is a waste of time. Sheehan could have just said that there were better options, he could have saved everyone the "Howard is the most overrated player ever" rant.
BurrRutledge
7/14
I would love to see Howard come in to face a RHP only to have Maddon bring in a lefty.
mattymatty2000
7/14
Well, if you were Maddon isn't that exactly what you'd do?
tanthalas37
7/14
Keep in mind that Charlie is no dummy. His regular season team has a good shot to reach the World Series and since the winner of the game gets home-field advantage, he is building a team to win this game. Is Howard under-qualified? Probably. But Charlie isn't going to put him up to bat in a situation that he can't succeed in (i.e. against a lefty). And he chose a guy like Werth over Sandoval because he sees Werth everyday and he sees that Werth is ON FIRE right now. Charlie (and any manager of the AS Team) cares a little less about who is deserving and more about WINNING the game to help his team in the Fall. Baseball has put that onus on the game so the managers are going to manage that way... especially if their team stand a good chance to benefit from winning the All-Star game. And until baseball drops the sham about every team being represented and actually select the "best" players in the game, regardless of team, I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about who "deserves" to be there and who doesn't. The managers are hand-cuffed and do the best they can with what few roster selections they can make.
tanthalas37
7/14
By the way - not that this would ever happen - but after seeing what happened to HIS pitcher in last year's game (Lidge), how funny would it be if Charlie had Francisco Rodriguez start warming up in the bullpen during the 3rd inning.... and every following inning until the end of the game?
birkem3
7/14
"so the managers are going to manage that way" Did you really just claim that managers manage the all-star game to win it? Because I fail to see how that claim can be justified. As Joe said on the radio last week, the all-star game is more like gym class than a real baseball game.
Lopecci
7/13
I think I agree with the majority in that Ryan Howard is definitely not overrated, maybe slightly underrated now. He is showing some blazing speed this year with two triples and 4 stolen bases. Not to mention he will hit over 40 homers again. The main point I wanted to make about the HR Derby. Is that the HR Derby is for the kids Joe. Do you know how bad my kid is waiting for the HR Derby tonight? He is six years old, and thats all he has wanted to see for the past week or so. Since he watched Josh Hamilton in a rerun the other day. The HR Derby, needs to be there, every year for that reason alone, the kids.
hyprvypr
7/14
From the context of a firstbaseman, he's definitely overrated, no argument. His home park is a hitter's dream yet he posts pedestrian numbers at 1B. Because of his counting stats hitting behind a few hitters with .400 OBP's he always shows up in the MVP award. Terribly overrated, 'fraid to say pal.
antoine6
7/14
One hitter with .400 OBP (Chase Utley, whom Joe Sheehan has claimed is playing over his head and is not a .400 OBP guy). The other guys ahead of him are usually Jimmy Rollins (terrible this year, knocked throughout his career for being a low OBP leadoff hitter) and Shane Victorino (having a great year, but also more of an average OBP guy the last couple years). Howard also has put up just as good numbers on the road as at home throughout his career: Home: .968 OPS, 100 HRs Away: .946 OPS, 99 HRs But don't let facts get in the way of your argument.
SoxOsPhils
7/13
Just a note on the Howard debate. Howard is hands down a great HR hitter, probably the best HR hitter of the past 3-5 years. He also had one great season, where he won the MVP. Maybe Pujols deserved the MVP more that season, but Howard's #'s .313 AVG, .425 OBP, .659 SLG, 58 HRs, and 149 RBI were excellent. Further, in that season he made what many consider to be the first legitimate run at Maris's 61 HR since the steroid craze. Does all of the above make Howard a great player? Probably not, he had a great season and has been a great HR hitter. Overall, maybe very good is a better assessment of him. I also believe that it is unfair to carry a grudge against Howard just because a) his skill (hitting HRs) is sometimes overvalued, b) baseball writers who vote for MVP continue to vote him above better players such as his teammate Chase Utley, and c) that his manager made a bit of a homer decision to take him to the all-star game this year.
hyprvypr
7/14
Russell Branyan would probably post similar numbers to Howard, yet he's almost waived every year by some stupid team. Kudo's to Seattle for giving him a job and LEAVING him in there when he struggles.
jkaplow21
7/14
Joe, seriously, are you throwing this stuff out there so people comment? I can't beleive you actually believe this stuff. It is wrought with errors and you are a cagey surehanded vet who must be pulling the wool over our eyes. Maybe you have a secret crush on Howard you are distracting us from.
billkatt
7/14
Gallardo didn't face Santana three starts ago. He faced Mike Pelfrey. Santana lost to the Brewers when Mike Burns was pitching.
jsheehan
7/14
Correct. No idea what that was. Mental burp. Today I learned that other people like 1) Ryan Howard and 2) the Home Run Derby a lot more than I do. One of those works.
dalbano
7/14
Why do we not talk about the balls used in the Home Run Derby? Don't get me wrong, I find the Derby entertaining, but for the same reason everyone found Sosa-McGwire entertaining....the Derby is a cartoon and there is no way those balls are not super juiced.
jkaplow21
7/14
Joe, well, at least you are half right. Your take on Howard is fairly subjective (hence the word like).
hyprvypr
7/14
Russell Branyan should have been selected to the Homerun Derby over Brandon Inge. Period. There probably isn't a hitter in the AL who hits the ball further then Branyan - and this year he's doing it with more regularity then normal - which is saying a lot. Branyan should have made both the All-Star team and Derby over Inge.