Q: Do you think it's a good idea that the All-Star game decides home-field advantage in the World Series? It seems like the game is caught between being an exhibition contest and a game of more importance.
— Chad Casserly, Orlando, Fla.
A: You hit on one of my biggest pet peeves, Chad. For the most part, I'm a Bud Selig proponent. He's done great things for the game — especially for the owners and players, who benefit most from the game's gross revenues rising from about $1 billion a year just after the 1994 strike to $7-plus billion annually now.
But in my opinion, the commissioner is wrong on the All-Star game. Let me make this perfectly clear — it's an exhibition game. It should NOT determine something as important as home-field advantage in the World Series.
The game used to be something different. Back when the National League was dominating it in the 1960 and 1970s, NL players took great pride in winning, looked down on the AL as a country-club league for older players, and exploited the advantage of having far more African-American and Latin all-stars.
But today's MLB has been homogenized through inter-league play and free-agent movement, and among players — who are so much more highly compensated than their predecessors from the 1960s-1970s — the same competitive spirit for the All-Star game has lessened dramatically.
When Derek Jeter can get away with bailing on the All-Star festivities just days after getting his 3,000th hit — and be defended by the head of the players union for doing so — you know that winning the game just doesn't matter much to the players anymore.
Not that I have a big problem with any of that. In fact, I like the exhibition aspects of the game:
But if you're actually playing to win the game, none of these things should be in effect. Fans shouldn't be determining starting lineups and rosters — votes from players, coaches and managers should. The one-representative rule also should be waived. And of course, you could make the case for 25-man rosters instead of the bloated 34 — and starters playing the entire game, just like a real game.
So the All-Star game is stuck in an awkward, square-peg-in-a-round-hole situation, and removing the World Series tie-in would restore order. Selig hatched the tie-in to stimulate ratings, but it hasn't had that affect, anyway. So let's return to the exhibition-game concept and thinking.
The game should stand on its own for what it is — a showcase of its stars. And the far better idea for home-field advantage in the World Series is to let the leagues' cumulative inter-league records be the determining factor.
Q: What can the Orioles do to bolster themselves for the second half? Are they as legit as they seem?
— Robert Marteny, Long Beach, Calif.
A: I know where the Orioles sit at the break, but it's still hard for me to buy them as a legit playoff contender this season. So I certainly wouldn't be mortgaging a quality part of the organization's future on a rent-a-player. Maybe a decent prospect or two to help fill a need, but that's it.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Since peaking at 27-14 on May 19, the Orioles went 18-26 into the All-Star break. Run differential also doesn't paint a good picture, as the O's are -36, and only the Twins and Royals are worse in the AL.
In terms of team stats, the O's are 8th in the AL in slugging percentage, 9th in ERA, 11th in runs scored, batting average and rotation ERA (but first in bullpen ERA), and 12th in on-base percentage.
The rotation also will be in transition in the second half, when Zack Britton and Chris Tillman should get opportunities, while Brian Matusz (5.42 ERA), Tommy Hunter (6.12) and Jake Arrieta (6.13) have been sent to the minors. That doesn't sound like a rotation heading to the playoffs, even if Greinke or Hamels is acquired.
Q: Do you see the Yankees picking up a left fielder to replace Brett Gardner?
— Ken, Ware, Mass.
A: Nothing appears imminent, and I'm not sure if any move needs to be made. Gardner — who certainly has suffered setbacks along the way since going on the disabled list in April — has been able to step up his rehab of late, and is shooting for a late-July/early-August return.
In the interim, there has been decent production from the left-field platoon of Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Dewayne Wise and Jayson Nix. Yankees left fielders have combined to hit .231 with 13 homers and 33 RBI, and Darnell McDonald recently was added to the outfield mix.
Also, let's not forget where the Yankees are in the standings — comfortably ahead in the AL East — and if they're looking to make a move, it's far more likely to be for a starting pitcher, or some catching help.
If Gardner's return is held up too long for whatever reason, maybe you could see a move made either right before the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline — or even into August.
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