Bringing The Midsummer Classic To These Venues

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With the Miami Marlins having hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game earlier this week for the first time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Rays are now the only MLB franchise to have never hosted the Midsummer Classic. In recently history, hosting the All-Star Game has come down teams getting a new stadium or undergoing heavy renovations to their current facility. And when Marlins Park opened in 2012, the debate began as to when the All-Star Game would be heading to South Florida. And now that the Marlins have had their opportunity to show off their stadium to the baseball world, who should be next in regards to hosting the Midsummer Classic.

Rogers Centre-Toronto, Canada

The first and only time that the Toronto Blue Jays hosted the All-Star Game was in 1991 and it came on the heels of the Rogers Centre (formerly the Toronto SkyDome) opening for business. The SkyDome was ahead of its time as the amenities there included Major League Baseball’s first retractable roof as well as a hotel. Since that time the Montreal Expos left Canada to become the Washington Nationals and being that the Blue Jays are MLB’s only team north of the border, it is time to bring the Midsummer Classic back there in order to further promote the game and keep fan interest intact.

Camden Yards-Baltimore, Maryland

When Oriole Part at Camden Yards opened in 1992, it was the gold standard of what a Major League ball park should be. It didn’t take MLB that long to award the Baltimore Orioles the All-Star Game as they hosted the Midsummer Classic in 1993. And as the park is still a crown jewel, it is high time for the All-Star Game to return to Baltimore.

Citizens Bank Park-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Citizens Bank Park opened for business in 2004 and it quickly became a huge home-field advantage for the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2007, the Phillies won the National League East, and by they 2008, they would win their first World Series Championship since 1980. But unlike many of the other new venues around Major League Baseball, Citizens Bank Park has yet to host the All-Star Game. The last time that the Phillies hosted the All-Star Game was in 1996 at Veterans Stadium. The fans in Philadelphia have a uniqueness about them and it would add a special twist to the All-Star Game to have Phillies fans jeering every single player as he is introduced.

Wrigley Field-Chicago, Illinois

Right next to Fenway Park, Wrigley Field is the most historic venue that it currently in use in Major League Baseball. The ivy that covers the outfield walls at Wrigley along with the throng of fans who hang out on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues to catch home run balls is always huge, and we cannot forget about the spectators in the bleachers as well. The Chicago Cubs last hosted the All-Star Game in 1990, and the timing is perfect now for MLB to have the Midsummer Classic return to the Windy City being that it is still buzzing there after the Cubs won the World Series last October. And if the wind is blowing out on a warm summer night at Wrigley, the All-Star Game could resemble the Home Run Derby.

Dodger Stadium-Los Angeles, California

It’s hard to believe but Chavez Ravine has not hosted the All-Star Game since 1980. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of Major League Baseball’s most iconic franchises and their new ownership group has taken extreme pride in renovating Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are more popular than ever in the City of Angels as they have won four consecutive National League West Titles, and it’s safe to say what the reaction would be when players from the San Francisco Giants would be introduced as there is no love lost between these two iconic franchises.

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South Florida Deserves Better

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Jeffrey Loria

Since Jeffrey Loria has owned the Miami Marlins franchise, they have been an organization that is loaded with potential only to see it typically untapped. After the Marlins won the World Series in 2003, they were expected to remain in contention as they had a relatively young team. But after the Marlins went 83-79 in 2004 and 2005 respectively, Loria had a fire sale that was reminiscent of the one that the Marlins had after they won the World Series in 1997. Since 2005, the Marlins have only had two winning seasons which is a reflection of the poor leadership of Loria. And Instead of Loria being committed to the Marlins, his self-absorbed attitude is hurting both the Marlins as well as the people of South Florida who deserve more out of their Major League Baseball franchise.

Tonight the Marlins are set to host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game for the first time in franchise history. In recent years hosting the All-Star Game has been unofficially deemed as a reward for franchises that have either built brand new stadiums, or have had extensive renovations to their current venue. Marlins Park opened for business in 2012 amid controversy as the project to build the stadium in Miami barely had enough legislation to pass. In order to get his stadium plans approved, Loria promised to inject money into his franchise in regards to team payroll which is something that they typically haven’t done. The Marlins would actually be active in free agency as they signed the likes of shortstop Jose Reyes and starting pitcher Mark Buehrle, while also naming Ozzie Guillen as their new manager following the conclusion of the 2011 Major League Baseball season. However after the Marlins only won 69 games in 2012 to finish in last place in the National League East, Loria had another infamous fire sale which included trading longtime infielder Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. And as Loria had a new stadium with a small payroll, the people of Miami had been duped into building a luxurious stadium for a billionaire.

It’s has not gotten better for the Marlins since then as they’ve never been a contender during this decade, while there was also the tragic death of starting pitcher Jose Fernandez last September. But now there are reports that Loria could be on the verge of selling the Marlins.

Loria not being involved with the Marlins would be a good thing for the franchise as well as the people of South Florida, but a sale of the franchise is scheduled to fetch more than $1 billion on the market which would be a huge return on investment for a man who purchased the franchise for $158.5 million 15 years ago. And to add insult to injury if Loria were to sell the Marlins, the folks in Miami will still be footing the bill for a stadium that most of them have never visited, while a billionaire gets wealthier on an investment that he never cared about in the first place.

Marlins Park

We can expect to see one of the largest crowds in the history of Marlins Park tonight when the National League takes on the American League, and it is also a shame that the largest crowd to this point in the history of the stadium had nothing to do with the franchise. An opening round game in the World Baseball Classic this past March saw 37,446 fans pack Marlins Park to watch the United States take on the Dominican Republic. But the team who calls Marlins Park home for the entire Major League Baseball season has only averaged roughly 21,000 fans per game since the park opened in 2012 which is a reflection of the team’s performance on the field as well as the leadership or lack thereof by Loria.

So now after tonight’s All-Star Game, Marlins Park will go back to being a ghost town. Loria will continue to count his stacks of cash which included price gouging for this week’s festivities at Marlins Park. And that pile will be even bigger if Loria is soon able to find someone to purchase the franchise that he never cared about in the first place.

Loria is not the first professional sports franchise owner to do what he has done, and he won’t be the last as there are only a select few professional sports franchise owners who actually care about winning, along with the fans instead of their bottom line which is making profit. And instead of becoming a beacon for baseball in South Florida, Marlins Park has become another luxury eye sore that was paid for by people who cannot afford to attend events there in order to benefit a man who has a vault like that of Scrooge McDuck: However the only thing is that this nightmare is an actual reality in Miami.

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The Power of Dodger Blue

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Just when it appeared that there was going to be a three-team race to decide the winner of the National League West, the Los Angeles Dodgers have begun to separate themselves from the pack. A recent surge by the Dodgers has seen them win 23 of their last 27 games to build a 4.5-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks and a 7.5-game lead over the Colorado Rockies in the N.L. West. And the bad news for the Diamondbacks and the Rockies is that the Dodgers don’t appear ready to slow down anytime soon.

Since the Dodgers have gotten rolling it has been a total team effort. We know about starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw who is in the mix to win his fourth National League Cy Young Award, but behind him in the Dodgers rotation there is some depth. Starting pitcher Alex Wood has come out of nowhere to go 10-0 in 13 starts this season, while posting an earned run average of 1.67. And as good as Wood has been, it is darn near impossible to overlook Kershaw.

Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw is 13-2 with an earned run average of 2.19. Kershaw has recorded 41 strikeouts in his last four starts and he’s on pace for his seventh season in which he has recorded at least 200 strikeouts. Only once has Kershaw failed to give the Dodgers at least six innings of work this year. And although that Kershaw won’t be pitching in next week’s All-Star Game due to the fact that he is scheduled to pitch this Sunday, he could be set to enter some rare air as another Cy Young Award would put him alongside Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, and Greg Maddux as the only pitchers in Major League Baseball history to win the award at least four times.

Offensively the Dodgers have been potent all season long as they are currently second in the National League in runs (444), as well as on-base percentage (.342), and fourth in home runs (120). The Dodgers have the reigning National League Rookie of the Year in shortstop Corey Seager who is batting .300 with 13 homers, and 42 runs batted in, and he has actually been overshadowed in the Los Angeles lineup by another youngster.

Cody Bellinger

In 66 games this year, outfielder Cody Bellinger has belted 24 home runs which currently leads the National League. Eight of those long balls have come in the Dodgers last ten games as he become a power bat in the middle of the Dodgers lineup. And as Bellinger is scheduled to participate in next week’s All-Star Game, he is also well on his way to becoming the 18th player in Dodgers franchise history to be named as the N.L. Rookie of the Year.

Last year saw manager Dave Roberts push all of the right buttons in his first season with the Dodgers, and he is doing it once again as Los Angeles is arguably the most complete team in the National League. The Dodgers starting rotation has been solid and Roberts can give the baseball to relief pitcher Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning as his 20 saves this year are third in the N.L., while he is the most proficient closer in franchise history which is evident by his 209 career saves.

The Dodgers are getting healthier as third baseman Justin Turner recently returned to the lineup, while first baseman Adrian Gonzalez should be returning soon. The Dodgers are increasing their depth and prior to Major League Baseball’s trade deadline I expect their president of baseball operations in Andrew Friedman to be active in pursuing another arm for the starting rotation, another reliever, and potentially some more speed for the lineup in order to give Los Angeles the right combination in order to flourish come October.

After tonight’s games with the Diamondbacks. Los Angeles will finish up at home with the Kansas City Royals before they head into the All-Star break. The second half of the season will see the Dodgers have their first nine games against teams that currently possess losing records. And with the current struggles of the Rockies, while the Dodgers are putting some distance between themselves and the Diamondbacks, they could soon be ready to wrap a bow around their fifth consecutive National League West Title which they are hopeful could the segue to their first World Series Championship since 1988.

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A Man With A Plan

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From 2008-2013, the Boston Celtics were always in contention to win the NBA Title which included them winning it all in 2008. However following Boston’s elimination in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in 2013, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge decided that it was time to start over. And instead of Ainge waiting for aging players such as small forward Paul Pierce and power forward Kevin Garnett to completely break down physically, he was able to ship them off to the Brooklyn Nets while receiving a litany of draft picks in the process. And as longtime Celtics head coach Doc Rivers did not want to participate in a rebuild in Boston, he was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers which resulted in more draft picks for the C’s since Rivers was still under contract with them.

Brad Stevens

Ainge would then raise some eyebrows when he pegged Brad Stevens to replace Rivers as the Celtics head coach. Stevens had never coached in the NBA as he was the men’s head basketball coach of the Butler Bulldogs. Stevens’ time at Butler was highlighted by him reaching the championship game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011, but how would he be able to fare in the NBA?

In Stevens’ first year with the Celtics, Boston would go 25-57 which was to be expected. However the following season would see the Celtics win total improve by 15 games and they earned the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics would continue to build off of that as they won 48 games during the 2015-2016 NBA season, and this past campaign would see them earn the best record in the Eastern Conference with a mark of 53-29. Boston would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2012, however after being eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was clear that the C’s still had a ways to go in order to close the gap on them and become legitimate contenders to win the NBA Championship.

Gordon Hayward

That gap closed somewhat on Independence Day when the Celtics signed small forward Gordon Hayward to a four-year deal that is worth $128 million. Hayward has spent his entire NBA career with the Jazz which included him averaging 21.9 points per game this past season while earning his first NBA All-Star Game selection. The acquisition of Hayward reunites him with Stevens who was his head coach at Butler, while it also displays that Ainge’s plan is coming to fruition.

Although that the Celtics 17 NBA Championships are more than any other organization in league history, no star player wanted to come to Boston when Ainge decided to rebuild. And instead of Ainge going for a quick fix in order to turn around the fortunes of the Celtics, he did it the old-fashioned way which required patience on his part, along with the ability to take some ridicule in Beantown.

Danny Ainge

Ainge has never been willing to give away draft picks as he has instead stock piled them like poker chips. In sending Pierce, Garnett, and shooting guard Jason Terry to the Nets, the Celtics received four, first-round picks in the NBA Draft. Ainge’s ability to sell water to a whale has been magnified as the trade with Brooklyn allowed the Celtics to select small forward Jaylen Brown third overall last year. This year the Celtics had the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets who earned the first overall selection in the NBA Draft. And with Ainge not blown away with point guard Markelle Fultz who was projected to be the top pick in the draft, he made a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers and moved down to the third overall selection. The Celtics would then select small forward Jayson Tatum and in the process they procured a first-round pick from the Sixers for next year. The Nets also owe the Celtics a first-round pick for next year which will more than likely be in the top five of the draft which means that Ainge can draft another quality player early, or find a sucker that is willing to give him a king’s ransom in order to move up as the rich simply get richer.

Ainge has also taken chances on bringing players to the Celtics that nobody else wanted. In 2011, point guard Isaiah Thomas went undrafted by the NBA. Thomas would begin his NBA journey with the Sacramento Kings. In three years with the Kings, Thomas’ numbers improved and in his final season in Sacramento, he averaged 20.3 points per game. Thomas was then traded to the Phoenix Suns where he averaged 15.2 points in 46 games. Thomas would then be traded to the Celtics in 2015 and he has gone on to become a household name.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas has averaged 24.7 points per game during his time with Celtics and this past season saw him become an MVP candidate as he averaged 28.9 points. And once you factor in the emergence of Thomas, along with the overall improvement of the Celtics, things are changing as far as this organization’s reputation around the NBA.

Now Boston is once again becoming a popular destination among free agents around the NBA which was illustrated by Hayward joining the Celtics, and there is more to come.

The draft picks that the Celtics are in possession of gives Ainge plenty of flexibility if he needed to get another star player to team with Thomas and Hayward. This past season saw Brown show flashes of his potential, while Tatum has gotten off to a hot start in the NBA’s Summer League as the Celtics now have one of the deepest teams in the league.

Ainge has built the Celtics into a contender simply off of the fact that there is always a sucker in regards to making a trade. Ainge was able to find that sucker in the mode of former Nets general manager Billy King who mortgaged the future for three washed up players. Pierce and Garnett are retired, while Terry is currently playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Nets are still on the hook for one more first-round pick to the Celtics.

Ainge learned from one of the best as far as making trades as former Celtics general manager Red Auerbach knew how to exploit loopholes in the NBA’s rule book, while also finding a sucker to make a trade with. And this ability by Auerbach allowed the Celtics to draft Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, while acquiring Robert Parrish to form one of the best front court’s in NBA history as the combination helped Boston win three titles in the 1980’s.

Now Ainge is writing his own chapter and as he doesn’t appear to be slowing down with making moves, the 18th NBA Title for the Celtics doesn’t appear to be that far around the corner.

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The Price Of Being In The Spotlight

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At the end of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, starting pitcher David Price became an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career and he was prepared to be wined and dined as contending teams were lining up for his services. Price would ultimately decide to join the Boston Red Sox as the two sides agreed on a seven-year deal for $217 million. Signing Price was a huge boost for the Red Sox as they were coming off of consecutive losing seasons and were in need of a front line starting pitcher.

Price’s first year in Boston saw him go 17-9 with an earned run average of 3.99. Price would lead the American League in strikeouts for the second time in his career, but he would come up short in October.

The Red Sox were expected to make the World Series, but in the American League Divisional Series they were swept by the Cleveland Indians. In Price’s lone postseason start he surrendered 5 runs and only lasted 3.1 innings as the Red Sox would lose Game 2 by the score of 6-0. The loss would bring Price’s career postseason record to 2-8 with an earned run average of 5.54.

2017 would not get started on the right foot for Price after he suffered an elbow injury during spring training. Price would not make his season debut until May 29 when he allowed 3 runs in 5 innings of work in a loss to the Chicago White Sox. On the season Price is 3-2 with an earned run averaged of 4.61 as he is slowly, but steadily showing flashes of the player that won the American League Cy Young Award in 2012. However whereas the Red Sox should be primarily concerned about Price’s left arm, they must also now be weary of other actions on his part.

Price has cut down on his accessibility to the media as he has proclaimed that he will only speak to them on the days that he pitches. Last month at Yankee Stadium, Price got into it with a writer from Comcast SportsNet, while also refusing to do an interview with a reporter from the Boston Globe. This story appeared to be cooling down until Price got into a verbal spat this past Thursday night on a flight from Boston to Toronto with Red Sox color commentator Dennis Eckersley. It is still unclear what sparked the incident on the plane, but this is just a clear cut example of not everyone being equipped to deal with the media and pressure of being a professional athlete in Boston.

Price’s best years came with the Tampa Bay Rays which aside from him winning his only American League Cy Young Award there, he was also a three-time All-Star. Price has also pitched for the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays as he helped each of them reach the playoffs. But only playing in New York City can rival the stress that comes with being a high paid athlete in Boston.

Price went from pitching with the Rays where there were 10,000 people in the seats at Tropicana Field, to pitching in Detroit where the fan base is passionate, but not overbearing. When the Tigers traded Price to the Blue Jays in 2015, he joined a team that had not made the playoffs since 1993, and they welcomed him with open arms. Price was welcomed with open arms by the Red Sox brass as well, however there is a huge burden to carry when you got paid in the fashion that he did.

Price will be 32-years of age next month and his career is at the crossroads. Price was compensated to be “the guy”, but he was overshadowed in the Red Sox starting rotation last year by Rick Porcello who would win the American League Cy Young Award after he won 22 games, and this year by Chris Sale who is 10-3 with an earned run average of 2.77 since Boston acquired him from the Chicago White Sox over the winter. Price must now figure out if taking the money from the Red Sox was worth it, or is it time to seek a trade and go someplace where he does not have to deal with the media or the fans in the same fashion.

But regardless of what happens with Price, he is fighting a losing battle with the media since they have the ability to twist a story around in any form of fashion to people who are gullible enough to believe it. As soon as Price signed his named on the dotted line, he also married himself to lofty expectations. And if Price wants his name to be remembered in Red Sox history with the likes of other pitchers such as Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling, then it all comes down to him letting his performance on the mound do all of the talking as it will make everyone in Boston become his best friend.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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