Taking a breather at the break
The dead zone between the All-Star Game and the second half is upon us. At least Colby Wilson is here for takes on the draft including how Salvy drew the short straw in his HR Derby matchup.
Welcome to the post-All-Star Game lull.
I get it. Teams and players need a break. (Writers do, too!) The season is arduous, made even more difficult from the extended layoff last summer. The players and baseball operation staffs need a breather. It has to be nice to be able to step back from the game for a few days and just kind of…relax. But are there worse days on the calendar than the Wednesday and Thursday after the All-Star Game?
Adding the draft to the All-Star festivities is a good idea and it felt like there was a lot of first round focus. But the subsequent rounds seemed to get vacuumed up by the other events surrounding the game in Denver. I don’t have a better idea for how to gin up attention for something that MLB has cut by 60 percent, yet still insists it is spread out over three days. By slicing the number of rounds to 20, they should at least compact the draft into two days. And I’m probably in agreement with most everyone that the draft should somehow be tied to the College Baseball World Series in Omaha.
On the subject of the draft, I’ve done some snooping around and the industry consensus is the teams that got the most out of their picks (in no particular order) were the Pirates, Tigers, Reds and Marlins. It’s probably not a coincidence that the first two I listed were picking in the top three when it came to selection order. The Reds were the only team with three first-day picks. It’s good to capitalize when you’re dealt a favorable starting hand.
Oh! There is baseball tonight. The Yankees and Red Sox have the stage all to themselves as the lone contest on the docket. This is a fantastic idea because those two teams don’t get anywhere near the attention they deserve. (Substack does not have a sarcasm font.) They’ll also play again on Sunday night. I hope you’ll be able to catch one of these sure-to-be-classic games. No American should be denied the right to watch Yankees-Red Sox. (Missing sarcasm font, again.)
After a couple of editions of how the 2021 season has gone wrong for the Royals, I still owe you an entry covering the relievers. That’s coming Friday. You can catch up on the offense and starting pitching if you missed those.) For now, I’ll turn it over to Colby for a few of his Thursday takes.
Three Take Thursday: Draft strategy, Denver is an All-Star city and Salvy was robbed
Haven’t played much baseball lately. Royals still bad. Fortunately, baseball has taken its midsummer hiatus and allowed Kansas City the opportunity to not lose a single game since Saturday.
(They also haven’t won since July 6; pros, cons and the circle of life continues apace.)
I’m at home with a not-quite-three-week-old child and thus the takeage might veer into the absurd until one or the other of us can figure out how to sleep for more than two hours at a time. If any of this accidentally comes out in Russian, blame the hackers.
Take One: Anyone trying to convince you the Royals had a “good draft” is either on the payroll or trying to be contrarian.
It is not, to me, unreasonable to think that at the No. 7 overall pick in a draft a team should get a player amongst the cream of the draft crop. I also realize that there are nuances to the MLB draft that make such a thing, if not impractical, then at least worth exploring for the overall betterment of the organization. The Royals have pulled off this sort of draft-capital jiggery-pokery before, such as gaming their pick values to add a Sean Manaea along with Hunter Dozier in 2013, overslotting the former while drafting earlier, and spending less, on the latter.
I want to be optimistic about this. I do. Nobody wants their first thoughts after the first round of a draft to be the Simpsons GIF of the “At Least You Tried” cake. And yes, judging a draft—especially a baseball draft—in the moment, before the labor has yielded any fruit, is an effort of lunacy. Frank Mozzicato might actually be Tom Glavine reincarnate. Dispersing extra money later in the draft might have been a masterstroke that will alter the course of a franchise.
It might also—with Kansas City’s pick of top prospects sitting right there at No. 7—be too smart by half.
Take Two: Let the All-Star game stay in Denver
Baseball’s Traveling Midsummer Circus goes where it wants and brings the best and brightest in baseball to a new city each year, where the stars gather and align for the good of the game and also the growth of the game.
In recent years, it’s been promised as a cudgel to get new ballparks built or send old ones out in style or to entice clubs to get rid of racist imagery, depending on who you believe. But with interleague play bringing everyone around to every park, the old trope of getting National League players in front of American League fans or vice versa doesn’t hold up like it used to.
(That MLB’s stupid TV agreements still makes it difficult to, say, watch Vladimir Guerrero Jr. if he’s playing Atlanta even though you pay for MLB.tv but are considered “in market” is another discussion entirely, one worth having every time anyone wants to bring it up.)
I’ve now seen the All-Star festivities pass through Colorado twice and both times the event surpassed expectations. The thin air against the league’s best pitchers, one of America’s most well-considered ballparks, an easily-accessible city from both coasts and one that offers both family-friendly fun and… other types of entertainment as well. I love Denver. I want you to love Denver too.
If that’s not enough, the good people of Colorado also deserve to see what quality baseball looks like at least once a year.
I’m of the mind that the more reps a place gets hosting an event, the better it gets as a host. It’s why Los Angeles and Beijing always come up as Olympic destinations, or why Innsbruck, Austria hosted the Winter Olympics twice in 12 years—if you prove up to the task the first time, people naturally assume you’ll pull it off again. Denver is a place people go to have a good time—Minneapolis (sorry you’re catching strays here, Minneapolis) is a box checked by bureaucracy. Let’s have the good time instead.
Take Three: Salvador Perez wouldn’t have won the Derby, but he still got hosed.
Pete Alonso was going to win the Home Run Derby, which isn’t even something I expected to think, because it isn’t something I expected to care about. But with Sal in the Derby, and everyone’s favorite Ruthian prince Shohei Ohtani and America’s Favorite Story Trey Mancini and Large Homer God Joey Gallo set to be in attendance, I watched the Derby for the first time in ages on Monday. I had a great time, too—it’s part of the reason the festivities to stay in Denver in perpetuity, because large men sending homers through the thin air with impunity is the best part of baseball. If you disagree, leave your address in the comments so I can mail you exactly 11 dog turds.
Perez smoked 28 homers in the first round and was bounced anyway, because he was matched up with Alonso and he cranked 35. It was the most homers hit by a player who didn’t advance in the history of the event, until Juan Soto did the same to Ohtani in the very next matchup. It sucked, not least because it robbed me personally of half the reason I was watching, but because it just didn’t make a ton of sense. You hit a bunch of dingers, you should get to advance in the competition that promotes such a thing. Perez and Ohtani were way more impressive in losing their matchups than Trevor Story was in winning his, and that’s not usually what you want out of a competition.
Would it have mattered? Unlikely, as Alonso seems bent on winning this competition any time the league insists on holding it. Would it have been more fun to keep Ohtani (and by extension, Perez) in the competition? Undoubtedly. Will MLB overreact to this and make the competition worse in the future? Why it wouldn’t be MLB if that didn’t occur now, would it.
The Royals return to action on Friday at home against the Orioles. Both teams have lost four in a row and you don’t need me to tell you this, but both are at the bottom of the American League. I wonder why ESPN isn’t focusing on this series.
Honestly, the only intrigue I can find is wondering how the Royals will come out of the break with their rotation. They were washed out of Cleveland on Sunday, which was scheduled to be a Carlos Hernández start. Should the Royals adhere to how their rotation was set ahead of the break, it would be Brady Singer’s turn on Friday and he would be followed by Danny Duffy and Brad Keller. With everyone rested, however, Mike Matheny can really set this however he wants. He could roll with his Opening Day starter Keller, who had one of his best showings of the season in his last outing. He could hold Duffy back until Tuesday in Milwaukee as the Orioles actually perform well against left-handed pitching. (Their OPS+ of 111 against LHP is the fourth-best in the majors.)
There are 73 games remaining. Let the second half begin!