Return of USA Pro Sports: Common Ground Between Leagues and Fans

LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard

As the return of pro sports in the United States draws closer, leagues are getting set to embark on seasons that they have never had to deal with before, there are specific needs that have needed to be addressed between players, owners, and fans in each respective league.

Return of USA Pro Sports Scheduled To Start With MLB

The MLB has had the most contentious path to resuming their season thus far. Luckily for baseball fans, the season looks like it will start around July 23-24. The highlight of Opening Day looks like it will be the defending champion Washington Nationals hosting the New York Yankees. A possible Gerrit Cole-Max Scherzer pitching duel on Opening Night should be something that MLB fans salivate over. In a 60-game season, there is a chance that Opening Night has a playoff feel to it already.

NBA Players’ Concerns Need To Be Addressed Despite Responsibility to Fans

For the NBA, the season is set to resume on July 30. The Opening Night to the season resumption will be highlighted by a Clippers-Lakers showdown. This game will set the tone for the race to the playoffs for the NBA. If the Clippers win, it will be game on for the number-one seed in the Western Conference. If the Lakers win, then they will be in the driver’s seat for the number-one seed.

However, some players on the 22 teams set to resume play at the end of July have backed out due to their own concerns regarding COVID-19 and social justice issues.

Fans that may be upset at players backing out have their right to be. However, a player should be taking their own well-being into account when deciding if they want to put themselves in a situation where they are putting themselves and others at risks. Brooklyn Nets forward Wilson Chandler cares about the well-being of his family and will be spending time with them instead of playing in Orlando. In a profession that requires so much time away from one’s family, it is understandable why Chandler is making this decision.

These situations are imperfect, but the leagues, players, and fans have to make the best of their unique individual situations.

Return of Pro Sports During a Pandemic Lose-Lose Situation on Surface, but Could Be Big Win For Society

For example, the criticism of the MLB and the players from the fans was definitely warranted. In a middle of a pandemic where the regular person is looking for any form of escapism that they can find, they will become disheartened quickly at negative developments as far as sports returning.

As far as the commissioners are concerned, they have been put in a lose-lose situation. The leagues are already going to lose money because of no fans being present at the games. Sure, it will be interesting to see how much television ratings increase. However, the actual plausibility of certain scenarios will not be known until they are put into practice.

The MLB is going to keep games in teams’ home cities. However, the NBA and NHL have a benefit of a shorter timeframe because they are resuming, not starting, their seasons. They will have one and two hub cities, respectively, where all the teams will be secluded to a “bubble”.

The NFL does not have the luxury of keeping its players in a bubble. There are simply too many players on the rosters. It will be interesting to see if the NFL eventually allows expanded rosters. The issue of pay may also come up during the season also. What will players do if there is a sudden reduction of salary? The one thing that the NFL differs greatly from the MLB is that they already agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement. Thus, it is highly unlikely that the NFL and NFLPA would feud over money.

Sports Leagues Returning Across the World Should Be Encouraging For USA Pro Sports

COVID-19 cases are not rising in Europe like they are in the United States. Therefore, it is an encouraging sign for sports league everywhere that the top European soccer leagues have started to finish their 2019-20 seasons. The German Bundesliga was the first of the four main European soccer leagues that was able to finish their season. Some players on some of these teams, including Barcelona (La Liga), have taken pay cuts.

2020 has had its challenges on society, but having sports back will be a great benefit to the United States. It will both be able to bring important issues to light through sport and offer a source of escapism from the news for fans. Sports coming back will hopefully help the country stay connected through interacting with other fans on social media. Although fans may not be able to celebrate their favorite teams together, they will have the ability to cheer on their teams. It will mean a lot to everyone involved.  

Five Questions About The Upcoming 2020 MLB Season

rob manfred mlb

After months of fighting, the MLB and MLBPA finally agreed on safety and testing protocol this past Tuesday, which led to Commissioner Rob Manfred implementing a 60-game schedule. In other words, baseball is coming back in late July.

I’m glad that the MLB will have a season, but I have so many unanswered questions. Unfortunately, some of them will not be answered when the season begins. Some things will have to play themselves out in order to find answers. For now, here are five questions I have for the upcoming season.

How Will COVID-19 Impact The Season?

This question has been brought to you by “Captain Obvious,” but it’s important to address. The coronavirus is still here and wreaking havoc. The mortality rate is not as high as initially predicted, but positive cases are still on the rise in some areas of the country. Some states like Texas, who opened its economy earlier than others, are now scaling back its opening phases. Once the season starts, there are going to be players who test positive. It’s inevitable. They should recover and the data supports that notion. The league will not stop for one player testing positive, but hypothetically, what if half a team tests positive? It’s likely they all recover, but will teams want to continue playing? Will this franchise even have enough players to field a team? The only thing we know is that we don’t know anything. All we can do is hope.

*For the rest of this article, let’s assume COVID-19 is contained and the entire season runs from start to finish.*

Will The Playoffs Expand To 16 Teams?

Baseball may be coming back for a 60-game regular season, but not every detail has been finalized, particularly, the postseason. As of now, the postseason will remain at 10 teams. However, in an interview with AP, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that he would be “available to discuss it” if there’s interest in postseason expansion. In an unprecedented season, I’m not opposed to adding three additional wild card spots in each league. It gives teams more hopes to keep fighting throughout the season if they stumble out of the gates.

Will The Universal DH Stay In The National League Forever?

One rule that’s been implemented for 2020 is the universal DH, meaning pitchers will not hit this year in the NL. Two words: Thank God. If you’re a baseball purist, turn away. It’s time to implement the universal DH. I don’t want to see pitchers come up to the plate to either strike out on three others or attempt a sacrifice bunt. It’s unnecessary and needs to change. Pitchers in high school and college don’t hit anymore and most pitchers never swing a bat in the minor leagues. With all due respect to Madison Bumgarner, pitchers should never pick up a bat again in the MLB.

Will The Runner On Second Cost Any Teams A Shot At The Playoffs?

In order to shorten extra-inning games and preserve player health, a runner will go to second base at the start of each inning. Call me “Middle Man Dan” because I’m both for and against this rule. In a 60 game season, teams don’t need to be playing 13-inning games in the first month. However, for game 59 with a spot at the playoffs on the line, I might break every window insight if my team missed out on the wild card because they lost a game in extra innings with a runner started on second in extra innings. My compromise would be to implement this new rule up until game 45, and then it goes back to normal from there on out.

Which Teams Are The Favorite To Win The World

When the dust has settled, who will be holding the “piece of metal” at the end of the season? In a shortened season, conventional logic will point to the teams with elite starting pitching or bullpen depth. Right off the bat, the Dodgers should be the favorite going into the season, which had the lowest combined ERA in 2019. It also doesn’t hurt to add Mookie Betts and Anthony Rendon to the lineup. Behind the Dodgers are the Yankees and Asterisks… I mean Astros. After those three times, the next tier includes the Twins, Nationals, A’s, and Braves. In theory, it’s anyone’s year, but if one of those seven teams don’t win it all, I’d be shocked.

What is your biggest question in regards to the upcoming MLB season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

2020 MLB Season Will Be One to Remember – If It Happens

MLB Home run derby MLB All star game

The 2020 Major League Baseball season is still in question. Commissioner Rob Manfred has yet to come to an agreement with the players.

While I could rant some more about how I am frustrated about this, I want to talk about how the season may play out if it in fact happens. Fans should be frustrated about how the current process has played out, but should be optimistic about what the 2020 MLB season could hold if and hopefully when an agreement is reached.

Washington Nationals Will Have Fresh Pitchers Coming Off World Series Championship

The Nationals were able to re-sign World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. Along with Strasburg, they return a pitching rotation that includes 3-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin. With no wear-and-tear from a normal 162-game season, all three of these pitchers could have excellent seasons. It would not be a stretch to predict at least one no-hitter from Max Scherzer this season.

They lost third baseman Anthony Rendon, who was an integral part of the team in 2019. Rendon departing leaves a void, but now outfielder Juan Soto will be the face of the franchise. If the season is to be played, it will be interesting to see how Soto does coming off of an excellent playoff run in 2019.

Rendon, Mookie Betts Will Both Have Great Seasons In Los Angeles

Anthony Rendon and Mookie Betts, two of the MLB’s more popular players, relocated to Los Angeles during the offseason. Rendon signed a 7-year, $245 million contract with the Angels, while Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers from the Boston Red Sox. With tempered expectations due to the pandemic, it would not be surprising to see both players put up impressive first years for their new teams.

Still, the Dodgers will have an easier time being successful than their Los Angeles counterparts. The Dodgers are basically a shoe-in to win the NL West yet again this season, while the Angels will have to get past the Houston Astros. The Angels also have a new manager in Joe Maddon.

Houston Astros Will Not Be Booed In Empty Stadiums

One of the main offseason stories in the MLB was the handling of the sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros. Many have more of a negative view of the franchise now, and the players would not have been treated with cheers at opposing ballparks. Because of COVID-19, that factor goes away for the Astros. It may be easier for them to focus on winning games and not have to worry about the fans.

New Chicago Cubs Manager David Ross Has Less Pressure on Him in 2020 MLB Season

The Chicago Cubs parted ways with Joe Maddon after the 2019 season, and hired former player David Ross as their new manager. Ross has never been a manager before, but he has plenty of talent at his disposal. If the Cubs had a down year in a normal MLB season, Ross could have faced quite a bit of criticism. Now, Ross will get a chance to feel out being a manager during a shortened 2020 MLB Season, and possibly be more successful because of it. The Cubs are one of the teams that could get hot at any point during the season.

Colorado Rockies are a Dark Horse Team That Could Benefit From Shortened MLB Season

The Rockies have been notorious for being a very streaky team in past seasons. They have four 2019 All-Stars in their lineup with Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and David Dahl. Pitching is always a question with the Rockies, and the Coors Field effect is always a factor with what some think the Rockies’ floor and ceiling may be as a team.

However, because of the firepower the Rockies have on their team, they could make the playoffs simply by going on one decent winning streak. Their four All-Stars are very streaky hitters, and their pitching is also inconsistent.

The sheer unpredictability of baseball makes it so a shortened season may help teams with less overall firepower. That is why any team could make the 2020 MLB Playoffs. If and hopefully when the MLB finally agrees to a deal with the players, the 2020 MLB Season will be one of the most interesting and fun seasons to watch in a long time.

MLB Return To Play: Fans Frustrated About Jumbled Mess

MLB Players only Walk, strikeout or hit a homerun Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge

Players complaining about their salaries and a commissioner who wants to see those players do everything but play baseball. These two developments have been the MLB return to play negotiations in a nutshell.

At least there was the MLB Draft on Wednesday. The Detroit Tigers selected Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson with the first overall pick, and I did not watch a single second of the draft.

Last summer, I went to 17 Colorado Rockies games. I did this as part of an independent study at the University of Colorado Boulder. During this study, I analyzed dynamic ticket pricing and certain aspects of the fan’s game day experience at Rockies games. I was hoping to go to just as many if not more Rockies games this summer also. However, that plan obviously was changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

My plans to go to Rockies games this summer changed into plans of washing my hands 20 times a day. Still, I was hoping I could at least watch baseball this season. That is looking more and more like a distant dream at this point. The MLB and MLBPA have been unable to come to an agreement about how many games they want to play once they return.

MLB Wants To Play Fewer Games with Prorated Salaries

The MLB, as an organization, has butchered their plans to return to play thus far. It is crazy that the league seems to be doing the complete opposite of what is the trend in other major sports leagues like the NFL. The NFL just added a 17th game into the CBA so the owners could get more money. Contrarily, the MLB wants to play fewer games than the MLB Player’s Association does.

Anchor // iTunes // Spotify // Breaker // PocketCasts // Google Play // Stitcher // RadioPublic 

The MLB is arguably the closest sports league to the European Soccer Model in the United States. Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many minor leagues across the world will struggle to stay afloat. However, the four major European Soccer Leagues (English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A) have all either started play again or are starting this week. They found the way, and it took cooperation from both sides.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred certainly has not gained any fans either. Many believe that he was not harsh enough against the Houston Astros in their punishment as a result of the sign-stealing scandal. Now, he looks like the one commissioner out of the four major United States sports that are least willing to negotiate with players. However, the players are not completely innocent either.

MLB Players’ Association Wants More Games, More Money

In times like these where unemployment numbers have risen as a result of the pandemic, it would not be crazy to think the MLB may be losing fans because of what could be perceived as player greed. Players want a fair share of their prorated salary. Another thing to think about is that it is the players who want to play more. They could get more money because of this, but it may be tough to play a lot of games if the season is unable to resume by August.

While the players should be respected in this situation by both the league and the fans, it is tough to think that the season may not happen because players would not be getting their full salaries. Some of the top players would be giving up a ton of money, but would still make millions of dollars if they played this season. It is role players that should be worried about the most, however. They may not get a fair salary from owners who have to play other players top dollar.

Other Leagues’ Success In Return-to-Play Plans Makes MLB Look Worse

The NBA was able to work with their players to return to play. In the NHL, both the league and the Players’ Association have been able to communicate and have a set plan in place to return to play. Although the NFL is in its regular offseason, it seems like the league has plans in place if the season has to be altered.

Major League Baseball looks like a complete mess. Their collective bargaining agreement ends after the 2021 season, and the league and players could lose a lot if they do not play this season. The league is going to lose even more fans if they do not return to play this season. Thus, it will take some concessions from both sides for players to play, owners to make money, and fans to be able to at least watch their favorite teams in action. My dream for 2020 MLB baseball is that I wash my hands before I sit down and watch a Rockies game this season.

Astros, Cheating, And Baseball: Do We Actually Care?

Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman

I’m sure you’ve heard the popular phrase, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Everyone cheats. We cheat on our diets when we sneak in some late-night ice cream. Your drunk uncle cheats in Uno when he stashes some extra wild cards in his hand. Hell, men and women cheat on their significant others all the time. If we’re so used to cheating, do we actually care about the Astros’ cheating scandal in baseball?

By now, you probably know about the Houston Astros and their sign-stealing scandal that dates back to 2016. The year is noteworthy because the Astros won the World Series in 2017 and fell one game short of winning it all in 2019. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred conducted an investigation and handed out punishments: manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow received one-year suspensions, loss of 1st and 2nd round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, and a $5 million fine.

Clearly, the majority of baseball fans including myself viewed this as a slap on the wrist and the outcry for harsher punishments were evident. To avoid the PR nightmare, the Astros fired Hinch and Luhnow. From there, two of the ring leaders in the scandal, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, also lost their managerial jobs with the Red Sox and Mets, respectively.

The main lesson from all of this may end up being to not fuck with the Internet. And, don’t bang trash cans to steal signs.

And don’t piss off Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger.

And don’t wear buzzers on your chests (?).

Now that you’ve read my Wikipedia entry above, let’s get down to business. Do we actually care about the Astros’ cheating scandal? Yes, I care, but it’s not black and white and there is a level of hypocrisy.

Full disclosure, I am a Yankees fan. The Astros have been a thorn in my side for the past three seasons. From Altuve’s multiple home runs to Verlander’s endless strikeouts, the Astros contributed to my seasonal depression over the winter. Therefore, I’m fully invested in this scandal.

Before I’m accused of throwing stones in glass houses, I’m fully aware the Yankees have cheated before. If you’re anti-steroids, then you can have a field day on Yankees in the late 90s and early 00s. I’m aware that Yankees violated a rule that deals with the use of the dugout phone. I’m also aware the Yankees used their video room to try and decode signs from 2015-2017 before rules were put into place during the 2018 season. If you want to attack the Yankees for all of that, have a field day. However, it’s not like the Yankees were the only team using steroids and trying to decode signs in the replay room.

Now, I feel that I can now speak on what the Astros did, which is bullshit. I’m fully aware every team tries to cheat including my own, but what the Astros did took what we view as cheating and raised it to the tenth power. If you can decode signs without the help of electronics, by all means, go for it. It’s like when Mike D discovered Teddy KGB’s tell in Rounders. That’s gamesmanship. I’m all for it.

However, the Astros used a center field camera to spy on the catcher’s signs, decode them in the replay room, and bang trash cans to relay the message to the batter. That’s cheating. Plus, imagine if there’s concrete evidence that the players were wearing buzzers on their chests. The Astros are very talented, but if the buzzer rumor is true, is their World Series title legit? I’m not giving it an asterisk, but it’s clouded in controversy.

So here I am as a conflicted baseball fan. In a game that has had countless instances of cheating, does this cheating scandal matter? It does matter. What the Astros did was bullshit and they should be punished. I’m not one to take away a World Series, but after Altuve and Bregman’s unapologetic comments, I’m willing to consider suspensions for the players involved. The players do not receive the benefit of the doubt, anymore. The coaches should not be the only ones who fall on the sword.

I’d like to believe the majority of fans care about this scandal, but as baseball has taught us, some other scandal will come in a few years and the Astros sign-stealing will be in the rearview mirror. Until then, I’m going to care and I hope you (pretend to) care, too.

Do you care about the cheating scandal? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Tim Tebow’s Mets Baseball Career is Nearing the Merciful End

Tim Tebow's Baseball career with the mets is coming to an end

I’ll open with this: hitting a baseball is hard. It’s a round ball hurtling through space – usually, over 90 miles per hour – with all kinds of movement on it, thrown by someone whose entire livelihood depends on you not hitting it. That’s not easy. However, it’s pretty clear that former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has been particularly bad at it for the Mets, at least by the standards of minor league baseball.

Tebow recently suffered a lacerated hand, which will cause him to miss potentially the rest of the 2019 season. He has been playing for the Syracuse Mets – a Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets.

Prior to Tebow’s unfortunate injury, which apparently happened in the field, he was slashing an abysmal .163/.240/.255 with four home runs, 19 RBI, two stolen bases and 25 runs scored.

He possesses a solid ability to draw walks, doing so at a respectable 7.6% clip, but his 37.1% strikeout rate is horrific, even in a league that doesn’t seem to mind the spike in strikeouts.

Is Tim Tebow Done With the Mets?

Tebow’s return is up in the air, and while having him in the minor leagues has been good publicity for the Mets – which is rare these days – it’s going to be hard to justify giving him a roster spot over some other more deserving players.

A quick look in their minor league system shows multiple players, including Sam Haggerty and Barrett Barnes, who deserve a promotion to Triple-A over Tebow.

Haggerty is hitting .278 with 17 home runs as a 25-year-old, while Barnes is hitting .235, but with 12 home runs, at age 27. Both players are losing an opportunity to advance as long as Tebow is taking up a roster spot.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support Tebow’s decision to try to play professional baseball – I’m not in the business of laughing at someone pursuing a dream. But that dream is dead, and even when his hand heals it is probably best for the former star quarterback to hang up his spikes – again – and pursue a career in broadcasting.

Time to give someone else a chance.

The Five Best Players Available at the MLB Trade Deadline

Trade Madison Bumgarner MLB trade deadline

Every year, late-July brings a flurry of movement among teams at the MLB trade deadline. With added wild card spots and TV revenue through the roof, it feels like the league has a bigger divide than ever between contending teams and tanking teams, allowing the deadline to function nearly like a relegation system in soccer: a few smaller teams (Mariners, Royals, Reds) send their best players to the big boys (Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) who in turn send their younger, less proven players back.

However, while this year looks like it will eventually be more of the same, so far the trade deadline has been – well – dead.

July 31 is the official trade deadline and as of this writing, very few trades have been made. So many teams are caught in that dangerous middle area, where they aren’t quite contending but they aren’t totally out of it either, making it hard for them to commit to either being buyers or sellers.

As such, the few teams that are selling have their asking price at sky-high levels, because they know the market is scarce at the moment.

The contending teams are content to wait and see if more teams decide to sell, which should saturate the market and allow some deals to get done.

So for now, we wait.

Should the market finally get going, here are the five players who could get dealt before the MLB trade deadline who will have the biggest impact for their new team down the stretch:

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants are on a nice 9-1 stretch right now, and at 52-50 they do have an outside chance at winning one of the two wildcard spots in the National League.

However, most experts predict they’ll sell at the trade deadline in order to help shore up their depleted farm system.

If they do that, longtime left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner could find himself pitching in a new uniform for the first time in his big league career.

Bumgarner, 29, is 5-7 with a 3.66 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a 9.09 K/9 on the season. He has been one of the most reliable starting pitchers in the entire league over the last decade and is known for his postseason heroics – a fact that will no doubt add to his price tag if the Giants make him available.

Marcus Stroman Five best players available

Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman appears on this list despite not being a free agent at the end of the season, a rarity in today’s “rental” era.

However, the Blue Jays have been known to be shopping the fiery 28-year-old, and it makes sense to deal him while he is pitching as well as he is.

Stroman is boasting a 3.06 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and a 7.11 K/9 despite a disappointing 6-10 record. Considering how bad he was in 2018 (5.54 ERA in 19 starts) the Blue Jays are likely trying to deal him now in case he struggles again next season and ends up worthless on the trade market.

As such, his value should be pretty high heading into late-July.

Matthew Boyd, LHP, Detroit Tigers

Boyd will be one of the most attractive arms on the market, not just because of how strong of a season he is having, but because he is under team control through 2023.

That also gives the Tigers less motivation to deal their star left-hander, which means any trade that does occur with Boyd will net them a very high-profile prospect, or two.

Boyd is currently 6-8 with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. His 12.00 K/9 is absolutely elite, and his 3.24 SIERA and 3.57 FIP indicate he is pitching much better than his 4.07 ERA shows. That’s because Detroit’s defense is awful.

A move to a better offensive and defensive team would make Boyd an absolute star in the second half, and would net the Tigers a ton of young players to build around in the future.

MLB trade deadline

Nicholas Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers

The second Tigers player to crack this list, right fielder Nicholas Castellanos is a fairly obvious MLB trade deadline candidate after repeated efforts to sign him to an extension have fallen flat.

The 27-year-old outfielder is having a nice season, slashing .285/.342/.483 with 11 home runs and two stolen bases. He’s walking at a 7.5% rate and striking out at a 21.2% rate, both the best marks of his career.

While his outfield defense still leaves plenty to be desired, Castellanos is arguably the best rental bat available on the market. He’d be a great fit for an AL team who needs someone to serve as a DH and platoon outfielder and could go to an NL team as well – although his defense will likely give NL teams hesitation in dealing for him.

Expect the Tigers to be aggressive in pursuing top of the line prospects in return for Castellanos, although they’ll need to move him or else risk losing him for next to nothing – so at the end of the day they’ll end up taking whatever the market dictates.

Will Smith, LHP, San Francisco Giants

As stated above, Smith is only going to be available if San Francisco decides to cash it in – which is becoming less likely with their recent run of success.

However, if they do, the fresh prince would be one of the hottest commodities on the trade market. I mean, what’s not to love? Smith is a dominant left-handed closer, in his prime, and is on a very affordable one-year contract.

Teams would be able to plug him into their late-inning situation right away, would only have to pay him about $2 million dollars, and could let him walk in free agency after he helps them lock up a potential playoff victory.

Players like this historically have commanded ridiculous amounts of prospects, including the Andrew Miller trade (Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier went from the Indians to the Yankees) and the Aroldis Chapman trade (Gleyber Torres to the Yankees from the Cubs).

Smith is going to command a big pot of prospects from whichever team can convince San Francisco to pack it in and deal away their two star left-handers.

The movement at the MLB trade deadline may turn a contender into a World Series champion.

The MLB Home Run Derby Could Be a Stand-Alone Sporting Event

MLB Home run derby MLB All star game

If you missed this year’s rendition of the Home Run Derby, the premier pre- MLB All-Star game event, then you missed one hell of a ride. Two rookies, Pete Alonso (Mets) and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (Blue Jays), put on an absolute show, blasting home runs left and right and shattering previous derby records.

Of course, for the first time, the derby actually had a massive prize: a cool $1,000,000. Even to professional athletes, that’s a lot of cash.

However, because of baseball’s archaic rules that prevent rookies from getting paid big money until six years into the league, this year’s winner, Pete Alonso, only has a salary of $555,000 this year. His performance in the derby ended up earning him double what he will get paid for the rest of the season with the Mets – even though he is an All-Star and potential MVP candidate.

This begs an interesting question, that was originally discussed on the Effectively Wild Podcast: Could the home run derby survive as its own ‘sport’? After all, watching players blast home runs off pitches right down the middle during a timed event is completely unlike real baseball. The only similarity is the equipment and the field – both things that could be altered in a theoretical new league.

Who Would Participate?

Would people pay to see players participate in a home run derby on a regular basis? Hard to say. Clearly, a startup league would struggle to pull professional players from the major leagues into a new derby league. So the talent level probably wouldn’t be there right away. There are certainly plenty of recently retired players or players who didn’t make the major leagues – but who had serious home run power – who could probably excel in a sport dedicated exclusively to hitting dingers.

If the league could get guys like Jose Canseco, Adam Dunn, Chris Carter, David Wright, and the Barry Bonds types to come out of retirement to blast some home runs, perhaps fans would tune it on a semi-regular basis. And with a cash prize, it’s not impossible to think some of these guys would do it.

Other Home Run Derby Innovations

However, eventually, people would get bored watching the same event over and over, even if they were attached to the performers. But what about having a derby on a football field? Over a lake? In the Grand Canyon? These are pretty ridiculous ideas, but if enough fans showed up and cared about watching, maybe they could pull this off.

Fans have proven that the best part about sports is watching people hit or throw a ball as far as possible. The home run in baseball, the three-pointer in basketball, hail mary’s in football, long goals in soccer, whatever it is, humans tend to love their feats of strength.

A sport dedicated to the home run derby probably wouldn’t survive, but the concept is there if they found the right people and the right gimmicks to make it last without the MLB All-Star game.

MLB Minor Leaguer Bunted and Made Soft Baseball ‘Purist’ Mad.

MLB minor league baseball bunt break up no hitter

Let me start off by saying, I love the game of baseball. I appreciate how difficult pitching and hitting at a high level is in the MLB. Baseball “purist” who cite “unwritten rules” are the softest and most easily triggered sports fans. They get fighting mad over bat flips, celebrations, and bunting to get on base in a no-hitter. The purist claim that these things ruin the game of baseball. They claim violations of the unwritten rules should be met with fastballs to the head or clubhouse discipline. I could not disagree more. There is nothing tough or hard-nosed about hitting a defenseless batter.

The latest example to send baseball fans into a conniption fit was a minor league game. This play turned into a bench-clearing altercation between the teams. Is there anything more weak than being upset about this? Hartford was up 3-0 in the top of the 9th inning and was 2 outs shy of a combined no-hitter. The Trenton batter bunted for a single.

Why are purist so mad he bunted for a base hit?

  • You play to win the game.
  • They were only down by 3 runs. A good rally can score more than 3 runs in one inning.
  • Nobody goes in the record books for a team combined no-hitter.
  • Bunts are legal. It is not the batter’s job to help you get a no-hitter.

Baseball fans are torn about bunts whether it is breaking up a no-hitter or getting on base against a defensive shift. I am of the Herman Edwards school of sports, “You play to win the game”. If that means bunting to get on base, then that is what everyone should do. I am truly confused why any legal strategy to win would ruffle feathers. It’s time for MLB fans to stop being so soft.

MLB: Are the Three True Outcomes of At-Bats Killing Baseball?

MLB Players only Walk, strikeout or hit a homerun Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge

These days, it hardly seems like you can watch a single MLB at-bat where the hitter doesn’t walk, strikeout or blast a home run into the seats. Indeed, a quick look at the data shows that the “three true outcomes” are happening at the highest rate of all-time. Just over 1/3 of all at-bats resulted in either a walk, home run or a strikeout in 2018.

MLB’s attendance dropped in 2018 as well, to its lowest point in the last 15 years. Is the rise of three true outcomes truly causing the decline of attendance in baseball, or is this simply a coincidence, with other factors at play?

After all, while baseball is increasingly become a battle between pitcher and hitter, and less about the defense, it’s not like this is a brand new phenomenon. Bobby Bonds, the father of the great Barry Bonds, recorded 32 home runs, 81 walks and 175 strikeouts way back in 1969, which meant a whopping 41.7% of his plate appearances resulted in one of the three true outcomes.

Bonds may be one of the first, but the ringleader for this group of sluggers is no doubt Adam Dunn. Dunn mashed in the big leagues from 2001 to 2014, hitting 462 home runs while drawing 1,317 walks and striking out 2,379 times. His career 49.9% three true outcomes rate is the highest of all-time, and he is truly the catalyst for this time of slugger.

A New Era: MLB Analytics

However, near 50% rates of three true outcomes is becoming more commonplace, as sluggers like Joey Gallo, Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, and Paul Goldschmidt have embraced the “launch angle revolution”, which is the idea that it is more beneficial to swing with a heavy uppercut, intending to hit the ball in the air more often. This tends to lead to more strikeouts, but obviously more fly balls = more home runs.

Plus, with the ever growing shift in play, these sluggers have seen their chances of getting a hit on a ground ball nearly evaporate. Why try to hit the ball hard on the ground if the defenders are shifting to your pull side, effectively neutralizing your ability to get a hit?

Sure, the obvious response is “well these guys could bunt, or learn to slap the ball the other way” but – as they would tell you – they don’t get paid excess of $100 million dollars to slap the ball the other way, they get paid to get on base, drive runners in and hit home runs. While striking out isn’t a part of that equation, most (all?) managers will accept that as a necessary evil if their guy is also hitting 40 home runs and drawing nearly 100 walks per season.

As for the fans, well it’s kind of up to them. If you watch baseball because you like watching a shortstop make a play deep in the hole and throw someone out at first, then yes, this revolution is hurting the game you love.

Baseball’s Bigger Issues

However, pointing the finger at the three true outcomes is ignoring the bigger issues the game is facing. Namely, a lack of competition from roughly 50% of the league’s teams, as well as increasing ticket/concession prices, poor marketing of the team’s biggest stars, and a divide between the “old-school” line of thinking and the happy, celebrating “showboating” style of the game’s younger (and predominantly Latino) stars.

That’s a story for another day. For now, accept that baseball is going to have a lot of strikeouts, a lot of walks, and a lot of long, fun-to-watch home runs in the future. Even if that means your favorite shortstop doesn’t make as many plays.