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Observations On The All-Star Game, Orioles Closer Zach Britton, And Eating Contests

July 19, 2017
Cleaning out the notebook this week with some post-All-Star Game reflections and pre-trade deadline observations while looking forward to the annual pilgrimage to Cooperstown, N.Y., for baseball's Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

I have to admit it was a delicious taste of irony when this year's All-Star Game went extra innings and every position player managed to get into the box score. Granted, it wasn't quite the same as 15 years ago, when they ran out of pitchers, halted the game and started a storm of controversy that revolved around the outcome of the game determining home-field advantage in the World Series for the next 14 years.

For the life of me I never completely understood what was so wrong with that idea. The chief argument was that the team with the best record should earn home-field advantage, and it's hard to dispute that argument -- but the fact is home field was never determined by the best record. It rotated between leagues, which logistically is likely to prove easier than the current setup, which could have as many as seven teams eligible for home-field advantage in the World Series three weeks before it starts. It could develop into a traveling snafu. But, hey, that's why teams have traveling secretaries.

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There was much discussion about the competitiveness of this year's All-Star Game, with the contention being that home-field advantage in the World Series was not the competitive edge it was cracked up to be.

But, in reality, there never was any question about players playing to win the game. That is part of their competitive nature. Players are always going to want to excel on the biggest stage.

At one point, while doing an in-game interview with National League manager Joe Maddon, Joe Buck remarked about how "crisp" the game was and how fast it was moving, almost as if the players deserved some extra credit for playing with urgency. The score at the time was 1-0. Duh!

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If there is a problem with the All-Star Game, and it's still the best of its kind in professional sports without question, it's that managers are more concerned with satisfying egos than winning the game, as it's rare for a player not to get into the game. 

I happened across video of some early All-Star Games and one that stood out was the 1941 game, barely six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here's what stood out in that game -- the last two batters in the game were Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. That's the year DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games and Williams his .406 -- marks that haven't been challenged since.

DiMaggio barely avoided hitting into a double play to end the game before Williams hit a walk-off homer -- before there was such a thing -- to win it. There have been times in the not-so-distant past when more starters were out of town, en route home, than were still in the ballpark.

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Here's an interesting footnote to Williams' .406 average in 1941. On the next to last day of the season, his average had dipped to .3996, technically still .400 when rounded up. It's well documented that Williams refused to sit out either or both games of a doubleheader on the last day.

Williams went 6-for-8 for the day to finish at .406. Had he gotten only three hits, he would've finished .399. He needed at least four hits to assure finishing above .400 -- and got them in the first game.

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Count me among those who think the Orioles will make the best deal they can get for lefty closer Zach Britton. The bullpen, especially the back end, is the only area of strength on the club and provides the best chance to invigorate the minor league system.

The Orioles think right-hander Mychal Givens has closer potential, which could also make righty Brad Brach available. They also think right-hander Miguel Castro has the ability to move into one of the roles almost certain to become available.

Of all the teams with legitimate chances to be in the World Series, the Houston Astros would seem to be the best fit for either Britton or Brach.

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I love televised sports and appreciate the fact there isn't much out there that isn't available. I also have a fondness for hot dogs -- especially at a baseball game.

Having said that, there is nothing on TV more disgusting to me than the annual hot dog eating contest, which is more an exercise in gluttony than it is a sporting event.  Been wanting to get that off my chest for years. Check.

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Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com 

Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/Gary Sousa/PressBox