Jasen Vinlove-USA Today

Thinking out loud: MLB All-Star Game was snooze fest

July 15, 2017 - 8:06 am

By John Rooke

Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Jay Rainville?

-- With all due respect to WEEI.com colleague Alex Reimer, what game was he watching this past Tuesday night?

-- The annual affair known as the Major League Baseball All-Star game was a complete snoozefest.  That it didn’t mean anything for the first time in 14 years (the winner was not awarded home field for the World Series) certainly did little to revive its popularity.

-- I actually found myself missing the “game-on-the-line” strategy, with the winner gaining the Series home field.  See?  Just when we get used to the ridiculousness, it goes away.

-- An all-star game should be about bashing the baseball, turning singles into doubles, hitting home runs, making great plays.  Where was Pete Rose smashing into Ray Fosse when we needed him?

-- Robinson Cano delivered a saving blow in the 10th for the American League, and Mookie Betts had an 8-6 putout assist at 2nd base.  Other than that, I yawned.  A lot.

-- I am not convinced pitching in this game is that much ahead of hitting.  I am more of the opinion the hitters were out there merely protecting themselves from pulling a lat, or a groin, that might cause them to miss time in the season’s second half. 

-- And maybe that wasn’t a bad thing?  Bottom line, the game was boring, the fans at Marlins Park left their seats early, and the TV ratings were just a blip better than last year’s disaster.  Yeah, that’s moving in the right direction. 

-- The players need to take it upon their own shoulders and deliver some Herculean performances if they ever want this game to return to Midsummer Classic status.

-- Speaking of Hercules, the Home Run Derby performance from the Yankees’ Aaron Judge was mesmerizing, and fun to watch.  His moonshots to the outfield were exactly what the competition has longed for, and for the first time maybe ever, had me more excited about the derby than the actual game itself.

-- Was it just me, or did anyone else miss Chris Berman’s “back, back, back, back” home run calls?

-- Heading into the season’s unofficial second half, Las Vegas gives the Red Sox the 3rd best chance overall to win the World Series.  I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or run to my nearest bookie and plunk down a few sheckles on anyone BUT the Sox.

-- What will have to happen for Boston to reach the series, much less win it?  Consistent offense.  Timely hits.  Fewer runners LOB.  And the bullpen will need to stay on fire, Craig Kimbrel.  No more collapses like the flop in Tampa just before the all-star break.

-- Oh, and less Matt Barnes, thanks.  He makes me very nervous, despite his performance against the Yankees Friday.  Need to solve the 8th inning issues in the pen?  Pat Neshak (Phillies) would go a long way toward making the Vegas oddsmakers accurate, IMO.

-- Buh bye, Panda. That $50 million you’re still owed should buy a few buffets for the guys in Pawtucket, at least.  Worst free agent deal in Red Sox history?  Certainly among them.

-- I’m not convinced the Sox haven’t already found their answer(s) at 3rd base.  Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin have at least capably filled the spot that has been a black hole in the infield.  Could Brock Holt contribute?  And don’t sleep on Rafael Devers reaching Boston before the stretch run, either, now that he’s been called up to Pawtucket.

-- Not for nuthin’, but the PawSox’ Bryce Brentz won the Triple A All-Star game home run derby this week in Tacoma, Washington, making it two straight years for a Pawtucket player to claim the crown.  Chris Marrero won it last year, but he was released by the Giants earlier this season.

-- And still, the big club can’t seem to hit bombs.  Hmm.

-- In response to last week’s column concerns on the PawSox current stadium impasse with the Rhode Island legislature, it was curious to note the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published a report on just how the City of Arlington is financing the new Texas Rangers’ $1 billion ballpark – half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel tax and 5 percent car rental tax. 

-- These are expected to fund up to $500 million for the stadium, with the team carrying the remaining balance.  The city is using this method to also pay off its remaining commitment to the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium as well.

-- Key word here – commitment.  The city has one.  I realize Pawtucket isn’t Arlington, but isn’t there a creative soul somewhere in the city, or in the legislature, that could concoct a similar plan that eliminates burden from ordinary tax payers?  Just sayin’.

-- What are the Patriots worth?  Forbes said this week the franchise value is unchanged from last year, worth $3.4 billion.  That figure places the team 6th overall on the planet in valuation, with the Dallas Cowboys leading the pack at a robust $4.2 billion.

-- The New York Yankees have moved into the two-slot, up from 4th a year ago, worth $3.7 billion.  Spots 3, 4 and 5 all belong to futbol teams – Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid.  Only one other NFL team is in the Top 10 besides the Cowboys and Patriots – San Francisco, worth $3 billion, is 9th.

-- And only one NBA team ranks in the Top 10, too.  The Lakers are 10th, at $3 billion.  The New England teams come in at 16th (Red Sox $2.7 billion) and 30th (Celtics $2.2 billion).  The Bruins don’t crack the Top 50 – in fact, not a single NHL team did, either.

-- In all, there are 36 sports teams worth at least $1 billion that didn’t make this list, including the B’s.  Anyone still think sports isn’t big business?  TV contracts are keeping these values inflated, for now.

-- As for profitability, the NFL is still king.  The average team earned an operating profit of $91 million, and not one team banked less than $26 million – in profit – last year.  29 of the 32 NFL teams rank in the world Top 50 in overall worth.

-- If you were thinking about Patriots’ tickets this year, you might be SOL again.  The team will sell out for the 24th straight season, after public tickets went on sale Friday.  And with a season-ticket wait list that could fill another Gillette Stadium, you can understand why the team is valued the way it is.

-- We’re about 10 days away from training camp kicking off in Foxboro.  Dog days of summer, indeed.  Someone needs to save us from the teeth-grinding, hand-wringing Red Sox, don’t they?

-- Saw where Tom Brady’s self-help book (The TB12 Method) will be hitting the bookstores in September.  Let’s see – marry a supermodel, become the greatest QB of all time, win five Super Bowl rings, what have I missed here?

-- The best part, and only part of this week’s ESPY award show worth mentioning – was Julian Edelman’s line about the show host, Peyton Manning.  When accepting for the one honor the Patriots actually did receive (for Best Game in Super Bowl LI) from ESPN, Edelman said “I never really thought I’d say this, but Peyton Manning is kind of killing it.  Yeah, we are indoors, though.”

-- Zing.  LOL funny.  And true.  Come on back to Gillette anytime, Peyton.  And bring your Colts or Broncos with you.

-- Robert Kraft and the Patriots made it official this week – they’re entering the realm of e-sports competition.  Kraft is one of seven founding owners in Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, with a price tag of $20 million attached to it.  The league is expected to begin play later this year, and hopes to ultimately attract 28 cities/teams to compete globally in this team-based shooting game.

-- Great.  Just what we need to foster brotherly love on this planet right now.  A team-based kill-you-before-you-kill-me video competition.  But in all seriousness, e-sports are considered the “next big thing.”  Activision Blizzard says they already have more than 30 million players worldwide.

-- Know why I suddenly feel a little better about the Celtics and their chances of winning next season?  East rival Miami picked up Kelly Olynyk, and West contender Utah basically replaced Gordon Hayward with Jonas Jerebko.  Yeah, that’ll work out.

-- The July recruiting period in college basketball – where the nation’s top programs separate the wheat from the chaff – is open.  While much of the attention will turn toward 2019’s incoming class, the Friars aren’t sleeping on filling out 2018 yet. 

-- 6-4, 190-pound guard David Duke, once of Providence’s Classical High School, is one of the nation’s most sought-after two-way guards.  His defensive prowess, if not his physical stature, reminds some of Kris Dunn.  PC is very much in the thick-of-it for Duke’s services to team up with those already procured from Boston’s A.J. Reeves. 

-- But Providence will have to beat out schools like Virginia, Florida and Kansas to see the two tango together at the Dunk in 2018.  That ain’t easy on the floor.  Off it?  At least the Friars are in the game.

-- One thing is certain – after this next season, there will be playing time available with seniors-to-be Kyron Cartwright, Jalen Lindsey, Rodney Bullock and Emmitt Holt graduating.  Is playing time, right away in the Big East, enough to entice some of the country’s best young players?

-- This is where coaching (recruiting) ability comes in.  It’s one thing to win games.  But coaches can’t win championships or reach NCAA Tournaments without talent.  Ed Cooley and his staff know it. 

-- The American Athletic Conference holds its football Media Days Monday and Tuesday next week in Newport.  Yes, it’s that time already.  The AAC is the only FBS conference that returns both its offensive and defensive players of the year from last season.  And, expect Charlie Strong’s first year as head coach at South Florida, following his exile from Texas, to be a good one.

-- Sign of times to come – Missouri is slashing athletic budgets, because state funding to its schools is being cut back.  Big time.  Among the losses are UMKC’s cheerleading squad, Missouri State’s field hockey team and even Mizzou – with $97 million in revenue from the almighty SEC – is cutting $1.4 million in technology upgrades. 

-- What’s wrong with that picture?

-- Former Boston College defensive coach Bob Shoop is being sued by Penn State, as the school is asking him to pay back nearly $900,000 from his prior contract.  Shoop, who coached under Tom O’Brien at BC, is now the defensive coordinator at Tennessee.  His defense at Penn State was ranked #2 in the country in 2014.

-- Tough going at Wimbledon for American Sam Querrey, after beating #1 Andy Murray and losing in the semis.  And with Rafa Nadal going down, is there any doubt that Roger Federer should take the lead in discussion for “best ever?”  Edward in East Providence, it’s your volley.

-- My buddy “Big E” told me he couldn’t find his wife in the supermarket the other day, so he approached a good-looking lady and said “you’re really beautiful, could I just stand here for a minute and talk to you?”  Somewhat flustered, the lady replied “sure, but why?”  Big E said, “I lost my wife in here a few minutes ago, and every time I talk to a beautiful woman my wife appears from out of nowhere.”

-- Since baseball prospects have been front-of-mind lately, it wasn’t that long ago Rhode Island had one of the best pitching prospects I have ever seen.  Jay Rainville was a hot one, dominant as a Little Leaguer for Darlington American in Pawtucket, and as a youth coach myself for 20 years he had the best fastball for a young player I had ever seen.  He also was the first 12-year-old kid I ever saw clock 70 miles per hour on a radar gun, the equivalent of a big leaguer throwing 100 off of a regulation mound.  My Rumford Little Leaguers, at that time, couldn’t wait to face him just to say they played against him. 

-- After pitching for Bishop Hendricken and becoming the state Player of the Year in 2003, Rainville was a first-round draft selection of the Minnesota Twins in 2004, drawing comparisons at the time to one Rocket Roger Clemens.  A nerve injury in his pitching shoulder began the downfall, however, even though he bounced back to the point of reaching the Double A Eastern League with the Twins’ affiliate in New Britain, CT and playing for the Rock Cats.  He retired after the 2009 season, playing five years and winning 37 professional games.  Failure?  Not at all.  But it does show you, that sometimes even the hottest prospects can cool when they appear to be the real deal.  

-- Ted in Georgetown, Maine posted on Facebook this week, in response to last week’s musings on Rhode Island’s legislature tackling the issue of a new stadium in Pawtucket: “How is all the obstruction to progress working?  CNBC has RI ranked 50th for infrastructure, 44th for access to capital, 43rd for cost of doing business and 42nd for cost of living.”  Ted:  Despite the bleak numbers you mention, and there’s no arguing them, RI is quite capable of finding answers to the problems they face here.  The question is – who wants to deal with them?  And how many palms need to be greased?  The buck is always seems to be passed on to someone else, and the legislature appears to have little intestinal fortitude for finding solutions.  Our hope should be, that creative leadership actually exists within state government, and that the PawSox can be here for generations to come.  Otherwise, current leadership will always and forever be known as the pols who kicked the PawSox to the curb.

-- Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to john.rooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke

-- Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.