All-Star Break Stock Up, Stock Down for the New York Yankees’ Top 10 Prospects

With the first half of the MLB season finally concluded and the trade deadline just over two weeks away on July 31, the focus on a team's minor league system will start to shift.

Teams will spend time re-evaluating the top players in their system and will look for ways to improve their big league club.

The New York Yankees find themselves in a precarious situation where they want to be buyers when, in reality, they should be sellers.

With that said, since the Yankees believe they are buyers, an update on the Yankees farm system seems imperative.

The following will be a status update on the Yankees' top 10 minor league players as determined by MLB.com.

Based on their stats from the past week, I will determine if each individual has raised or decreased his stock. In some instances, a player's value could remain the same. 

Begin Slideshow

New York Yankees’ Trade Deadline Big Board: Ranking the Top Targets

At baseball's halfway point, just 20 percent of the New York Yankees pitching staff remains since Opening Day. Common sense, emotion, statistics and sabermetrics would all tell you the Bombers are doomed with four of their five starters on the disabled list. FanGraphs gives New York just an 11.4 percent chance of making the playoffs.

But this isn't the AL East of your youth—or of even a few years ago.

Forget that the likes of David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, Chase Whitley and Shane Greene have all played some part in keeping New York somewhat alive: The Orioles lead the division with just a .553 winning percentage (52-42). For better or worse, the Yankees are a seemingly disinterested 43-43 ballclub, but they have much more than a simple heartbeat with only five games separating them from Baltimore and two wild-card spots up for grabs.

Besides the three months of baseball still left to play, the Yankees also have over two weeks with which to work until the July 31 trade deadline. 

Whether you'd call the never-say-die, scrap, scrape and pay method the "Yankee Way" or the "Steinbrenner Way," it's really interchangeable. The point is: You'd struggle mightily to find the last time Yanks brass called it a season prior to their mathematical or concrete elimination.

As evidenced by new, underwhelming Yankee pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Jeff Francis—and with the coveted Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel off the market—there isn't a bevy of truly great starting options out there. There are even fewer for the Yankees, an organization without many marketable, or even desirable, prospects to offer. They do have cash, however, and that cash flow must be considered for baiting a team like the Phillies into a trade for one of its expensive, front-end starters. 

While other notable positions of need haven't been completely discounted (infielder, right fielder, reliever), this breakdown of New York's top trade targets admittedly, and rationally, prioritizes the most viable starting pitchers who could help this team find its way to the postseason. 

If there's one kicker for the ultimate decisions, it's that the top targets are those for whom Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners wouldn't have to mortgage what could be the entire future of the ballclub (see: David Price, an unlikely target for division-rival New York, regardless of the package).

Yankees fans: Enjoy the mental break of the midsummer classic—the players aren't the only ones who need rest sometimes—and, for now, read on to get our take on six of the Yankees' top trade targets. Whether by way of stopgap solution or franchise face-lifter, Brian Cashman and company should be closely monitoring and targeting the following pitchers.

 

Statistics, metrics and salary/contract figures courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus' Cot's Baseball Contracts, unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Trade Ideas Based on the Latest News, Rumors and Speculation

With the All-Star festivities upon us, general managers across this grand game are finalizing their action plans in advance of the July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline.

For the next 16 days, Bleacher Report, Twitter, HardballTalk and almost every major sports publication will be alive with potential trades and speculation. In fact, the mayhem has already started as this past week saw a dramatic uptick in the number of players being discussed.

For the sake of brevity, we will keep it simple. Here are four MLB trade scenarios based on actual need and published rumors from the week ending Sunday, July 13. 

As a standard note, the following proposals are nothing more than postulation. The point here is to build a trade based on someone else's written or spoken word.

They are balanced deals that are fair for each team, though, and take into consideration each franchise's strengths and weaknesses. 

Begin Slideshow

China’s Google plots bikes with no riders. What could possibly go wrong?

Look, mum, no hands!

They probably won’t look much like this. Credit: Moebiusuibeom-en at Wikimedia Commons

You thought Google’s self-driving cars sounded dangerous? Well, imagine the same thing, but with bikes. Bikes that drive themselves around. Bikes that drive themselves around with no one riding them.  

Now imagine them cruising along the traffic-choked streets of Shanghai and Beijing, and ask: what could possibly go wrong?

All this is the vision of Baidu, China’s largest web services company and search engine, which last Thursday confirmed rumours that it’s been developing a riderless “smartbike” for China. Like Google, the firm is sitting on huge amounts of geo location and map data, which it’ll use to create navigation systems. A spokesperson told the Chinese news website Sina that the bikes would also “use intelligent sensors and big data analysis to know the owner’s requirements and health index”. They’ll also, one hopes, be able to spot obstacles and avoid them.

Baidu’s take on the unmanned transport trend seems canny, as bikes are a huge market in China – the Earth Policy institute reported in 2010 that there were 430 million cyclists in the country. Electronic bikes (or “e-bikes”), which travel up to 30 miles per hour, have also seen a surge in popularity in the past 10 years, with 200 million sold in the country by 2013. That’s good news for Baidu: people are keen to travel on two wheels, but not so keen to actually pedal.

The bikes could also make life easier for China’s plethora of cycle courier services, by allowing them to carry packages to destinations without a rider – essentially like a grounded version of Amazon’s delivery drones.

When all this will come to fruition is not exactly clear: the spokesperson said the plans were “long-term” and wouldn’t confirm when the bikes would be on sale.  

It’s not the first time Baidu has followed in Google’s footsteps when it comes new technology. Since mid-2013, they’re been working on prototypes for the Baidu Eye, a headset with a screen with face recognition and image search which responds to voice commands, and which bears no resemblance whatsoever to Google Glass:

Oh.

Image credit: Baidu

This is a preview of our new sister publication, CityMetric. We'll be launching its website soon – in the meantime, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.

Clayton Kershaw and Matthew Stafford: The Wonder Years

They looked alike. Two six-year-old boys, roughly the same size and shape, wearing identical “Blue Bombers” uniforms, with sandy blond hair cut in bangs an inch or two above their eyebrows. From the stands, it was hard to tell them apart, even for their parents, as those boys chased a soccer ball around a field at the Dallas Convention Center.

So it was that Margaret Stafford, cheering wildly as her son, Matthew, scored what she thought was his second goal of the game, turned to look at the mom cheering wildly behind her. That’s nice, she thought. She’s really happy for Matthew. But in reality, Marianne Kershaw was cheering for her own son, Clayton, because he, not Matthew, had scored the goal.

Parallel success for the two boys would become a common theme as they grew up. Before they were Matthew Stafford, starting quarterback for the Detroit Lions and first overall NFL draft pick, and Clayton Kershaw, two-time Cy Young Award winner and ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers, they were two little boys playing soccer as their moms and dads cheered and their friends played alongside.

They played on the same youth soccer, baseball, football and basketball teams together. They played freshmen football and two years of varsity baseball together and both graduated from Highland Park High School in 2006 after dominant final seasons. Kershaw compiled a 13-0 record with an ERA of 0.77. In a five-inning mercy-rule game, he struck out all 15 batters.

On June 18 this season, Kershaw threw a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in one of the most dominant performances in baseball history. That game came in the midst of a stretch in which he threw 41 scoreless innings, the sixth longest in baseball’s expansion era.

Stafford led the Highland Park football team to a 15-0 record and a state championship (59-0) by throwing for 4,013 yards and 38 touchdowns. Today, he owns or will own every Lions passing record, and with wide receiver Golden Tate lining up with all-time great receiver Calvin Johnson, Stafford is poised to put up the best numbers of his career.

The best quarterback in America from the 2006 high school class and the best pitcher in America from the 2006 high school class went to the same high school—the odds of that happening are miniscule.

Even the friends and family who were there have a hard time wrapping their brains around what those two young boys have made of themselves. They started their sports “careers” as little boys on a soccer pitch and now have contracts worth a combined $291.5 million.

“It’s still incredible when I really think about it,” says Josh Meredith, who has been friends with both since the Blue Bombers days.

Incredible, yes.

But also true.

 

From the Trampoline to the Roof

“Remember that great movie The Sandlot, about the neighborhood group of boys playing summer baseball together? That’s how my life felt growing up. The community was our playground, and we biked the streets of our personal kingdom.” — Clayton Kershaw, in a memoir he wrote with his wife, Ellen, Arise: Live Out Your Faith and Dreams on Whatever Field You Find Yourself

Kershaw and Stafford were teammates often and sometimes rivals in soccer, football, baseball and basketball. When they got bored of real sports, they made up their own games. At Kershaw’s house, they played hallway hockey, the rare game they played inside. It involved sawed-off hockey sticks, a roller hockey ball, pillows for their knees and chest, and a line of tape strung the width of the hall to mark off the goal.

Stafford’s favorite made-up game was oskie-oskie, in which a ball-carrier attempted to run through a line of defenders who had to stay on their knees. He liked it because he got to hit people.

They also enjoyed a game they called "hot box," which was like pickle but played on a wet trampoline outside Kershaw’s house…when the trampoline wasn’t otherwise being used.

“We would move it close to his house and try to, not really jump from the roof to the trampoline, but from the trampoline onto the roof,'' says Pan Lucas, who played on the Blue Bombers and other teams with Stafford and Kershaw and remains close with Stafford. "We’d probably incorporate a ball with it. Some sort of dodgeball. So many stupid games like that.''

 

The Prodigy and the (Comparatively) Late Bloomer

“I heard about this seventh-grader who could throw the ball 70 yards in the air. He was going to be a great quarterback. He was already six feet tall. The first time I saw him throw was out in front of our house. He was throwing the ball out in the street. You could just tell, he was going to be a great football player and a great quarterback.” — Randy Allen, Highland Park High School football coach

“Clayton was always a great basketball player, he was always a great football player, he was always a great baseball player. But being a great athlete and winning two Cy Youngs are completely different. Going to that level, being the seventh player taken in the major league draft, is a completely different level. When did I see him get to that level? Definitely not until late.” — Pan Lucas

Before Kershaw was drafted by the Dodgers in 2006 and Stafford first overall by the Lions in 2009, they were “drafted” in consecutive years by John Calandro, a youth soccer coach in Dallas who selected the two boys to play on the Blue Bombers.

Calandro dubbed Kershaw “The Wall” because when he played goalie, nobody scored on him. He called Stafford “Hollywood” because of his propensity, late in games, to make dramatic shows of injuries. All right, Hollywood, it’s been a minute, you can get up now. The Blue Bombers were together for several years, and Calandro says the team never lost a game against boys their own age.

Calandro recognized that Stafford and Kershaw were good athletes, but he didn’t know he was witnessing the rise of two elite superstars—though he had an inkling while watching Stafford throw a football.

“Matthew would just zing it every once in a while, and it never broke a spiral,” Calandro says. “When he was nine, he was throwing it 35 or 40 yards. ... The dads couldn’t do it. They’d have to move up, or they’d skip it (back to him). It was funny to watch.”

Stafford’s friends joke that he is the only elementary school quarterback who ran the spread offense, only they’re not joking. He really did run the spread offense that young, so advanced was his grasp of the game and the power of his arm.

“In sixth or seventh grade, the head football coach moved in next door to me,” Lucas says. “Matthew would always come over. We’d be playing basketball or home run derby in the front yard. But when Coach Allen came out, we made sure we got the football out and were throwing it in the street, always trying to show off for him.

"Every single time. Someone would see Coach Allen’s car pull up, and someone would run and get the football. We’d run routes in the street; we wanted to make sure the head high school football coach was taking notice of this kid.”

And Stafford was no pawn being moved at the whims of his friends. He was Hollywood, again, putting on another show. “You’re trying to make good impressions on the high school football coach, for sure,” he says.

Allen noticed—and laughed when he was told the lengths the boys went to get his attention. “I wouldn’t put it past them,” he says. By the time Stafford was a freshman in high school, recruiters told Allen that Stafford was good enough to play at the D-1 level.

By comparison, Kershaw emerged as a star much later. Between his sophomore and junior years, Kershaw sprouted several inches, lost his baby fat and gained velocity on his fastball to go with his already excellent control. With more power, he became (and remains) nearly unhittable.

“By the end of his junior year, you could tell he was special,” says Lew Kennedy, Kershaw’s varsity baseball coach. “People were taking notice by then. There were a lot of radar guns in the stands.”

 

To Their Moms, the Boys Will Always Be Boys

“They were just cute together when they were younger. I have so many warm memories.” — Margaret Stafford

From cleaning dirty uniforms together to driving on long road trips to attending hundreds of games, Margaret Stafford and Marianne Kershaw shared many experiences as they watched their boys grow from precocious kids who wanted to spend every waking minute outside to high school stars to elite professionals.

“Marianne and I got together for dinner several months ago, and we just started giggling,” Margaret Stafford says. “Who’d have thought we’d have these famous boys when we were sitting at the laundromat, washing uniforms?”

They got together for dinner again with Bleacher Report—and there was more giggling. While the sports world sees two men with rocket arms, high expectations and thick bank accounts, their moms still see little boys covered in dirt.

Margaret Stafford: “They were just Pigpen for a while. Maybe that’s because they were always in red clay.”

Marianne Kershaw: “I love this—especially Clayton. Clayton was the Pigpen of every team. His shirt was always the one out, his cowlick was always sticking up.”

Margaret Stafford: “There was a time when he was catching Matthew. We were sitting back there together. And he picks up the catcher’s helmet and puts it on his head, and a whole bucket of red dirt went down the back of his shirt. And he was like …”

Marianne Kershaw: “Not to be deterred.”

Margaret Stafford: “He didn’t bat an eye.”

 

'He Seriously Belly-Flopped the Whole Pile'

“I remember playing soccer against (Kershaw). You could tell he was, not a nasty competitor, but he wanted it more than every other first-grader out there. You could tell right off the bat. He’s always wanted to win. Whatever you’re doing with him today, he’s going to want to win.” — Josh Meredith, Kershaw’s best man and grandson of Cowboys great Don Meredith

When they played against Kershaw on “rival” elementary school teams, the Dickenson twins, John and Charley, despised him because he was so fierce. He was pudgy and therefore bigger than everybody, but he was just as fast, more talented and more aggressive than everybody else.

Once they got to know him in middle school, they became close friends, because the attributes they disliked in him as an opponent they loved in him as a teammate…though to this day they’d still not rather play pickup basketball against him.

As competitive as he was, Kershaw managed to stay within the rules…except once, when he was the center on the freshman football team and Stafford was the quarterback.

“He was probably the only freshman to get kicked out of a game,” Charley Dickenson says. “This is nice, good old boy Clayton. Once the game has begun, he’s just totally another person, extremely aggressive, wants to win at all costs.”

Someone hit Stafford, too late for Kershaw’s liking. “He wasn’t too happy about it,” Stafford says. “He jumped on top of him and took him down. They ejected him. It was awesome.”

Says Lucas: “He seriously belly-flopped the whole pile. It was incredible. We watched it on film. We watched it and re-watched it, probably 100 times. The whole team was just dying laughing.”

 

Batterymates

"These boys really had it great that they played everything together and had fun.” — Margaret Stafford

When Kershaw and Stafford were 12, Matthew’s dad, John, coached them in baseball. Kershaw had pinpoint control and a filthy changeup. When Kershaw pitched and Stafford caught, they formed a potent combination.

“Matthew can call a game great. He’s always been the guy who can understand situations, it didn’t matter what the game was,” John Stafford says. “He would, if you will, quarterback that stuff. He knew when to call the changeup, he knew when to put it inside, outside.”

Equally important to Matthew Stafford’s ability to call for the right pitches in the right spots was Kershaw’s ability to execute them.

“They would get strikes on guys, and both of them would have to control their laughter,” John Stafford says. “Clayton would turn away to second base with a smile on his face. Matthew would put his head down. He’d be laughing. They just baffled the guy. These are select players, damn good players. It was so much fun seeing those guys.”

 

An Ideal Place to Grow Up

“I knew what we had. All along, I knew that I don’t think that a lot of people get to keep the same friends, keep building those relationships. We didn’t lose a friend, ever.” — Pan Lucas

Highland Park and University Park, known collectively as Park Cities, constitute one of Dallas’ most affluent suburbs. It is a destination community, where families move in and stay because the property values remain high, the streets are safe and the schools are good.

But it’s also a place with a restaurant named Bubba’s Cooks Country that sells breakfast for less than $5. Though it is in one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country, Park Cities feels self-contained, with a handful of elementary schools funneling into one middle school and one high school, which is one of the best in Texas for academics and athletics.

In an era in which families move at an unprecedented pace, the Staffords, Kershaws and all their friends stayed in the same city throughout their K-12 years.

John Stafford had a job offer when Matthew was a freshman at Highland Park High School that would have taken the family away from Park Cities. Though it was a good offer, he turned it down.

“I couldn’t have dialed in a better place for my children to grow up,” he says. “I knew that, and I made the decision to stay. It was a great decision for me to do that because of the environment.”

Stafford’s parents divorced when he was in high school but remain on friendly terms. Kershaw’s parents divorced when he was 10, and his father died in 2013. Marianne worked multiple jobs to make ends meet but never left Park Cities, even though doing so would have made sense economically.

“One time when we were driving down the road, right in front of the YMCA, he looked at me, and he was like 12, and he said, ‘Mom, we’re really rich, aren’t we?’” Marianne Kershaw says. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Just not by Highland Park standards,’ and I said, ‘Exactly.’ And I thought it was so cool that he got that. We’re healthy, and we’re happy, and God provides, versus, you know, a dollar amount.”

Stafford’s and Kershaw’s parents’ decisions to stay in Park Cities paid huge dividends for Matthew and Clayton, in their sports careers and lives in general. How many people can say they are still friends at 26 with the same guys they were friends with at six?

“We all had common interests, which made it that much better,” Matthew Stafford says. “We loved playing the game of baseball, football, basketball, soccer, whatever it was. We played all of them together—and against each other. It was a lot of fun.”

For Kershaw, being stitched into such a tight-knit community proved crucial after his parents divorced. “Though I lived with just my mom, I felt like I had 10 different homes,” he writes in Arise. “We all felt that way. Home wasn’t defined by the walls of a house—home was defined by the people we were with.”

 

Child's Play

“If Matthew had come to me in his junior year of high school, or whatever, and said to me, ‘Dad, violin is the thing for me,’ we would have had a conversation about why, and are you sure, and are you committed, and then I would have gotten him the best violin teacher I could afford.” — John Stafford

It’s tempting to look at Kershaw’s and Stafford’s careers now and see everything that happened in their childhoods as preparation for a life under bright lights. But that would be taking too seriously what was essentially just kids having fun. All three parents cared far more whether their boys were having fun than whether they were laying the groundwork for athletic careers.

Margaret Stafford laughs when she tells a story of a far-too intense coach who complained when the Staffords went on vacation to Florida and Matthew had to miss games. “I’m like, ‘He’s in second grade. He needs to see his grandmother and grandfather.’”

Everybody in the group of friends fondly recalls a baseball tournament in Atlanta, in which the team entered (as they put it) as the 64th team out of 64 and finished in the top four. They talk about spending two weeks away from home, luring unsuspecting teammates into a darkened hotel room and then pummeling them with pillows.

Also, the games.

“We were playing against the state of California All-Star team, the state of Texas All-Star team,” Matthew Stafford says. “I remember when we played that game, it was the first time I ever played a game with more than two umpires. The bases were painted. You felt like you were playing in the big leagues.”

Even now, when the old gang gets back together, it’s just like the old days. The best example: Anytime push-ups—the currency with which bets are paid off, as the winner gets to demand push-ups whenever he wants. John Dickenson says Kershaw often demands them via text and requires video proof be sent as confirmation.

One day this winter, Kershaw and the Dickensons went to a Mexican restaurant. Kershaw can’t resist chips and salsa, and after devouring some, he said he had to stop. He and John Dickenson made a bet—whoever ate the next chip owed the other 20 anytime push-ups.

After the entrees arrived, Kershaw absent-mindedly grabbed a chip and ate it. John Dickenson called him on it and made a mental note of the debt Kershaw owed him.

A few weeks later, Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, spoke in front of 500 Park Cities businessmen, mostly about their charity work in Africa. The Dickenson twins, Marianne Kershaw, John Stafford and Josh Meredith attended. As the Q-and-A session after their presentation wound down, John Dickenson raised his hand.

Kershaw called on him and Dickenson said, "‘I believe you still owe me 20 anytime push-ups. How about you give me one right now?’ In front of this big group, in the spotlight, I wasn’t sure if he was going to do it or not. But he got down, and he did it. That’s the kind of guy he is.''

Says Charley Dickenson: “We’re wondering, the next time he gets an award like the Cy Young, do we pull that on him?”

 

Bleacher Report's Ty Schalter contributed to this report.

Matt Crossman is the author of more than 30 cover stories in national sports magazines. He has written for Sporting News, SI.com, CBSSports.com and many others. Read more of his work at mattcrossman.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting the MLB All-Star Game Rosters 5 Years from Now

The 85th MLB All-Star Game will commence Tuesday night, airing at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX and features a mix of baseball's most well-known veterans as well as its stars of tomorrow.

In addition to high-profile talents such as Andrew McCutchen, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Felix Hernandez, this year's All-Star Game features a long list of first-timers such as Yasiel Puig, Anthony Rizzo, Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, Julio Teheran, Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances.

However, since we're always interested in the future here at Prospect Pipeline, I thought we'd warm up for tonight's Midsummer Classic with a look at what each league's All-Star roster might look like five years from now.

That being said, there’s a realistic chance there will be players on the 2019 All-Star team that aren’t currently on the major league radar or, in some cases, that are yet to be drafted. Similarly, many of the veteran players named to this year's game will have either retired by the 2019 season or at least be in the final stages of their careers.

Here's a very early look at the potential AL and NL rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game.

 

Begin Slideshow

MLB Trade Rumors: Recapping the Latest Talk at the All-Star Break

The MLB All-Star break provides four days of much-needed rest and relaxation during an exhausting season. Unfortunately for baseball's general managers, this vacation represents their busy season with the July 31 trade deadline looming.

Although the Oakland Athletics jumped the gun and gathered some major pitching upgrades already, most notable in-season deals don't typically occur until shortly before the door for deals closes. Important executives are not immune to procrastination, so they'll lunge to their phones as the clock reaches midnight on trading season.

Yet the anticipation is often more interesting than the actual events. If every rumor came true, David Price would be pitching for 20 teams, and every team not in last place would scoop up a mouth-watering talent to propel a postseason push.

Chatter about a star of Price's stature is hard to ignore, so saddle up for the 467th update on that front. He's not the only game in town, however, as several other players could be forced to start anew for the season's final two months.

While MLB takes a brief breather before returning to the grind, let's scour the league for the latest buzz on the trade front.

 

Note: Advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.

 

Begin Slideshow

MLB Home Run Derby 2014: Full Results and Key Storylines from Event

The format may have been confusing, Yasiel Puig may have disappointed with zero home runs and the crowd may have been focused on other players, but Monday was Yoenis Cespedes’ night at the Home Run Derby.

He defended his crown with a 9-1 drubbing of Todd Frazier in the final round to become the first repeat winner in 15 years. Here is a look at the full results:

 

History is Made

It wasn’t just Cespedes’ win, though, that made headlines, it was the historical fashion in which he did it. 

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out the various aspects of Cespedes’ performance that helped etch his name in the history books:

If you’re going to win the Home Run Derby, you may as well shatter some records along the way.

 

New Format

The new format certainly had its ups and downs.

For one, each batter only received seven outs per round, which helped limit the actual time of the event. That turned out to be even more critical after rain delayed the start.

Using the new format, Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton earned a bye to the semifinals after impressive first-round showings. Bautista blasted 10 home runs in that initial round and thrilled fans with a number of shots that went into the second deck. Stanton hit six, many of which were absolute moonshots that seemed to follow the trajectory of the rainbow above the stadium.

Still, both were eliminated before the final round after waiting for quite some time. Stanton didn’t even manage a single home run and lost to Frazier 1-0 in the National League final. 

ESPN Stats & Info noted a couple of irregularities that resulted from the new format:

Going forward, it is only natural to wonder if there will be more changes in store for next year.

The seven outs should probably stay because the event is often too long as it is, but Bautista had to wait nearly two hours to compete after putting on a show in the first round. It was almost like a punishment for having the best initial showing. 

On the National League side, Frazier only hit a single home run in the semifinals and found a way to advance. That seems a bit strange as well.

 

Justin Morneau Returns Home

Justin Morneau drew some of the biggest ovations Monday, and for good reason. He played 10-plus years in Minnesota and reached four All-Star Games during his time there.

Interestingly, Morneau was the only left-handed hitter in the event, which was not surprising because Target Field is much more suited toward right-handers with a shorter gap in left center. He managed to hit two in the first round but eventually lost to Frazier in a three-swing tiebreaker.

Morneau discussed his homecoming, via Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com:

This was special, to be back in the park and to be able to say good-bye. … It is fun. Most guys dream when they are growing up about playing Home Run Derby in their backyard. Kids dream about hitting home runs. To be on that big stage in a Home Run Derby is something special. 

Even though he didn’t win, it was certainly nice for Morneau to come away with some positive memories in his old stomping grounds.

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

2014 MLB All-Star Game: Full Midsummer Classic Preview and Predictions

The 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is here. With the fun Futures Game and endless Home Run Derby (and even that random celebrity/legends softball thing) now completed, the Midsummer Classic begins Tuesday night on Fox at 8 p.m. ET at Target Field in Minnesota.

In the slides to follow, you'll find a full preview—including notes and stats on the starting pitchers and lineups—as well as a few predictions for the game that decides home-field advantage in the World Series this October.

Want a hint? It says here the outcome will be the opposite of last year's event. Here's why.

Begin Slideshow

Where David Price’s Trade Value, Suitors Stand at the All-Star Break

David Price won't be pitching in the 2014 All-Star Game, but the buzz around the Tampa Bay Rays star lefty is certain to create a buzz around Target Field during the Midsummer Classic. As July rolls on, Price's future has the ability to change the direction of Tampa's franchise and the entire 2014 season.

With just over two weeks until the non-waiver trade deadline, the Rays have a critical decision to make regarding Price and how to handle the trading season. At first glance, it makes too much sense for Tampa's front office to hold on to Price. As each turn in the rotation commences, the 28-year-old inches closer to free agency after the 2015 season.

If Tampa were leading the AL East or in prime position to grab a postseason berth, Price's future would surely be determined in the offseason. At 44-53, that's not the case. It's worth noting that the Rays have streaked into the All-Star break with a 20-11 record since June 11, potentially saving what looked to be a lost season.

Unfortunately, that's further complicated matters for general manager Andrew Friedman. Barring an eight- or nine-game winning streak immediately after the break, Tampa will likely sell veteran parts—starting with Price. Despite the surge over the last month, ESPN's postseason odds currently give the Rays just a 3.9-percent chance of reaching the playoffs.

The prospect of shopping Price—the greatest and most accomplished pitcher in Tampa's brief franchise history—could net a franchise-changing haul. As the following chart shows, Price's 2014 numbers stack up among the top starters in baseball:

After a dominant outing July 13 (8 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 5 SO, 1 BB), Price left the field to a smattering of hugs and praise from his teammates. Although the signs of affection could just be considered team camaraderie, speculation began about a possible trade and inside knowledge manifested in a public goodbye. 

During a media session in Minnesota on Monday, the 2012 AL Cy Young winner sounded resigned to his ultimate plight and understanding of the business model in Tampa Bay that has resulted in high-profile pitchers being traded, per Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com: "I'd love to stay there and continue to be competitive, but I don't know if that's even a possibility," Price said. "They signed Longoria, so it's not unheard of, but I don't know if they can do two people that way."

When asked about moving on to a bigger market such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, Price didn't hesitate or tip his hand about a preference:

It takes time to fit into a new clubhouse. I understand that. But I think I have good people skills. I could be anywhere, actually. The Rays said they don't have a problem trading me in the division. That opens the doors for a couple of other teams. I don't think I'd have a problem fitting in anywhere. I know a lot of guys in the big leagues now. I at least know somebody from every team. That always helps.

Without free agency looming until after the 2015 season and Price's consistent excellence well worth the one-year, $20-plus million commitment he'll likely garner in arbitration next season, few contending teams would balk at the notion of making a move for the ace.

Of course, the asking price will be high. Over the last few months, according to the MLB Trade Rumors David Price archive, the Rays star has been involved in rumors with the Dodgers, Angels, Cardinals, Athletics, Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays and Mariners.
 

Most recently, the Indians joined the mix. According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, Cleveland scouts have been encouraged to follow the Rays, a potential precursor to a deal. At 47-47 and 7.5 games behind the AL Central lead, Cleveland wouldn't jump off the page as a perfect Price destination for the remainder of 2014. Yet, with one year left on his deal, 2015 is part of this equation. 

Considering Price's overwhelming talent, postseason experience and contract status, any team listed above would be wise to give up the assets necessary to pry him from Tampa's starting rotation and into a postseason race. 

As Price mentioned, the Rays don't seem to be adverse—at least publicly—to moving Price within the AL East. If that means a move to Baltimore or Toronto, it's likely that one of the Boston-New York-Tampa Bay trio will fail to win the AL East for the first time since 1997.

As rumors continue to swirl over the next few weeks, keep this in mind: Price is a unique combination of value on a team uniquely in position to move a franchise player without scorn from local or national media.

Anything is in play. From the first-place Dodgers to an AL East rival to the seemingly mediocre Indians, Price's next destination is poised to be a shock to those both inside and outside of the game of baseball. 

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comFangraphs and ESPN unless otherwise noted. 

Comment, follow me on Twitter or "like" my Facebook page to talk about all things baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Home Run Derby 2014: Most Disappointing Results from Monday Night’s Event

Well, that could've gone better. Major League Baseball swung for the fences with the new structure it implemented for the 2014 Home Run Derby, and those changes backfired in a big way.

Yoenis Cespedes beat Todd Frazier in the final, but most fans were left burnt out after Monday's event went on and on and on and on. All that was missing was Bud Selig to come out and declare it a draw because there weren't any pitchers left.

On an underwhelming night at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, these three things stuck out the most.

 

Yasiel Puig Goes 0-fer

Fans were denied any Yasiel Puig home runs, which means fans were denied the patented Puig bat flip. Remember how Cespedes won last year's Derby? Puig would've made that look like Cespedes gently placed the bat on the ground, tucked it into bed and read it a story before it fell asleep.

We can only assume he would've because he didn't hit any home runs.

The problem was clearly Robinson Cano's dad, per ESPN Stats and Info:

In a few weeks, of course, nobody will remember this, and it won't preclude Puig from enjoying his first All-Star Game, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:

But it felt like the fans were robbed to a certain extent on Monday night. Almost everybody wanted to see what the Los Angeles Dodgers star would do, and he did almost next to nothing.

If that's not disappointing, then what is?

 

Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton Are Victims of the System

You'd think that hitting the most home runs in the first round would be a bonus to the hitter. Instead, it served as the beginning of the end for Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton. The duo combined to hit 16 dingers in the opening round but followed up with only four in the third round, and both stars were subsequently eliminated.

Bautista and Stanton were clearly off their games, a result of the amount of time they were forced to wait until their numbers were called. For the former, it was nearly two hours:

If MLB wants to overhaul its overhaul, that's gotta be one of the first places to start. The guys who hit the most home runs shouldn't then be punished.

 

Justin Morneau and Brian Dozier Bow Out Early

This last point isn't any fault of the new Derby structure; Justin Morneau and Brian Dozier simply weren't good enough.

It would've been awesome to see the two face off in the final, or at the very least have one of them make a deep run. Both Dozier and Morneau had the Minneapolis crowd eating out of the palm of their hands, the former because he's a Minnesota Twin and the latter because of his past years of service with the Twins.

You would've thought that Monday night would've belonged to Dozier since he plays at Target Field on a regular basis. Instead, he never got into a groove. Perhaps the pressure got to him a little bit.

Morneau's struggles were a little more predictable considering eight of his 13 home runs and 39 of his 60 runs batted in have come at Coors Field this year.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB All-Star Game 2014: Start Time, Live Stream, TV Schedule and More

Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will play host to baseball's brightest stars on Tuesday night, as the 2014 MLB All-Star Game will feature the best of the National League taking on the best of the American League.

There's a ton to watch for during the action. Perhaps the most prevalent is the attention centered on New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. The 40-year-old is playing in his final Midsummer Classic, and the fans should expect a legendary send-off for one of the best hitters of this generation.

Jeter isn't the only story, though. Will the dominant pitching best the powerful hitting? Or will the hitters best the top hurlers baseball has to offer? You'll just have to tune in to find out.

 

Where: Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota

When: Tuesday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Watch: Fox

Live Stream: MLB.tv (premium subscription required); also available on MLB At-Bat app on iPhone and Android

 

Outlook

While the Home Run Derby delivered exciting results on Monday night, the All-Star Game should be equally as compelling. While we won't see dozens of big flies leave the yard, we'll see what could become one of the most competitive installments of this event in recent memory.

The game will start off with two of the best pitchers in baseball, Felix Hernandez and Adam Wainwright. MLB's official Twitter account announced that the two right-handers will start the game:

Wainwright earned the start over Clayton Kershaw, who has arguably been the top pitcher on the planet this year. That was met with a bit of controversy, mostly because the National League manager (Mike Matheny) happens to be Wainwright's manager in St. Louis.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted that Waino is deserving, however:

Nonetheless, the strikeout artist is pleased to get the nod:

Both starters have been fantastic in 2014. Hernandez has perhaps had his best season to date, and that's unbelievable considering his past production. This is how the two match up:

Offensively, there are a ton of candidates to take over the game. Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera highlight the American League roster, while names like Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton will look to take over the show.

Below are the full lineups, courtesy of MLB's official Twitter account:

The real thing to take issue with here is that Jeter is leading off. It's understandable to honor the Yankees captain during the game, but Jeter's numbers are not All-Star-worthy. That would suggest he should hit toward the bottom of the order (perhaps eighth).

To date, Jeter owns a line of .272/.324/.322 with two homers and 25 RBI. He has been just average defensively, and it's clear that he is at the end of the line. Regardless, Wainwright is excited to face him for the first time:

If AL manager John Farrell were going for the most production possible, he would drop Jeter down to No. 8 and simply slide everyone else up one spot in the order. That would create an ideal run-producing lineup.

The starting lineups will make an impact on the outcome of the contest, but it will be the reserves that ultimately dictate the result. The relievers and pinch hitters off the bench can change the game with one pitch or one swing.

This affair figures to be one of the best in recent memory. Be sure to tune in to watch the best moments the Midsummer Classic has to offer.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Do Former PED Users Belong in All-Star Game?

MINNEAPOLIS — 

1. Nelson Cruz and the long arm of the law

Echoes of John Lackey’s blasting of Nelson Cruz arrived here well before the Orioles’ All-Star contingent did Monday morning.

“I don’t have any comments about it,” Cruz, the slugging outfielder with 28 home runs at the break, said. “I just go about my business and try to make my team happy and my fans happy.”

As he spoke, echoes of Melky Cabrera’s disgraceful All-Star Game MVP award two years ago in Kansas City continued to roar in the distance.

You remember that one: The Melk Man belted a two-run homer, helped the National League seize home-field advantage for that year’s World Series...and then was popped with a 50-game suspension one month later for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

With Cruz starting a new chapter in a new life, everything has been juicy crab cakes and (theoretically) not-so-juicy homers in his new Baltimore home so far this summer. Second in the AL in both homers and RBI (74) at the break, Cruz is hitting .287/.353/.570 and has helped push the Orioles to the top of the AL East.

Of course, as Lackey reminded the world a couple of Saturdays ago after Cruz torched the Red Sox during a 5-for-5 game, it is easy to “forget pretty conveniently about stuff.”

Cruz was suspended 50 games while with the Rangers in the summer of 2013 for his ties to the Biogenesis scandal.

Yet here he is, batting sixth in manager John Farrell’s American League All-Star lineup Tuesday night.

Over the winter, the players union moved to tighten the screws even further for those failing PED tests, agreeing to stiffen a first-offense penalty to an 80-game suspension (from 50) and increase a second offense to a full-season suspension (162 games). Also under new rules, anyone suspended for juicing will be ineligible for that year’s postseason.

Now...should they be welcome at the All-Star Game?

“It’s such a hard topic to broach, because there’s such gray areas,” Tigers starter Max Scherzer, who was outspoken when former teammate Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Braun were caught cheating, told Bleacher Report on Monday. “You don’t know what the right way and the wrong way is to handle it.”

One right way would be to zap users by banning them from the Midsummer Classic. If they’re suspended during the first part of the season, it’s a no-brainer.

Of course, where to draw the line in the statute of limitations is where Scherzer’s gray area grows.

“I would like to think the game is as clean as it’s ever been,” Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki told Bleacher Report. “If a guy’s having a good year, no matter what he’s done in the past, he’s an All-Star. That’s the way I look at it.

“Forgiveness. I believe in it. We all make mistakes, Nelson knows he made a mistake. Maybe that fueled him in how he’s having such a special year. Because he wants to prove the doubters wrong. Forgiveness is best way to describe it. People do make mistakes, and they deserve second chances.”

As Scherzer said, at the end of the day, today’s players “want a zero-tolerance policy.”

“But we realize what we have to do to get there," Scherzer, who is active in the union, said. "We can only take baby steps in the right direction in tightening our rules. This offseason we took a step. We increased the games, we increased the penalties, and we’re hoping that with increased testing procedures and increased number of tests, we eliminate the incentive to cheat even more so that no one wants to take that route.”

As for Cruz, the past seems to be the past. He says he does not feel like he’s being scrutinized this year by folks giving him the ol’ microscope treatment, wondering if he’s clean.

“I think last year was worse than this year,” Cruz said. “It’s not even close.”

New summer, new team, new future...Cruz, here at his third All-Star Game, smiles at the way things are going.

“It’s nice, you know?” he said. “I come every year with the same expectations, try to do good and be the best I can. The main thing for me is stay healthy. If I can take my at-bats and be on the field on an everyday basis, I know I can be at my best.”

And yes, he feels completely welcome here in Minneapolis.

“I was voted in by the fans,” Cruz said. “That tells you what the fans want to see.”

 

2. Will the Price be right?

David Price says he wakes each day now to at least a couple of text messages from friends around baseball who aren’t so much simply friends as, well, players on opposing teams checking in to see whether Price will be joining them anytime soon.

The Tampa Bay (for now) ace also says he generally receives a couple of more texts during the day, too.

“What have you heard?” Price says the texts read. “Are you coming over here?”

When he engaged in a Twitter exchange with Braves legend Chipper Jones a few days ago, everyone thought the Rays were about to ship him to Atlanta.

“I don’t care who it is in baseball, if you’re a player of his caliber, I’m responding to that guy,” Price said. “I don’t care who it is, what team he played for...I’m not sure if Chipper works for the Braves. I don’t think he does.

I grew up watching the Braves. It’s what me and my family did every night. My favorite player was David Justice; the big league games, I went to probably, four or five, I went to one in St. Louis and the rest in Atlanta. When I saw he tweeted me, I thought that was cool.”

The point probably should be made right here that Price was not traded to the Braves, and it is no sure thing that the Rays will deal him, period. Tampa Bay’s baseball people are meeting over the All-Star break, according to sources, to discuss various strategies. And having won eight of 10 games during one stretch earlier this month, the Rays may decide that the AL East is weak enough to keep Price and make a run.

Price was aware that his Twitter exchange fueled all kinds of speculation, but...

“I was just happy to be talking to Chipper Jones,” he said. “And then I saw it the next day and people thought I was being traded.”

Part of a new breed of players, Price, 28, gets much of his news from his Twitter feed.

“I don’t read [the rumors],” Price said. “I wake up in the morning and a different fanbase will say come over here, you’d look good in red, or you’d look good in whatever. So I get a feeling of what’s being written at that time.”

His favorite fanbase to reach out so far?

“I’ve got to go with the Rays,” he said. “They’re the ones reaching out and saying they want me to stay and how much they appreciate me. They definitely do have appreciation for me, because those are the fans that I’ve been pitching for for the last six or seven years. It’s special. It is. I definitely enjoy that from our fanbase, and it’s cool to have other fanbases want you as well.

“It’s always good to be wanted. It's a unique position right now, and we’ll just see how it shakes out.”

 

3. The Captain’s farewell

You bet that Derek Jeter dominated the talk here Monday, and we’ll have plenty on him from Tuesday night’s game. For now, here are some of the best thoughts on the retiring Jeter and what surely will be an All-Star Game forged in his shadow at Target Field.

“It’s an honor to get to play in his last All-Star Game,” said Tulowitzki, who wears No. 2 in Jeter’s honor. “As a child looking up to him, it’s sad to see him go, but at least he gets to go off on his own terms. Hopefully, he has a great showing. I have the utmost respect for him.”

Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said, “That’s a big thing. I’m sure they’ll have something in between innings take him out. It’ll be pretty cool. There will be a lot of flashbulbs.”

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who will throw the first pitch of the bottom of the first to Jeter, said, “I was telling my wife yesterday that this will be something I can always remember because I have never faced Derek in the regular season before. This will be the first time I ever face him. Spring training, the big leagues—and I’ve been in the big leagues for nine years—I’ve never faced him. I’m very excited about it, just to say I faced the best. And he is undoubtedly one of the best to ever play his position. One of the greatest Yankees of all time. And I’m very fortunate and very proud to say that I am going to face Derek Jeter.”

 

 

4. Wainwright over Kershaw

You can’t blame Cardinals manager Mike Matheny for starting his guy Adam Wainwright over Clayton Kershaw. Unless, of course, you bleed Dodger blue and regularly talk with Tommy Lasorda’s Big Dodger in the Sky.

Both are deserving. And yes, during Kershaw’s 41-inning scoreless streak, and given his NL-leading 1.78 ERA, there is nobody better on the planet than the Los Angeles lefty.

But Wainwright has thrown 138 innings this year, and Kershaw, because of the pulled muscle in his back that sent him to the disabled list, has worked 96.1. That Wainwright has pitched 41.2 more innings than Kershaw is significant, especially when Wainwright, on most sites, leads the NL with a 1.83 ERA (Kershaw doesn’t have enough innings to qualify) and is second in opponents’ batting average (.201).

Add to that the fact that the Cardinals played in the World Series last year, and Matheny has every right to reward his own guy.

“I haven’t talked to Mike, but I don’t have to talk to him,” Kershaw said Monday afternoon. “If I’m him, I’m probably going to pick Adam, too. It’s his guy. He had the best half. He’s been the best guy in the game for the first half.

“Obviously, I would have loved to do it. But to me it’s a pretty easy decision.”

 

5. Monday’s best moment

All-Star Games mean a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people, but none of them come more sweetly, more meaningfully and, yes, more complicatedly than this one to Cardinals first-time All-Star Pat Neshek.

Two Octobers ago, Neshek and his wife, Stephanee, lost their firstborn son, Gehrig (named after Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig) when he died 23 hours after birth. Gehrig had been born the same day Neshek’s team, Oakland, clinched the AL West title. Next thing Pat and Stephanee knew, inexplicable, devastating tragedy struck them.

Gehrig just stopped breathing without warning, and the Nesheks still believe the death could have been prevented, that their baby was administered the wrong antibiotics, which caused infection. They are pursuing legal options.

Stephanee became pregnant again last summer and delivered another son, Hoyt, in March.

Meanwhile, having pitched for parts of seven seasons with the Twins, Padres and Athletics, Neshek only had one job offer over the winter, from the Cardinals, and signed just about 10 days before spring training.

With a World Series team that appeared stacked, Neshek was afraid going to St. Louis would be "career suicide," as he told Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Instead, Neshek has never pitched better. He owns an 0.70 ERA and two saves in 43 appearances, and Matheny said Monday that seeing Neshek’s face when he was informed he had made the All-Star team was one of the best moments of this entire process.

So here Neshek is, back home in Minnesota. Yes, he grew up in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Park and was drafted by the Twins in 2002.

No wonder Neshek, a former high school All-State shortstop in Minnesota, became so choked up when asked what the best part of this entire experience has been.

“Just coming back here, and realizing it’s come full circle,” Neshek said, tears in his eyes. “I’m kind of choked up. I played Little League here, I played in the backyard with my dad and my brothers...Minnesota is a special place for us.”

His parents and his wife’s parents will be in the stands on Tuesday night.

And oh, yes, his brother Paul? He’ll be on the field. He is a member of the Target Field grounds crew.

 

6. Huston going to Anaheim?

The Angels are among the clubs aggressively pursuing Padres closer Huston Street, according to multiple Bleacher Report sources, as they continue to look to improve their bullpen and keep pace with Oakland in the AL West.

“I’ve heard a lot of rumors,” Street said on Monday. “The Angels are popping up over and over again. I’ve seen some reports there. I don’t have a no-trade or a limited-trade [clause], so it’s more about waiting and seeing.

“If it was the Angels, it’s a short drive from San Diego. Logistically, that wouldn’t be bad. My wife would appreciate that.”

Street said that the Padres have been “open and honest” with him about their desire to field offers. And with 24 saves in 25 opportunities at the break, he knows he’s hot.

“I think there will be some moves,” he said. “I think that when you’re a losing team, they make moves. Ownership wants to win, and they’re going to make all the moves they think is best for a winning organization. That’s why they bought the team. And I think our owners have that mind and that heart that they want to win and they don’t want to wait a long time to do it.

“If it means shuffling the deck it means shuffling the deck, and if I’m a card that gets dealt, so be it.”

Street is signed for $7 million this year with a $7 million club option for 2015. It is a very clean and desirable contract in that the acquiring team could have a very affordable closer for ’15 if it likes him, or it could cut him loose without cost, as there is no buyout clause in the deal.

 

7. Greinke: Don’t knock the Dodgers offense

As one of the most cerebral players in the game, Zack Greinke is worth listening to. And on Monday, he had a very specific point he wanted to make regarding the first-place Dodgers.

Namely, he’s tired of listening to harsh criticism of their offense.

“We have the fourth-most runs in the NL,” Greinke said, and, actually, that updated number at the break is that the Dodgers now rank third in the NL with 404 runs scored, behind the Rockies (457) and Brewers (423). “And people talk like we’re severely underachieving. I mean, you’re in a tough hitter’s park and you have the fourth-most runs scored.

“Maybe we could do slightly better, but I think the expectations are just too high.”

A record $234 million payroll certainly fuels those high expectations, as does the collection of marquee names like Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp.

“We should be held to a higher standard, and you could give a little criticism, but I don’t think you should be crushing [it],” Greinke said. “It definitely hasn’t been bad. You can’t expect everything, is my thought. And we’ve also dealt with some injuries, too.”

Kemp, Gonzalez and Ramirez all are older and not quite what they once were.

“You should probably know that they won’t be,” Greinke said. “You might think they should be close to what they were three years ago, but you can’t expect them to have their career year every single year.”

“I expect Adrian to have a better second half and Kemp to have better second half. Not saying it was bad, but you expect more. They were so good, and they’re still very good. You can’t expect them to carry an offense.”

 

8. Greinke: Watch those owners

Zack Greinke gave a great line while he was discussing why players watch each other’s contracts, because that is the main avenue to learn what kind of contract they should expect, by comparables.

“The teams are greedier than the players, just so you know,” Greinke quipped.

 

9. Low offense, big whiffs

For winning two World Series within five years in small-market Minnesota (1987 and 1991), manager Tom Kelly absolutely deserves consideration for the Hall of Fame. Of course, his 1,140-1,244 career record will keep him on the outside, but he remains one of the smartest men ever to pull the levers from the dugout.

And where he once was a gruff (some might even say cranky) taskmaster, it is a pleasure these days to watch him work with the Twins and their minor leaguers with such a sense of joy. And what a great time he had managing the U.S. team in the Futures Game on Sunday.

As always, he offered plenty of wisdom, and he didn’t hesitate to share his opinion on part of the reason why offenses are in such bad shape in today’s game.

“The thing that disturbs me the most, and it’s in the minor leagues as well—I watch the Twins—is the number of people who strike out,” Kelly said. “The people who take strike three and walk back to the dugout. It’s more and more in the minor leagues, and it’s disturbing.

“When you take the third strike and don’t put up much of a fight to fight off pitches and battle...I’m sure they’re trying, but that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed.”

Kelly mentioned the fact that one of the Twins’ minor leaguers has 16 or 17 homers and “a boatload of RBI” and came up in internal discussions the other day.

“The comment was that he’s hitting .232 and striking out way too much,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t seem to matter much how you hit as long as you hit it over the fence and drive in runs. I think the days are over when you had to hit .320 in Triple-A to maybe have a chance to make the team next year. Maybe.”

 

9a. Rock ‘n’ roll lyric of the week

Ah Minnesota, where the All-Star Game meets Bob Dylan....

"A self-ordained professor’s tongue

Too serious to fool

Spouted out that liberty

Is just equality in school

'Equality,' I spoke the word

As if a wedding vow

Ah, but I was so much older then

I’m younger than that now."

-- Bob Dylan, My Back Pages

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fuut Desk Foot Rest is a Hammock for Your Feet

Fuut Desk Foot Rest

 

Legs stretched out, crossed, or the number-four–which among these is your preferred sitting position? You might find yourself switching from one position to the another as you try to get comfortable. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t–and when it doesn’t, then that’s when the Fuut Desk Foot Rest will come in handy.

Think of it as a hammock for your feet, since it already looks the part. Just attach the strings to the side of your desk tot stretch it out, and voila! It’s ready to use.

Fuut Desk Foot Rest1

 

The ropes serve another purpose aside from being what you’ll use to fasten the foot rest securely: you can adjust their lengths to move the Fuut to a higher or lower position, depending on how you feel like resting your feet.

It’s available online for $30.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ HolyCool ]

The post Fuut Desk Foot Rest is a Hammock for Your Feet appeared first on OhGizmo!.

Women are humans too – and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be bishops

For far too long, in too many spheres, women are told that their exclusion from positions of authority is simply a mark of their “difference”.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, hold a press conference after the General Synod vote on women bishops. Photo: Getty
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, hold a press conference after the General Synod vote on women bishops. Photo: Getty

I’ve just witnessed a self-described radical feminist describing how God “created men and women equal – and different”. Speaking to Jon Snow on Channel 4 News, General Synod member Susie Leafe is expressing her dismay at the news that the Church of England has voted in favour of having women bishops:

What I’ve seen in society, and in the church over the past 20 years, is that when women try to take on roles that have been given to men, what we see is men disappearing and women’s roles being underestimated, undervalued. […] I’m all for women taking their places as CEOs of companies, […] I think it’s really important that women use their skills and abilities, but the church isn’t a job, it isn’t a role, it’s a family […] I’d hate to think that any girl who is born in England today thinks that she has to become some high-flying something in order to be valuable in God’s eyes.

On the face of it, it’s an attractive argument, one that’s used not just in theological debates but in discussions on childcare, politics and relationships. It taps into the feminist urge to re-evaluate what it is that women do and to say, not that women should be doing what men do, but that women’s work should be valued more. I’m sympathetic to that, truly I am, but I’m conscious that it’s also a trap. The point is not that what men do is more valuable; it is that the distinctions between what men and women do, and why, are not arbitrary. Women do not have to feel pressured to be “some high-flying something” to know that right now, they are simply seen as less. Presenting men in authority roles as carrying out some great male calling is all very well, but take away the leap of faith – which I will neither challenge nor buy – and we’re left with the same excuses as before. 

I am not a member of the General Synod. I’m not even a believer, but I am a woman and I am a feminist. We all have an investment in how women are perceived in the world around us. We do not live separate lives in hermetically sealed bubbles. One person’s misogyny, no matter how sincerely felt, and regardless of how it is justified, harms the dignity of all women. Writing on pornography, Andrea Dworkin – a radical feminist who didn’t have much time for weasel words about difference – argued that “the people who think that woman hating is very bad some places, but it's all right in pornography because pornography causes orgasm, are not feminists”. As a non-believer, I know it’s easy for me to translate that into woman hating not being all right in religion because it grants you salvation, but I think it’s true. And when there are people who believe that “men must never be taught by women”, I can’t see it as anything other than a fundamental belief that women are inferior.

For far too long, in too many spheres, women are told that their exclusion from positions of authority is simply a mark of their “difference”. That we are surrounded by evidence of the impact this supposedly neutral “difference” has on women’s lives – we are poorer, we have less freedom of movement, we’re less likely to have a say in the policies that shape our lives, our experiences are always positioned as “other” – is meant to be something we just accept. Nonetheless, saying women and men are essentially different but have equal “roles” is just sexism marketing speech. We all know this. We might tell ourselves otherwise because it makes us feel better but does anyone really believe women were born to be paid less, heard less, understood less, included less than men? And yet that’s what we’ve come to expect because changing things would mean changing the entire world, not because women have special woman-powers that haven’t yet been tapped into, but because we still see the default person as male. To suddenly realise that every single person you meet is just as human and just as entitled to take up time and space can be disorientating.

Women need to be visible. Not colourful, nurturing, motherly, spreading their women’s touch around those dull, dusty spaces that men alone have occupied for far too long. Women just need to be there, in plain sight, as equal human beings with talents that are unique to them (“oh, but not the same! Let’s make sure no one thinks women are the same!” says that nagging, separate-but-equal voice, frogmarching all men and all women into two rigidly differentiated camps in the name of “diversity”).

I want to see women having authority over men, not as part of some shoulder-padded aspirational feminist project. I want men to see women in the way women see men, and for women to see themselves as men see themselves: as real, solid, diverse, complete, as close to and as capable of representing whatever higher power any of us might believe in. We are not hollow vessels, waiting to soak up the teachings that only men can transmit, whether it be through theology or politics or porn. Freedom of conscience is one thing – no one should ever police what goes on inside an individual’s own head – but the fundamental humanity of women should never be up for public debate.

San Francisco Giants Trade Deadline Big Board: Ranking the Top Targets

It's about that time of the year again.

The rumors start swirling, the general managers start pulling the all-nighters and the suitcases begin to get packed. 

The trade deadline is upon us. 

For the San Francisco Giants, it will definitely be an interesting 16 days until July 31. We will have to wait and see if Brian Sabean will make some trades and add some reinforcements to his scuffling squad.

Let's take a look at the top targets the Giants should consider trading for.

Begin Slideshow

Los Angeles Dodgers: Retracing Dee Gordon’s Rise from Bust to All-Star

A year ago, the jury was still out on Dee Gordon.

He had the potential to be a standout major league player, but his inconsistency at the plate and in the field overshadowed his dazzling speed on the basepaths.

It’s only taken half a season of deliberation for the jury to reach the unanimous verdict that the Dodgers second baseman is the real deal—the jury being those who deemed Gordon worthy of going to his first All-Star Game this season.

"It was an amazing feeling, just where I came from," Gordon told reporters, per the Los Angeles Times. “I almost cried when Donnie told me.”

In a sport where so many fizzle out at the top, Gordon has defied the odds and flipped his downward trend on its head. The result is a performance that has yielded reward and hype for the future for the once highly touted LA prospect.

“It didn't come easy for him. He had to change positions. I think everybody, during spring training, expected him to fall on his face,” pitcher Josh Beckett said. “This is the reward."

While Gordon has finally arrived, it hasn’t been a seamless journey. It’s featured uncertainty, five trips down to the minors, a position change and hours in the gym in the offseason.

In plain terms, hard work and perseverance.

Here’s a look back at the speedy second baseman’s voyage from mediocrity to being an All-Star selection.

Begin Slideshow

2014 Home Run Derby Results: Convoluted Structure Still Led to Deserving Winner

To be honest, I'm not sure how Yoenis Cespedes won the 2014 Home Run Derby, but he was clearly the best on the night, so it all worked out in the end.

In an effort to try to make the Home Run Derby more interesting and draw in more fans, Major League Baseball opted for a league-based bracket structure. You wouldn't think that guys hitting a baseball over a fence could become unbelievably confusing, but MLB made it happen.

Trying to explain it all would be akin to Kenny Mayne and Dan Patrick breaking down the Denslow Cup.

All you need to know is Cespedes beat Todd Frazier in the final after what felt like an eternity, and most fans would agree that justice was done. It would've been regressive to introduce this entirely new format and then watch somebody back into the Derby title.

Look at this stat, courtesy of ESPN's Jayson Stark. No offense to Frazier, but he had no business winning on Monday night:

That was a disaster averted for the Home Run Derby. Jose Bautista couldn't get so lucky.

He hit 10 home runs in the first round, but since he had a bye in the second round, he didn't get to bat again until much later in the competition, by which time he was extremely rusty. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the wait was nearly two hours long:

Cespedes beat Bautista, 7-4, in the third round and subsequently knocked off Frazier. You can see the full results below.

The Home Run Derby is largely irrelevant in a player's overall legacy. Nobody lists the number of Derby wins on somebody's Hall of Fame resume.

What the event can do is make fans truly appreciate a facet of a hitter's game they might not have known existed.

In his two full seasons in the majors, the Oakland A's star hasn't hit more than 26 home runs. He's not what you'd judge strictly a slugger; however, he is the kind of hitter who excels in the Home Run Derby. Cespedes has prodigious power that allows him to hit the ball out of the yard almost on command.

Consider that he's the first player to repeat in the Home Run Derby in over a decade, per MLB:

Not a man of many words, he said after going back to back, "It was something I wanted to accomplish," per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.

Some fans might not be too hot on the Derby, but it's at least allowed Cespedes to receive the credit he so richly deserves.

The 28-year-old suffers from two problems in terms of getting proper recognition: He plays on the West Coast, and more importantly, he plays for the Oakland Athletics. He's basically a slightly lesser version of Yasiel Puig if Puig played 300-plus miles north.

Puig certainly isn't suffering from a lack of attention.

The biggest star in Oakland has always been general manager Billy Beane, and as a result, most of the players go unappreciated. The A's offense has been out of its mind this year, yet the more casual baseball fans either don't care or don't have a clue.

If Monday's labyrinthine Home Run Derby was a chance for one of Oakland's best players to get a little publicity, then it was worth all of the hassle.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Celebrity Softball Game 2014: Winners, Twitter Reaction and Highlights

The 2014 MLB celebrity softball game, which aired after Monday's Home Run Derby, had something for everybody in the NL's 14-4 win over the AL.

Each year, this game is full of notable figures from television, sports, movies and music. The intriguing interaction between all of the personalities involved always seems to deliver plenty of highlights.

This year was no different, as the star-studded cast left a big impression on many people around the Web.

Some of the celebrities involved in the annual softball game have spent a little bit of time on a baseball diamond before. Former MLB great Jim Thome is certainly in that category.

Known for some big home runs during his playing days, he continued the trend when he found himself at the plate once more. Here's a look at an absolutely demolished home run, courtesy of MLB Fan Cave:

We all remember what happened the last time rapper Nelly took the baseball field, right?

Well, just in case a refresher is in order, here's a glance back in time:

That wasn't too pretty.

As it turns out, all Nelly needed was a little pep talk. Who better than to give him one than MLB Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith?

Take a look at Smith's high praise, via MLB's post on Twitter:

Those words appeared to do wonders for Nelly, as he took the plate shortly after and delivered a home run.

The All-Star Game's official Twitter account broke down the rapper's deep-ball swing:

Unfortunately, the game wasn't kind to all of its participants.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is known for his prowess on the football field. After all, he did rush for an improbable 2,097 yards back in 2012.

Let's just say he picked the right sport.

Here's a look at a not-so-great attempt from the plate, as he's just a bit behind with his swing, courtesy of Minnesota Twins team photographer Brace Hemmelgarn:

Apparently, Peterson could have spent a little more time with Thome prior to the game:

Although, that can't be blamed entirely on AP. He was up against former softball pitcher and Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch.

Here's a good look at Finch dealing:

Then again, according to a tweet from Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, perhaps Peterson had it coming:

Fat Joe was also participating in the action, and according to a couple tweets, he may have not been entirely graceful running the bases. Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise got a hold of one, which sent Joe rounding second.

Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press gave his impression:

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com chimed in as well:

It was an action-packed event and a reminder that swinging a bat isn't as easy as it may appear. Just ask AP.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Yoenis Cespedes’ Home Run Derby Display Shows He Performs Best on the Big Stage

When the lights shine brightest, Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes stars. In the aftermath of a second consecutive Home Run Derby crown, it's becoming abundantly clear that the 28-year-old has a flair for the dramatic. 

On Monday night, Cespedes stole the show once again.

A year after taking home the crown at Citi Field, the All-Star put on a show in the final round to hold off Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. In total, Cespedes hit 30 homers in the competition at Target Field, putting him in rare company among stars who have thrived in back-to-back seasons.

Amazingly, despite only two trips to the derby and three total years in the majors, Cespedes is now sixth all-time in derby blasts. The names ahead of him consist of some of the most well-known sluggers in recent baseball history: David Ortiz, Ken Griffey Jr., Prince Fielder, Jason Giambi and Sammy Sosa.

As a whole, the 2014 event was, well, underwhelming. Due to format changes and a rain delay, the night was robbed of momentum for both fans and participants. Despite showing off light-tower power early in the battle, Miami Marlins outfield Giancarlo Stanton was frozen by the time the lights turned back on for him. 

While Stanton and the other participants struggled at times, Cespedes soared. Although the Cuban import has been a solid, if not spectacular offensive player since arriving to the majors in 2012, the midsummer homer fest is truly where he has put his talent on display and game on the map. 

Across 354 regular-season games, Cespedes has hit 63 homers and slugged .465. Over the last two Home Run Derby contests, he's hit 62 homers. Although the comparison isn't totally fair, it speaks to how much different Cespedes can be when the cameras are truly watching. 

Last year, Cespedes delivered a telling quote to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark in the aftermath of the victory. When asked about pressure or living up to expectations, he cited the culture and fan passion in his home country of Cuba.

"Before I came, they asked me if I was going to be nervous because I would be participating in front of possibly 50,000 people," Cespedes said. "But when I was in Cuba, I participated in five Home Run Derbies. It wasn't 50,000 people, but it was 30,000 or 32,000. And I wasn't nervous."

Home Run Derby victories, despite the prime-time billing, truly profile as nothing more than glorified batting practice. In order to become a superstar in the majors, day-to-day excellence is needed from the Athletics' gifted specimen. 

That was on display when Cespedes' eye-opening and buzzworthy throw from the outfield earlier this season became one of the highlights of the year. Amazingly, earlier in the play, Cespedes actually had a defensive miscue, but he recovered enough to make a highlight-reel play out of thin air. 

With the actual season well past the halfway mark, it's clear that Oakland is heading toward meaningful September baseball and likely a third straight trip to October.

If that occurs, Cespedes can look to add to an outstanding career postseason ledger. Over the last two American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, Cespedes has posted a .350/.395/.525 slash line and racked up 21 total bases in 10 games.

During the broadcast, Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson spoke about how Cespedes loves to perform when people are watching. Unfortunately, that wish isn't granted on a night-to-night basis in Oakland's O.co Coliseum. Despite a gaudy 59-36 record, the A's rank just 23rd in average attendance, per ESPN.

That, along with television and media exposure, is about to change for this group in Oakland. If a magical season commences for the AL West leaders, fans will flock to the park to watch a team compete for a title and tune in around the country. 

As media descend on Oakland, expect Cespedes to be there to stand up to the challenge, exude a flair for the dramatic and do what he seems to do best: play better when all eyes are on him.

 

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comFanGraphs and ESPN, unless otherwise noted. 

Comment, follow me on Twitter or "like" my Facebook page to talk about all things baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com