Thursday, June 17, 2021

Please Welcome Your Chicago (Arlington Heights) Bears!!

Arlington Park is in its final year of racing. It’s owner is looking to sell the 326-acre park and there should be at least one, if not two, Chicago sports owners looking to buy and do it now. Thankfully one of them just told us that they are in the bidding for the land. The Chicago Bears. This is the franchise that SHOULD be looking at this as a viable place to move the franchise. 

 

The Bears spent a total of 660-million dollars on it and basically wasted all of it. Moving out would have been the best thing for everyone. The Park District still runs things and the playing surface is an absolute joke. Late November and December, it’s green paint on dirt. Looks terrible and plays even worse. A move to the suburbs would take the Park District out of the equation and field turf could be installed. Easier upkeep, safer than dirt. 

 

When the team moved into the “Spaceship to be named later” they ensured that there will never be a Superbowl at Soldier Field or in Chicago. Since the NFL started using cold weather cities, the Bears home stadium would have been a great showcase for Chicago and the league. Not going to happen now. Under the NFL rules to host the big game, a stadium must have at least 70,000 seats to host a Superbowl. The Bears actually LOST 5,000 seats in the renovation and have just a 61,500 capacity. Money out the window. A big lack of vision. 

Soldier Field (USA Today photo)

This next statement might seem blasphemous, but  hear me out. The Bears would have been best served to build a state-of-the-art retractable roof stadium. That would have helped the city attract the NCAA, for a regional final or the Final Four. I know, “Bear weather, woof woof”, it’s RETRACTABLE, meaning you can keep it OPEN during football games. Dual purpose, to keep all parties happy.  Just because it opens, doesn’t mean it has to, am I right? Get the big events here, keep the big events here. Money, money, money! 

 

I know, they are the CHICAGO Bears, not the Arlington Heights Bears. Ok, well then they’re the East Rutherford, NJ Jets/Giants, The Santa Clara 49’ers and the Miami Gardens Dolphins. Seriously? We’re going to quibble over a name? They need to move, stop with the silliness. 

 

My feelings about keeping the team in the city were much more passionate until I saw what was done to Soldier Field. For the money they spent, a brand-new building could have gone up in Rosemont, or Arlington Heights, or on the south side. In 2021, they’d be renovating it to keep up with the times and probably spending a lot less for the upkeep. Silly mistake. Build it big, make it opulent, make a statement and they will come to Arlington Heights. Oh, and out of towners will still make their way to the city and spend some dollars, so don’t worry about that. Think about the tailgating lots that could dot the landscape of the huge plot of land. You’d still have all the comforts of the old place, in a better, more fan friendly environment. 

 

Here’s another good reason to move. Getting in and out of Soldier Field, both as a fan and a driver is ridiculously insane. Egress that funnels you into Lake Shore Drive with no place to go. Sometimes the ride to and from adds up to the time spent watching the game. Now, I realize Arlington Heights isn’t perfect, but with some major highways and roads leading into the complex, it has to be better. 


 

Now there is the giant elephant in the room that has to be addressed. Who’s paying for it? Well since I don’t have the details on that and since the move isn’t official yet, let’s see how it plays out. Taxpayers are likely to be footing some of the bill, it would be really nice if the McCaskey Family realized the mistake it made in 2003 and pours most of, if not all the money in. We know that isn’t going to be happening, but at least this is a start, right? 

 

What to do with Soldier Field? The Chicago Fire recently moved back to the facility and there are a number of events held there during non-football time. I’d love to see the White Sox move there. It would be a gutting of what is there now and if the lords of baseball allow it (MLB), have the skyline pop out of the outfield and make it one of the best views in the sport. The Cubs aren’t going anywhere, so it’s a perfect opportunity for the White Sox to still be true to their south side roots and erect a state-of-the-art park of their own. Just a thought. 

 

We can sort out what will occupy that land on the lakefront later, but right now my message to the Bears: Pack up and don’t look back. It’s time for the franchise to reach new heights in Arlington Heights. 

 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

No Sunscreen, No Rosin, No Grip

Leave it to baseball to get itself in a sticky situation, just as interest in the sport is on an upswing. Puns intended. MLB notified teams this week about how it will be enforcing and cracking down on pitchers using foreign substances on the baseball. Starting Monday pitchers will be subject to random checks and could face ejections, fines and suspensions if found with a substance on the ball or their glove. 

Teams were notified in Spring Training, but MLB didn’t seem to be in a rush to actually reprimand anyone. Until now. Nearly 3 months into the season baseball all of the sudden will be suspending pitchers for 10 games (with pay) if they are found to be doctoring the ball. A bit of an overreaction? Yes. Considering, as many players have pointed out, the hypocritical nature of the mandate, by a league that didn’t even suspend one single Houston Astros player for actually cheating the game. 

 

Even worse, now umpires like Joe West, who doesn’t need a further spotlight shone on him, will be the ones looking to enforce the rules. West already overreacted to a Cardinals pitcher entering a game with a hat that looked worn and appeared to have something on it. Cardinals' manager Mike Schildt was ejected for arguing with West. The only thing that resulted was the pitcher had to change hats. This is unfortunately shades of things to come. Umpires have already had an awful year enforcing actual rules of the game. See Marty Foster’s created, made up “interference” call or Angel Hernandez’s strike zone during a game. Ugh.  

 

Rays’ pitcher Tyler Glasnow, who pitched against the White Sox Monday and left with an elbow injury thinks the impending enforcement led to his malady. He told reporters via Zoom, “I switched my fastball grip and my curveball grip. I had to put my fastball deeper into my hand and grip it way harder. Instead of holding my curveball at the tip of my fingers, I had to dig it deeper into my hand.” Glasnow said.

Tyler Glasnow
Tyler Glasnow (MLB.com)


Glasnow also echoed a sentiment shared by many pitchers in baseball. "Do it in the offseason. Give us a chance to adjust to it. But I just threw 80 innings, then you tell me I can't use anything in the middle of the year. I have to change everything I've been doing the entire season. I'm telling you I truly believe that's why I got hurt."

 

The point being made by MLB is strikeouts are up and it’s because of the pitcher’s spin rates are up. Power numbers are still there, as the White Sox Dallas Keuchel pointed out after last night’s game. Is it possible that as baseball has evolved over the last decade plus, the taboo of the strikeout by a hitter has all but vanished? It’s possible that pitchers have managed to figure out weak spots in a hitter’s game, with all the video and heat maps that are available to them now. 

 

According to a chart in the Baseball Almanac, in 2000 the combined strikeout numbers between the AL and NL was 31,356. In 2019 the number soared to 42,823. There has definitely been more attention paid to “StatCast” numbers from MLB, which focus on launch angle, exit velocity, spin rates and strike out rates more than most other stats. This to me is more of an explanation to the increased numbers, because organizations aren’t looking at strikeouts as a bad thing. That message is being conveyed in the minors and younger players are learning as they go through the system to accept the “K” as a necessary evil. 

 

Don’t misunderstand me, altering a baseball should be illegal. Pitchers caught with substances like sandpaper, spider tack and cutting the ball, deserve the punishment. Those that are using, rosin (there’s a rosin bag on the mound for each pitcher, it’s right there to see for everyone) and sunscreen, to me, aren’t doing anything put ensuring a grip on a baseball. The ball itself has been manipulated by MLB over the years, that more and more pitchers had to use substances. When the league decided using a “superball” a couple of years ago, pitchers would say they couldn’t feel the seams. Pitching is all about feel and touch on the baseball. With the live arms in the game now, routinely hitting 95+ mph, I’m not sure I’d like to face a guy throwing that hard with no control or feel of the baseball. 


Baseball looked the other way during the “Steroid Era” because fans loved watching home runs being hit. Pitchers suffered because of the amounts of long balls being hit and as a result, they were looking for the equalizer. Now that the pitchers have a bit of an edge this season, baseball is choosing to overreact and enforce rules in the middle of a season. So, what if players were stealing bases at a record pace, would MLB eliminate leadoffs midseason? Let the players, play the game. Hitters worth their salt, don’t care what a pitcher is using on a baseball, they’re going to hit it eventually. Stop tinkering with the game already MLB, what’s next, home run derby instead of extra innings? Oh wait, they’re already experimenting with that. See what I mean? 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Newest Plan For Baseball Makes Sense In Ways...

Here we sit, several weeks after Major League Baseball was supposed to have started. We are anxious to get outside and resume life as we knew it, but we have to wait. Medical professionals need to give us the go ahead when they deem it safe to return to some semblance of normalcy. It's difficult to remain patient, folks need to get back to work and to a lesser extent, we need our sports. I have no inside knowledge, but I really feel like we're close to getting baseball back up and running. 

Rumors about various plans continue to pile up, but the latest one, might be the best so far. It was reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, that the league suggested a new plan. It would allow players to actually be home and play in home ballparks this Summer. Perhaps without fans, depending on what the medical experts deem safe. Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw were both on record saying they didn't want to be sequestered under the previous "Arizona Plan" It would have meant players and staff would be away from their families for almost 5 months. This plan alleviates that part of the plan.   


Rob Manfred
(Getty Images)
Under the proposal MLB would do away with the "American and National" Leagues and instead break it down to 3, 10 team divisions, the East, Central and West. Teams would only play regular season games against their own division and the playoffs would be expanded. Here's the breakdown on what the "divisions" could look like if approved:

EAST

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins.

CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers. 

WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A's, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. 

There are a couple of things I might change about the alignment. Makes no sense for the Braves to be in the Central, so flip them to the East and bring the Pirates to the Central. You could also argue that the Astros and Rangers would be better off in the Central, because they are on CDT. Tough to replace them in the West because no other teams really make sense going to that division. 


The best part about this proposal as laid out is the travel situation. Playing all of your games within a 2-3 hour flight (most cases will be much less) is ideal, cutting down on one of the most grueling parts of a season. In a lot of cases, no flight would even be required. The Chicago, New York and Los Angeles teams would bus between ballparks. San Diego is a bus ride from Los Angeles. Chicago to Milwaukee also an easy trip. You see where I'm going with this. Atlanta in the Central is really the only fly in the ointment. 



Guaranteed Rate Field
(Chicago Tribune)
I figured to play 108 games, division opponents could play each other 12 times, 6 home and 6 road, likely with 2 visits to each city. That is smart, because there is guaranteed to be at least a couple of rain outs, especially in the Central and East, and a second trip could make scheduling make up games easier. 

The question of playoffs has not really been answered yet. With three divisions might there be a playoff bye for the team with the best record overall? How many teams will qualify? I have a few scenarios in mind, see what you think.


Scenario 1:

Top 4 teams in each division qualify for playoffs, ranked in win order 1-4
Team 1 would face Team 4, Team 2 would face Team 3 in a 5 game series
Winners of that round would face off in a “division round” of 7 games
From there it gets tricky, you could “seed” the round covering the entire league and the top team theoretically could get a bye to the “World Series”.

Scenario 2:
Again, have top 4 teams in each division qualify for the playoffs and seed 1-4.
Team 1 faces Team 4, Team 2 faces Team 3, both would be 5 game series or even a 3 game set.

Winners emerge and 6 teams would still be alive, 2 from each division. those teams are then seeded 1-6 based on record with 1 v 6, 2 v 5, 3 v 4.  3 winners emerge re-seed 1-3, team 1 has a bye to the championship round.

SCENARIO 3

Scenario 3:
You could have a tournament bracket, with the top 4 in each division qualifying. The bracket would be determined by record and all divisions combined (tie breakers could be run differential or in some other fashion)

1st round best of 3 (1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5)

2nd round best of 5

WS round best of 7

This one is a little cleaner with no byes.

Whatever MLB decides, it will certainly buck the traditional postseason we've all become used to. It will also test the "old school" way of running a regular season. I consider myself more of a purist, but I still find this intriguing and kind of fun in a way. If it gets us to a season sooner rather than later, I'm all for it. 

Catch every Chicago White Sox game, on WGN Radio, 720. 





Friday, April 10, 2020

Give Me Some Baseball....PLEASE!!


Right now, we’d be nearly two weeks into the Major League Baseball season, but for obvious reasons we aren’t. With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, safety has become a top priority and of course it should be. There should be no arguing with the “Stay at home” orders, no arguing with social distancing or any other way to help “flatten the curve,” it’s just our reality. But our distractions and diversions are missing.

There’s only so much Netflix, Prime Video or other streaming platforms you can take, right? What to binge next has become the biggest decision many of us has had to make for about a month already. As someone put it on Twitter the other day, “Ok, I’m done with Netflix, what do I do now?”. Meaning, I’ve already watched all I can! I mean can anything really top “Tiger King”? Only one thing in my mind can, BASEBALL. Please!!

Thinking about what could still be for the White Sox this season has me itching to get the baseball season started. When? Where? How? Well these are all spectacular questions that I wish I had the answer for, but I don’t. At least not yet. Though MLB has worked through some scenarios, at least reportedly, so let’s see what they are thinking.

PLAN 1:
Have all 30 teams play their games in Arizona. Use all the Spring Training facilities and Chase Field in Phoenix to play a modified schedule. No fans would be allowed in the parks. The plan is to have all the teams in one area to keep a close eye and monitor if the virus is around still. Players, staff and media would basically be sequestered in hotel rooms or apartments between games. They’d only be allowed to go out when heading to or going home from the stadiums. Seems a bit ambitious to me and a bit illogical as far as the schedule is concerned.

I count 10 facilities, or 11 counting Chase. There would have to be 15 games per day, unless doubleheaders are part of the equation. Not just two games for each team, but two games per facility. For example, the White Sox could play in Glendale’s Camelback Ranch in the day time and the Dodgers could play there against another team at night. Makes for a crowded schedule and the need to perhaps find a few more fields in the area, like maybe Phoenix Municipal, the former home of the A’s and now home to Arizona State Baseball. Still that’s just 12 parks with 30 teams in the same crowded area.

This plan was thought to be ready to go by May, giving MLB time to play as close to a full schedule as possible. Not sure that’s a realistic thing, considering Arizona was one of the last states in the union to order a “stay at home” plan.  This one may be a little too ambitious, though I do love the notion of starting next month.

PLAN 2:
A plan was unveiled Friday as reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today. This plan is much more radical, but also pretty cool to me. This one would utilize both Florida and Arizona and take away play in the “National and American Leagues”. It would basically keep the Grapefruit League teams in Florida and the Cactus League teams in Arizona. The beauty is there are 15 teams in each league making it a little more balanced in scheduling. Also, reportedly part of this plan is “radical realignment” within each of the “Leagues”.  So according to the report, this is how each would break down in three divisions:

CACTUS LEAGUE

WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels.

NORTHEAST: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.

NORTHWEST: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals.

GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE

NORTH: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.

SOUTH: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.

EAST: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.

Interesting look isn’t it? Oh, did I mention the plan also reportedly calls for use of the universal DH? Yup. There has been talk about what baseball might look like after possible expansion and when the new collective bargaining agreement goes into effect next year, this could be pretty close. Elimination of the “Leagues” again and a redesigning of divisions which could have the Sox and Cubs in the SAME division. That’s a bit down the road though.

Let’s look at what this PLAN 2 is all about. For those that don’t know, the Cactus League is a much easier travel league. There really isn’t one park that is more than a 45 minute to an hour drive. Not the same can be said for Florida, many of the Grapefruit League games require a short flight to play. In Arizona the teams were grouped by those that share a complex, like the White Sox and Dodgers and by one or two solo park teams. Makes sense. In Florida the geography of where teams are located comprises the divisions, so the games where you’d play the bulk of the games are within driving distance. Plus each team will have a “home base” in which to operate out of, which is ideal.

For the White Sox, they’d be joined by familiar division opponent Cleveland. The Indians are a team somewhat in flux after making a few deals this year, most notable the trade of ace Corey Kluber to Texas. The Reds share a complex with the Indians in Goodyear, AZ. Cincinnati added a bunch this off-season including familiar faces to Sox fans like Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. The Angels of course are now managed by former Cubs skipper Joe Maddon. They spent some money in the off-season acquiring Anthony Rendon. Plus, they have arguably the best player in the game, Mike Trout. The Dodgers are the odds-on favorite to win the National League (well now the Cactus League) and they added Mookie Betts. Won’t be an easy trek for the Sox if this plan comes to fruition.

For the Cubs, they get some rebuilding teams and some, well, I’m just not sure about for the upcoming year. The Giants have a new manager and the A’s always seem to be in contention, somehow some way. Arizona basically gets the advantage of playing true “home” games and the Rockies pitching staff may be better off not throwing in Colorado at Coors Field.

This plan is logistically more feasible with almost 30 parks being used including 3 major league parks that have domes (Tropicana Field, Marlins Park, Chase Field). Plus, as mentioned, will cut down on travel times and distances dramatically more than a regular season.

Not mentioned yet is a concrete start time and a finite number of games to be played. Nightengale speculates that there can be 12 games vs. division opponents and 6 games each against those outside. If my math is correct that adds up to 108 total games (48 in division, 60 outside).  There would be at least one doubleheader a night when all teams are scheduled to play because of the odd number of teams in each state.

As far as playoffs, he guesses, there could still be division winners and wild-card winners, perhaps adding two more wild-card teams to each league, or a postseason tournament with all 30 teams. The winner of the Cactus League in Arizona would play the winner of the Grapefruit League in Florida for the World Series championship, utilizing the domed stadiums in late November.

This sounds like the better plan, though there could be some issues. Weather being one of them. In Florida it’s all about rain. In the Summer, it routinely rains at certain times each day depending on the region. That could create a nightmare for scheduling if there are multiple rain outs per day or week. How do you make them up without the season going into December? In Arizona it’s the heat. 100 degrees or more in the Summer will make it tough on players, especially pitchers going deep into games.

Along those lines, I wonder if MLB would consider upping the roster limits to maybe 30, with a chance to perhaps have a “taxi” squad in reserve since the Minor League season may be in jeopardy as well. So, maybe “dress” 30 players each game, but have another 10 that you can use to make roster moves with? Just spit balling here. Something will have to be done to protect players from injury.

Whichever plan, the all Arizona, the Arizona-Florida or another one, goes into effect, I’ll just be happy to talk and see some baseball being played. If it can be done safely keeping everybody’s well-being in mind, I’m all for it. Let’s go!


Remember, you'll hear every Chicago White Sox game broadcast on WGN Radio, 720AM!


Saturday, March 16, 2019

White Sox Camp Notes 3.16.19

Good morning from Glendale!

White Sox camp continues and they'll face their complex mates the Dodgers in an afternoon game today from the Valley of the Sun.

Ivan Nova will make the start today, it will be his third of the Spring. Nova is 0-1, with a 9.00 ERA. While on that subject, the numbers in the Cactus League don't mean a whole lot. Many pitchers will tell you that they are working on one specific pitch or one location per inning, regardless of the situation. So don't expect a guy to be feeding fastballs low and in to a lefty while ahead in the count during the regular season. This is what this exhibition season is all about, getting reps, building up arm strength and innings.

Same is true for numbers offensively, for many of the same reasons. The sky is tough here in Arizona. The ground is hard and unforgiving on a fielder. So many of the 'hits' that are credited to batters may not be on a perfectly manicured infield in the big leagues.

I realize baseball is all about stats and numbers, but that's not exactly what the decision makers are truly looking at when it comes to the final roster.

Numbers were not the downfall of Eloy Jimenez this camp. Ricky Renteria hinted at it yesterday and Jimenez himself admitted to it today, he was pressing at the plate.
Eloy Jimenez
(MLB/MILB)

"I tried to do too much, I think that's why I didn't have the good results," said Jimenez. "I'm going to keep working and I'm going
to try and control that (pressing)."

Now as far as what he thought about his timing being off. Jimenez said he's never dealt with that issue before.  "Not really, its the first time. It was good that it happened here in Spring Training." Jimenez says the White Sox haven't told him specifically what they want him to do in Charlotte. He added that he'll work on his total game, offense, defense and running the bases.

Lineup for today's 3:05 game vs. Dodgers, Camelback Ranch - NO RADIO TODAY

Daniel Palka - RF today(White Sox)
Leury Garcia   LF
Yoan Moncada 3B
Jose Abreu  1B
Yonder Alonso DH
Daniel Palka RF
Welington Castillo C
Yolmer Sanchez 2B
Tim Anderson SS
Adam Engel CF
Ivan Nova P


More later on WGN Radio.







Friday, March 15, 2019

Arizona, Hello!

So here I am, finally made it to Arizona after a few travel headaches yesterday. It's great to be back in the Valley of the Sun for Spring Training. The last time I was here was 2014, just before moving back to Chicago to start my second stint with the folks at WGN.

Today, the White Sox face the Cubs in a Cactus League game here at Camelback Ranch. We have the broadcast for you starting at 3:05 on WGN Radio. Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson will have the call, I'll stop by the booth in the bottom of the third inning and stick around in the 4th. Looking forward to that very much.

I poked my head into the clubhouse this morning and saw some of the new faces on this Sox team. Among them Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay, who were lockered by each other in one of the corners of the clubhouse.

James McCann (MLB)
I also met new catcher James McCann, who joined me for a few brief moments before a team meeting. Here are some of the things I gleaned from the conversation:
- He is very much looking forward to working with the young pitching staff of the White Sox...
- McCann was very happy to be staying in the division, due to a familiarity with it and the teams...
- He and Welington Castillo have already formed a good relationship...

Manager Ricky Renteria spoke to us before the game today and mentioned that he was happy to see what Eloy Jimenez did in camp. He said that Jimenez was going to go down to AAA and work on his timing at the plate and some of his defense as well. But Renteria has no doubt that Jimenez is still on track to do some work in the big leagues soon.

We'll have today's game, along with Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of next week on the air on WGN, so make a note of that.

Here's the staring lineup for today's game with the Cubs (3:05 CDT)

Leury Garcia  RF
Brandon Guyer LF
Jose Abreu 1B
James McCann C
Yonder Alonso DH
Yoan Moncada 3B
Tim Anderson SS
Yolmer Sanchez 2B
Adam Engel CF
Lucas Giolito P



Notes:
The Chicago Blackhawks announced that Jim Thome will drop the ceremonial puck at the Hawks/Canucks game at the United Center Monday night.  Fans are invited to attend a special pregame celebration in the UC Atrium. Since Thome hit 612 home runs, the first 612 fans to the atrium that night will receive a commemorative t-shirt.

Roster Moves: Outright Juan Minaya to Charlotte re-assigned to minor league camp, Randall Delgado also re-assigned to minor league camp. Sox 40 man roster stands at 39 now.




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fox Hits Home Run with All-Star Game Telecast/Cubs, Sox outlook

This one didn't count, but count the 2017 Baseball All-Star game among those that were very enjoyable to watch.   Fox was able to do things this year it couldn't in the past because the game counted.

In the past (since the 2002 tie in Milwaukee) the winning league took home field advantage in the World Series.  Ludicrous on so many levels. Enter new commissioner Rob Manfred and order was restored and the game went back to its original roots as an exhibition game. 

With so many young "faces of the game" on display, Fox was able to take us into their livelihoods while actually on the field.  Play-by-play man Joe Buck and analyst John Smoltz conducted interviews with Astros outfielder George Springer while he played left field and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper while he patrolled right in separate innings.  What followed was awesome. 

While interviewing Springer, normally a centerfielder for the Astros, the crew asked him about the difference between CF and LF.  Then with Giancarlo Stanton at the plate Buck deadpanned, "You better back up," to Springer who followed with “That’s my plan."  Buck then asked Springer if he gets amped up when a power hitter comes up to bat, "Yeah, and I'm about 200, 300 feet away." 

The Harper interview was even better.  Harper has been portrayed by some as a "spoiled brat" type player, but he embraced the time and showed well for himself.  He had a fun time with the "imposition" during the game.  Buck said something to the effect of "I'll bet you're good at multi-tasking", then the conversation shifted from baseball to the NFL.  Of course Buck is the lead voice of the NFL on Fox, so Harper said he felt like he was "commentating on the NFL Network" and shifted the talk to his team, the Dallas Cowboys.  "Hey Joe how's Dak (Prescott) going to be this year?", Buck then waxed poetic on the Cowboys quarterback and team. A pretty cool moment during a baseball game.
Bryce Harper interviewed on Fox in game (Courtesy Fox Sports)

Getting into this decade, the folks at Fox with MLB's blessing took to Facebook Live for an inning. Buck and Smoltz were on camera in the booth during the 5th inning.  Not sure if the casual fan enjoyed the look in, but I found it very interesting as a veteran of MLB booths.  The announce team was informed by their associate in the booth that after the inning they would be on camera on Fox.  Smoltz asked if they needed to wear their sport coats, and I think Buck said he 'had to" because his tie was so short. 

Fox tried to force a couple of things that maybe they should re-think for next year.  The interviews with the lead-off hitters for each team, Charlie Blackmon for the NL and Jose Altuve for the AL were uninformative and just not worth the effort to me.  Also the whole A-Rod on the field interviewing the National League infield seemed forced and didn't give me much.
Rodriguez interviews Arenado
(Courtesy Fox Sports)

There was a strange moment in the game.  Nelson Cruz came to the plate and took out his cellphone and asked National League catcher Yadier Molina to take a picture of the Mariners DH and home plate umpire Joe West.  Why? Because he could, "(MLB) didn't say I can't have a cell phone on the field so," Cruz said on Fox. "I'm a big fan of Joe West. He's been around for a while. I was like, I have to do this." West wouldn't have been my first choice for a photo op but oh well.
Cruz and West pose for picture in 6th inning (Courtesy Fox Sports)

Speaking of West, he had to be going out of his mind during this game.  The "inning breaks" seemed like they were double what a normal MLB game would be.  West has notoriously been a vocal critic of how long games take, yet he does nothing about it when umpiring a game.  Hmm.

Other quick thoughts about the game:
- What the heck was Yadier Molina thinking? I agree with Buck, it looked like he ripped off C3PO before the game.
Yadier Molina (Courtesy USA Today)

- The tribute to the Latin Hall of Fame baseball players was very cool.

- Is it me, or does Fox always seem to have too much "crowd noise" when doing interviews? Was very hard to hear some of the in game interviews handled from the booth.

- Glad to see that Commissioner Manfred is not opposed to bringing the game into this century and agreed to all the things Fox wanted to do and made sure this game was an exhibition as intended.

Why are the ratings so poor for the All-Star Game?
Ratings were a little better than last year's telecast but not by a whole lot.  Baseball has really harmed itself in the All-Star game ratings game and popularity.  What I mean by that is with the advent of Inter-league Play it's no longer a "novelty" to see teams from the opposite league in which you root for. Accessibility has also hurt the popularity of the game. It's not over saturation, but now you can subscribe to "Extra innings" or "MLB.tv" and see pretty much every game played in a baseball season.  That wasn't the case obviously when the All-Star game was a highly rated, must watch option.

Cubs/White Sox 2nd half outlook
It's been a strange first half for the Chicago baseball teams this year.  The Cubs have not been able to put anything together consistently and find themselves 5 and a half games back in the awful NL Central Division at the break.  The White Sox have an awful record, but the rebuild is continuing with some flashes of hope for the future.

Cubs:
For those that thought this year would be a "cake walk", you're finding out how wrong you were now. Last season was magical, this has been, well interesting.  The Cubs haven't won back-to-back games since winning 3 in a row June 18-20 at Wrigley Field.  The combination of a lack of starting pitching and consistent offense has spelled doom over the course of the first half.

I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle here and the law of averages would tell you that things will brighten a bit in the 2nd half especially for the starters with the return of Kyle Hendricks.  For me, I'd like to see Joe Maddon figure out a way to let the young players like Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Javier Baez more regular playing time.  The platoon system with Baez and Russell isn't working.  Albert Almora Jr also needs to play a lot more than he is.

Cubs will make a deadline deal to try and acquire a controllable starting pitcher, the price will likely be Schwarber.

Sox: 
Stay the course.  Things are going well with the rebuild. Fans are getting a chance to see the future of the club and it looks good.  Yoan Moncada hasn't even been up yet and there's some good arms in the farm system that will be along sooner rather than later.   38-49 sounds bad and it is, but in this case, the intensity the team plays with and the never surrender attitude instilled by Ricky Renteria makes it easier to take.

The Sox youngsters are being given the chance to succeed and fail at the big league level, both are critically important for their development as they move along.   Matt Davidson is showing power, Yolmer Sanchez is playing 2B well and providing some offense, and Carlos Rodon has looked better each time out after starting the year on the disabled list.

Next for the Sox is making a good deal for Jose Quintana.  He may wind up with the Astros after all is said and done and would bring back a nice bounty of young talent. 

Andy Masur is a veteran MLB play-by-play announcer, having worked with the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs broadcast teams.