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Yesterday’s workout at Chase Field included more talk about the absence of players like Yankees SS Derek Jeter from tonight's MLB All-Star Game "than those actually playing,” fueling debate about "whether baseball needs to re-examine the game process,” according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Brewers LF Ryan Braun, unable to participate in the All-Star Game due to a calf strain, said, “An event like this isn’t quite the same when you’re missing a guy like Derek.” Jeter is one of 16 players “selected who will not play, with six pitchers disqualified after pitching Sunday.” D’Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall said, “I’m disappointed in players, without injury, who would decide not to come. It’s something, as an industry, that we need to find a solution for” (USA TODAY, 7/12). ESPN’s Karl Ravech noted there were 32 million votes from fans for the All-Star Game starters, “which means there’s a huge emphasis for the people to say, ‘You either fill it out or you text it in and these guys will respond.’" Ravech: "That lack of response is a big story. By the way, baseball and the players' association are aware of it. They know it’s a problem” ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 7/11).
OH CAPTAIN? In N.Y., Mark Feinsand cites an MLB exec as saying, “Derek Jeter has done everything right during his whole career. He was wrong on this one.” One source indicated that “not even Joe Torre could talk Jeter into showing up to the All-Star Game," as Jeter chose to "take three days to himself after his emotional week” during which he recorded his 3,000th career hit. Phillies Chair and Honorary President of the NL Bill Giles said, “It’s too bad that Jeter in particular is not here, because of what he accomplished over the weekend. I think it is a bit of a problem and baseball should study it” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/12). FOXSPORTS.com's Rosenthal & Morosi cite two sources as saying Jeter is not in Phoenix due to "emotional and physical exhaustion" from the 3,000 hit chase. However, Giants P Brian Wilson yesterday said that players "who are elected or selected to an All-Star team should participate in the festivities unless they are too limited physically to attend" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/12). Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said of Jeter, "He’s the face of everything right now in the sport after what he did on Saturday. He’s got to be there. I’m disappointed. This doesn’t fit into the whole Derek Jeter ‘I always know how to say and do the right thing’ image” (“PTI,” ESPN, 7/11). ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said MLB "is disappointed that Derek Jeter is not here," as he is the "face of baseball." Kurkjian: "I am really surprised he is not here because I know he really loves this event. ... We all understand that he is mentally exhausted from everything he’s been through here, and I’m sure his calf isn’t feeling 100%. ... But having said all that, I thought he would be here and I think he should be here” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/12). Baseball writer Murray Chass wrote Commissioner Bud Selig “needs to call” Yankees co-Chair and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner “and tell him, using his ‘best interests of baseball’ authority that Jeter has to be in Phoenix” (MURRAYCHASS.com, 7/10).
ALL ABOUT WHO'S MISSING: Padres P Heath Bell said, “If you’re hurt, you’re hurt. That’s perfectly fine. (But) come here to tip your hat (to the fans). It’s an honor to be here. I think sometimes when you make the team 10 (or) 15 times in a row, it just becomes like another game to you. This game is for the fans. They want to see us and want to have fun” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/12). In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt notes Braun, despite removing himself from the game, “felt obligated to attend the event after leading all NL players in balloting by fans” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/12). Braun said the All-Star Game does not lose relevance, but added, "It definitely loses some luster, especially when some of the big-name guys don’t come” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/12). Indians P Chris Perez said, “This is for the fans, and I feel like if you’re voted in from the fans, even if you’re not going to play, you should show up.” But White Sox 1B Paul Konerko said that fans “should give Jeter a break.” Konerko: “This is the one thing everybody should just let him slide. … The guy’s been doing it for a long time. … Maybe this should be the one time to give him a free pass instead of him doing everything for everybody all the time” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/12).
CHOOSING VACATION: Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez was asked to play in the game after the Phillies' Placido Polanco and the Braves' Chipper Jones withdrew due to injuries, but Ramirez declined the invite. Comcast SportsNet Chicago‘s David Kaplan said of Ramirez, "He said, ‘Well, if you would have asked me 24 hours earlier I would have gone, but I have plans in the Dominican to hang with the family.’ I find it to be disgusting and so out of touch with the fans of today.” Former MLBer Todd Hollandsworth said, “I really struggled to wrap my mind around it today. I think he's kind of misplaced his emotions in this situation. ... I really can't express my level of disappointment. I think he represents the Cubs, he represents the city of Chicago, not only does he represent himself. This isn't an individualized moment" ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 7/11).
CAN'T SEE THE STARS: In Denver, Troy Renck notes due to “all the dropouts and injuries, 84 players can claim all-star status this year.” That equates to "one in every nine” MLBers. Renck: “It completely devalues the honor and, worse, the best players still aren’t involved” (DENVER POST, 7/12). In Philadelphia, Paul Hagen writes the "only thing missing from this year’s All-Star Game will be, you know, stars.” Hagen: “That seems to argue against the idea that this is a meaningful game because homefield advantage in the World Series is at stake” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/12). In Minneapolis, La Velle Neal III writes under the header, “Missing All-Stars Would Make Great Team” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/12). In Toronto, Bob Elliott writes under the header, “Yankees Skip Stars Show.” While Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez had knee surgery yesterday, his teammates who were voted to the team "should be here” (TORONTO SUN, 7/12). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "I will make one exception: If you have an inner-ear imbalance you have to bring a doctor’s note saying you have an inner-ear imbalance and thus cannot fly. If you have a twisted knee, you can still show up at the All-Star game and you can be a part of everything” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 7/12).
THE NEXT PRO BOWL? ESPN's Michael Wilbon asked, “When did the All-Star Game get like the Pro Bowl where guys just say, ‘I’m injured, I don’t want to go?’ The Major League Baseball All-Star Game was something people wanted to participate in” ("PTI," ESPN, 7/11). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said the MLB All-Star Game “has become the new Pro Bowl." Plaschke: “The players don’t want the hassles of having to win home-field advantage on their shoulders.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "This used to be the grandest game of all. The Midsummer Classis is now just a dud” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/11). ESPN's Barry Larkin said, “If you’re an All-Star, you should be here to represent. ... It's a shame that we’re sitting here at the Midsummer Classic and we’re talking about guys jockeying either to not play or to try to play in this game" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 7/11). In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes the MLB All-Star Game has “sunk nearly to the level of all the rest.” Cowlishaw: “Too many star players would rather take the time off than embrace a game that was created for and is still driven by the votes of the fans” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/12).
WHY DOES IT STILL COUNT? In N.Y., John Harper writes Selig “insists on continuing this farce of deciding home field advantage in the World Series with this game, but how can it possibly count when so many players bail out at the first opportunity?” Harper: “How can it count when the likes of Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez are ineligible to pitch in Tuesday night’s game because they started for their respective clubs on Sunday?” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/12). In L.A., Kevin Baxter writes, “And they call this an All-Star game? How about a Some-Stars game? Better yet, call it what it is: an exhibition. … Here’s the clincher: If the game is so important, why is it so hard to get the biggest stars to play?” (L.A. TIMES, 7/12). In Akron, Jason Lloyd writes “despite his best efforts, Commissioner Bud Selig is still failing at making this game matter” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/12). ESPN's Peter Pascarelli said, “Everything they’ve done to the All-Star Game in the last 10 years has cheapened the actual competition of the game and at the same time, they’ve made the game have a meaningful angle to it which is absurd” (“The Scott Van Pelt Show,” ESPN Radio, 7/11).
STUPID HUMAN TRICKS: CBS' David Letterman last night introduced a “promo” for the All-Star Game during his monologue, saying, “The All-Star Game is not what it used to be. A lot of big-name players will not be going to Arizona for the All-Star Game, but it's still going to be exciting.” A video then aired, showing pictures of All-Stars that would not be at the game, with an announcer saying, “Get ready for the 2011 MLB All-Star Game. We don't have A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera or David Price. CC Sabathia, James Shields and Justin Verlander aren’t playing. Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain won't be there. Who will be on the field?” The video then scrolled through mock baseball cards of the following, with the announcer saying, “The Phillie Phanatic, the guy who caught Jeter's 3,000 hit (baseball card featuring Christian Lopez), the 80-year-old manager of the Florida Marlins (baseball card of Jack McKeon), Charlie Sheen (baseball card of Sheen as “Major League” character Ricky Vaughn) and this lucky Kansas City Royals groundskeeper (video of a Royals groundskeeper trying to cover the field and falling underneath the tarp)." The promo ended with the All-Star Game logo, and the announcer saying, “The 2011 All-Star Game. It's going to be sick” (“Late Show,” CBS, 7/11).
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday conducted his 11th annual Town Hall session at the All-Star FanFest and said he strongly favors the long-term retention of awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the winning league in the All-Star Game. First introduced in '03, the measure has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism by many players and the MLBPA at large, and is currently a subject within collective bargaining negotiations. But Selig said, "I hope it stays as long I'm around." The commissioner addressed several other key issues facing the game during the roughly 40-minute question-and-answer session. Selig again showed strong favoritism toward expanding the postseason field from eight teams to 10. But there remains no consensus on the proper format to accommodate an enlarged pool. "I can make a case for 10 -- no more than 10," he said. "Now the question is how many games you play to determine [a first-round playoff winner], and we haven't decided that yet."
LABOR TALKS: Like other MLB and union officials, he did not discuss the overall state of ongoing labor talks in detail. But Selig said sessions to date have been "constructive." Not surprisingly, he said a salary cap will not be pursued, as competitive balance in the game continues to grow without one. And Selig, as he has in the past, levied strong support for a worldwide draft and hard-slot compensation system for the MLB Draft. "I think what I'm most proud of in my commissionership is that we've had 16 years of labor peace -- unprecedented in baseball history," he said. "I hope that continues and that we have many more years of labor peace without interruption."
OTHER ISSUES: The Dodgers’ fractious bankruptcy situation became a brief moment of levity, as Selig joked, "At least we waited for the fifth or sixth question [in the Town Hall chat] before we got to the Dodgers." He did not offer much substantive comment on the situation, but acknowledged he has a "tough relationship" with team owner Frank McCourt. Divisional realignment has been a discussion of much media interest lately, but Selig signaled that has been a bit premature and overstated. "I've always had it on my mind, and I've talked to people about it from time to time. But is there anything imminent? No," he said. Meanwhile, instant replay, currently used for home run and boundary calls, will not see a major expansion, Selig said. He added the league "may make two more rather significant changes to the instant replay rule. But we're still discussing it." He did not go into any further details (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
IF I RULED THE WORLD: The ARIZONA REPUBLIC asked a roundtable of All-Stars what they would do if they were MLB Commissioner for a day. Brewers LF Ryan Braun said, “The game is really heading in a good direction. The most important thing would be to just avoid a lockout like some of the other sports. And just continue the momentum going. I think the game is moving in the right direction and it is in good hands." Cardinals LF Matt Holliday said, “I would make all the game times 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. I don't like these 3 p.m., 6 p.m., 5 p.m. games. I'd like to know if it's 1 or 7, especially with shadows.” Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw: “Oh, I throw my power around. … Maybe take the DH away for interleague. Just pitcher bias I guess. Change up the travel schedule a little bit maybe." Blue Jays P Ricky Romero: “I'd probably have a week-long All-Star break. That's what I'd do.” Orioles C Matt Wieters: "I would make the All-Star break four days instead of three days so every team gets that extra day. Even the guys here can take that extra day to recuperate" (AZCENTRAL.com, 7/11).
NFL and NFLPA negotiators will resume talks today on a new CBA, and the "biggest hurdle is the rookie wage scale," according to sources cited by Bob Glauber of NEWSDAY. Owners want to "see a dramatic reduction in rookie salaries -- particularly at the top end of the draft -- and players are resisting the idea." Players also want to "see rookies signed to a maximum of four years, which would allow them to test unrestricted free agency, and owners want contracts to last as long as five years for the top players in the draft." Negotiations between the two sides "still are described as tenuous by those involved, despite some optimism that a deal could be in place when the owners meet July 21 in Atlanta." A source affiliated with the NFLPA said yesterday, "It's close enough that there could be a deal. But we're far enough away that the lack of a deal shouldn't stun anyone." Owners are "scheduled to be briefed on the status of negotiations at the previously scheduled meeting in Atlanta, and some league and player officials say they believe a deal could be in place by then for ratification" (NEWSDAY, 7/12). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch reports the players are "accusing the owners of leaking optimistic updates as a way to heighten expectations among the fans and put pressure on the decertified union to accept a less-than-optimum deal" (N.Y. POST, 7/12).
TAKING THE FIFTH: ESPN.com's John Clayton cited sources on both sides as saying that the "debate in the rookie pool talks is over how to structure a fifth-year option for first-round draft picks." Under current proposals, "all first rounders would get four-year deals, plus an option year." That option "could be executed by the team after the third or fourth year of the contract." However, owners "want a fixed amount for the fifth year option." Owners also "talked about an escalator clause based on performance for the fifth year in addition to the fixed amount." Players want agents to "negotiate that fifth year when they do the contract," but owners do not (ESPN.com, 7/11). Agent Joe Linta said, "There has to be a trade-off if the owners are pushing on (less) guaranteed money. Players need less onerous restrictions on the length of their contracts. The bottom line is that the owners cannot have it both ways" (USA TODAY, 7/12). But ESPN’s Tedy Bruschi said veteran NFLers “are saying, ‘Finally -- finally -- there’s a rookie wage scale, because these rookies have been overpaid for a long period of time.’” Bruschi: “Now they’ll be rewarded for having NFL careers” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 7/11).
CHECKING THE SCHEDULE: In Chicago, Biggs & McClure note the Aug. 7 Bears-Rams Pro Football HOF Game is "in jeopardy with so much ground that must be covered." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said, "We have not identified a date by which we have to have an agreement to save the Hall of Fame Game. Time is admittedly running short, however." Biggs & McClure note if the owners are able to ratify the CBA by July 21, that "would seemingly make it difficult or even impossible for the Bears and Rams to report to camp July 22 -- as scheduled -- and have their first practices July 23." The early start for those two teams is designed to give them the "standard 15 days to practice before the first exhibition." There has been no indication whether the game "could be played with a shorter preparation period if only the first few days of camp are missed" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/12). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote if a CBA is ratified on July 21, "it would make sense to cancel" the HOF game. Seifert: "If the Hall of Fame game is the only on-field casualty of the lockout, it's a victory for everyone" (ESPN.com, 7/11). Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Stephen Holder notes the NFL lockout needs to end by Aug. 1 for the Bears and Buccaneers to play in London this season, as scheduled, and the July 21 timeline "would beat that deadline" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/12).
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Pro Football HOFer Gale Sayers said that the NFL and NFLPA "could have done more to help" former union President John Mackey, who passed away last week. Sayers said, "You know, John Mackey died at 60-something (69). (The NFL) could have helped him more, I felt. But they didn’t, and the players (NFLPA) could have helped more, and it didn’t happen" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/12).
MLS’ emphasis on “soccer-fanatical young adults, rather than soccer-mom families in minivans, is new” to the league, and it “is working,” according to Don Ruiz of the Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE. For Sunday’s Sounders-Timbers matchup, members of the Timbers Army “arrived early, cheered, sang, waved flags and chanted things that can’t be quoted -- or even adequately paraphrased -- in this newspaper.” One section of 500 visiting Sounders fans seated in an upper corner of Jeld-Wen Field “did their best to match them chant for chant, bleep for bleep.” MLS’ efforts to reach young adult soccer fans became a success “with the 2007 expansion to Toronto.” Toronto FC Senior Dir of Business Communications Paul Beirne said, “I don’t think it’s so much of a turning point as it is a progression.” Ruiz reported prior to Toronto, MLS “seemed to value the quality of a stadium over where it was located.” Teams such as FC Dallas and the Rapids “plopped their stadiums in the distant suburbs, surrounded by youth soccer fields in the hopes that those soccer-playing kids would get their parents to take them to MLS games.” The emphasis in Toronto, however, “switched to location,” as BMO Field is on the “fringe of Toronto’s buzzing multicultural downtown." Ruiz: "The fan base reflects that. It is adult. It is passionate. It drinks beer." Of the six MLS expansion cities since Toronto FC in ’07, “all but San Jose rank among the league’s top six in home attendance.” The Northwest teams “rank first (Seattle), third (Vancouver) and fifth (Portland) among the 18 teams.” Whitecaps MF Pete Vagenas: “I’m so proud of this league and the new teams that are coming in. ... Being a lifetime MLS guy: Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, I can’t say enough. The atmosphere in Seattle is obviously second to none” (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 7/11).
In DC, Steven Goff wrote WPS will "live or die on its own merits and business decision," but a FIFA World Cup title by the U.S. women's team "would draw attention to the U.S. players, all but one of whom plays on the six-team circuit." Never before has a U.S. women's pro soccer league "been in business when the national team won a major title." If the U.S. wins, WPS clubs "would have an opportunity to market their U.S. players right away and, perhaps, enjoy a box-office bump" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/11).
HEADING INTO LABOR? NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr yesterday said that he "doesn’t know when he will sit down with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to get the ball rolling on new CBA talks." Fehr said, "I’m sure it won’t be until the winter, but whether it is mid-winter or early spring, I think it is too soon to say. I’ve known Gary for about 30 years. Serious talks in terms of trying to negotiate a contract? No. Serious talks in terms of trying to get to know one another and begin to build a relationship? Yes" (TORONTO SUN, 7/12).
BETTER THINK TWICE: In Orlando, Shannon Owens writes, "NBA stars ruminating over the option to bolt overseas this fall if the lockout persists are in for a nice check. Make that a reality check. ... I haven't picked a side in this NBA lockout mess yet, but it's funny to think some NBA stars are willing to take less pay and perks overseas in the fight to get more at home." It also is interesting that stars like Nets G Deron Williams "want the structure of their jobs protected, but see nothing wrong with jeopardizing the jobs of current overseas American players" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/12).
ONE STEP AT A TIME: WNBA President Laurel Richie said that "league expansion isn't a priority now." In St. Paul, Tim Leighton notes league execs have said that the 12-team WNBA "would like to return to 16 teams," and Richie said that she is "encouraged by the financial stability of the WNBA." Richie: "I am encouraged that all of the key metrics are heading in the right direction, sponsorships are up, renewals are at an all-time high, and we are coming off four years of attendance growth. Our early data (shows) it will be a fifth" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/10).