The Rundown: Home Run Derby Displays MLB Excess, Verlander Spouts Off, Juicing Suspicions Raised by Former Player

I’m not a big fan of the All-Star break and I actually spent my night binge-watching Stranger Things 3 rather than the Home Run Derby. I’ll usually represent from the sofa with a beer or two when Cubs players are involved, but have little appreciation for the annual contest otherwise. I heard Pete Alonso stole the show last night in a Derby that was allegedly historic.

If I’m being frank and just a little skeptical, the entire 2019 season has been a home run derby of sorts. We think know that the ball is juiced no matter how Commissioner Rob Manfred spins it.

“We think one of the things that may be happening is they’re getting better at centering the pill, (which) creates less drag,” Manfred told reporters recently. “In addition to that, there’s all these man-made issues: hand-stitched, where it’s stored after it’s made, where it’s stored at the ballpark, who puts the mud on the ball, how much mud they put on the ball.

“It’s really difficult to isolate any single cause. But we do think it’s a drag issue.”

Yeah, that’s it, drag coefficient. Somebody get me Manfred’s slide rule. Do we have NASA engineers designing baseballs now? Astros starter Justin Verlander called the Commissioner out yesterday.

“It’s a f—ing joke,” said the eight-time All-Star. “Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you’ve got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f—ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened.

“We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what’d he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”

To me, the number of home runs has become slightly annoying, if not downright boring. The Twins have 166 taters on the season and are on pace to obliterate the record set by the Yankees last season. The ’18 Yanks went yard 267 times and Minnesota is on a 307-HR pace. But is it just the ball?

There has been some chatter regarding the possibility that players may be doping again. I have to admit it has crossed my mind. Former player David Segui, who has admitted to using steroids during his career and since his retirement, thinks that about 60% of MLB players are currently juicing. That would seem to indicate that the likelihood exists that a few of your favorite players could be gaming the game. Still, it’s all just speculation and water cooler discussion at this point.

“I don’t know any professional sport where guys are tested more than ours,’’ union executive director Tony Clark said. “It puts us in position if there are things going on that light would be shown at some point of time.

“What appears to be common knowledge now – that there have been changes to the baseball – should be the focus more than the other.”

By the way, Stranger Things 3 is everything I’d hoped it would be. What a fantastic show. I’m not disappointed I missed Alonso’s performance. Was Brad Brach pitching to him?

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

Segui is championing for baseball to make PEDs legal.

The Red Sox and Yankees are reportedly interested in Mets starter Zack Wheeler.

The Astros, Twins, Brewers, and Braves seem the likeliest teams to acquire Madison Bumgarner this season.

These All-Stars will make attractive trade targets in the next three weeks. AL teammates Marcus Stroman, Shane Greene and Brad Hand may all be moved as the July 31 deadline approaches. You can add Giants reliever Will Smith to that group.

In a simulated All-Star Game, A’s 3B Matt Chapman leads the AL to victory with an extra-inning walk-off single. Of course, if the game goes to extras tonight we get to see another of Commissioner Manfred’s passion projects:  starting the inning with a free runner on second base. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

A 16-year old named Blaze Jordan won the High School Home Run Derby. If I had to make a bold prediction, I’d say he may have a shoe named after him by Nike one day.

On Deck

MLB decided to promote next year’s Cubs-Cardinals series in London with a photo of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina pretending to be the Beatles in their famous stroll across Abbey Road. Rizzo is even barefoot in the green-screened photo, meaning he is supposed to be Paul McCartney

Extra Innings

About that baseball…


They Said It

  • “It’s fun to watch [Báez ] play, man. I love watching him play ball. He plays his heart out every single pitch, every single play. It’s just awesome to watch. He plays ball like he’s a kid and has a great time doing it.”Mike Moustakas
  • “You like to think the game is clean, but you really don’t know who’s doing what.’’ – Dexter Fowler
  • “It reminds me of our era when everybody talked about the balls being juiced. The balls weren’t juiced, the players were juiced. Just like now. You’re seeing balls hit now in upper decks where not even the most juiced-up guys were hitting balls back in the day. You’re seeing scrawny little guys hitting balls 460 feet. Guys are hitting balls where Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire never hit them. You’re seeing these little guys with terrible swings go opposite field. The ball is hot, but come on, you think these home runs are just because of the balls?’’David Segui

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Hey Jude by the Beatles. If you really want to see some all-star fan interaction, watch the concluding refrain of this video. We call that a coda in the biz, by the way.

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