Mix & Match Monday: Hey Now, You’re An All-Star (Sitting out the Game)

Major League Baseball has really been the first professional sports league to return to a pre-pandemic setting in 2021. Stadium are filling up again, there was a slight inconvenience to the schedule early on due to the virus, but everything has been staying on track.

Now, we’ve reached the All-Star break. The Home Run Derby and the game used to be appointment-viewing for me as a kid. As an adult, I still watch parts of them, but with the lack of enthusiasm I had in my younger, innocent years.

There are reasons to be excited for the game on Tuesday night. The biggest is Shoehi Ohtani, who has been a pitching and hitting phenomenon so far this season, as he starts for the American League and will also lead-off at the plate.

Outside of this, the All-Star Game has lost its muster of the years. There are several reasons why I feel this way.

One is obviously the introduction of Interleague play 25 years ago, ending the regular season segregation of the National and American Leagues. Another is cable television, which allows viewers to see the big names that generations before rarely got to see with network television dictating which games were covered. Along with those two reasons, there’s also the reality that players these days make more than enough money where they don’t care about winning the All-Star game, let alone playing in it.

Players like Jacob deGrom, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and other notable names have decided to sit out. On top of that, the unfortunate ACL tear for Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna Jr. this past weekend takes him out of the National League starting lineup.

The Home Run Derby is always a fun event to watch, but the All-Star game has lost its competitiveness. Major League Baseball tried the incentive of the winning league’s team getting home field in the World Series to make it better, but it didn’t.

Here’s your Mix & Match Monday: Week of July 12 Edition

-As a Pittsburgh Pirates fans, I wish I could be more optimistic as they held the first overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft Sunday night. Nothing against Louisville catcher Henry Davis, but just knowing the organization current ownership has no interests in spending money on good players, I fear he and other draft picks that work their way through the minors and make a splash in Pittsburgh will just end up with the Yankees or Dodgers at the height of their careers. Just look at Gerrit Cole.

Excuse me while I dump cold water on the Pirates draft, so far…

The Pirates have only made the playoffs three times since their NLCS appearance in 1992, and that winning period between 2013 and 2015 made me less cynical about the team, but once the 2015 squad lost in the N.L. Wild Card game, they blew the team up, doing its version of wash, rinse, repeat, which means several years or rebuilding and possibly making the postseason again at some point. The Pirates are not the only team that operates like this, but my distaste for Bob Nutting results in tunnel vision.

Also, the Major League Baseball draft is trying to hard to be like the NFL Draft. The concept that you hold the draft mid-season doesn’t make sense.

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-The Tampa Bay Lightning, as expected, won the Stanley Cup for the second-straight season, becoming only the second team to win back-to-back titles in the National Hockey League’s post-lockout era. The other being the 2016 and 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins.

In my opinion, the Penguins back-to-back titles is slightly more impressive. I would argue that because they had to play a full, 82-game season both years makes its more impressive, especially with the wear-and-tear the game has on teams.

If you want to make the argument the Lightning’s consecutive Cup wins is more impressive, you have a pretty good one. Dealing with a pandemic, winning inside a bubble with no fans in October 2020, and then having a shortened 56-game season with altered divisions.

The main argument: Which scenario was tougher?

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-After the events of the Euro 2020 Final, I had a mixed reaction. The first was feeling bad for England, at their 55-year International title drought continues, but also, the terrible reality that there would be some racists English fans who would direct their anger at black players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, after all three failed to score during penalty kicks, which decided the championship, and it happened.

Racism in European soccer isn’t anything new, and while FIFA and other organizations have pushed to end it, some use it as a weapon to express their anger and disappointment after a major loss like the one England experienced Sunday night.

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-It took forgetting black trash bags the fourth-straight time for me to start writing things down that I need at the store. Over the past week or two, I left the store without something I originally went in there to get. I got coffee beans, but forgot to get Stevia. I bought aluminum foil, but forgot the garbage bags. Getting old sucks.

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