July 7, 2023
On Sunday MLB announced the complete rosters for the 2023 All-Star Game, to be held in Seattle's T-Mobile Park. On the American League side, the Texas Rangers claimed four spots in the starting lineup: Jonah Heim (C), Marcus Semien (2B), Josh Jung (3B), and Corey Seager (SS) -- virtually the entire infield! Most of the other names are well-known, including two from the Tampa Bay Rays (1B Yandy Diaz and OF Randy Arozarena) and two from the Los Angeles Angels (Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani). Speaking of Ohtani, I happened to be watching watching when he hit that monster home run in Angels Stadium on Friday night. The estimated distance was 493 feet. The ball apparently landed in the void where the bullpen used to be, just to the right of the seating area in right field. I estimate that it traveled about 440 feet horizontally and struck the back side of that void about 35 feet up in the area.
Unfortunately, injuries will prevent several players from competing in this year's All-Star Game. The Texas Rangers' ace pitcher Jacob deGrom (formerly of the Mets) had Tommy John surgery last month, and will miss the rest of this season and part of next year. Also, the Angels' Mike Trout just broke a bone in his left hand, and he will be out for several weeks. And the Yankees' superstar Aaron Judge (OF) will be also unable to play, because the injury to his toe suffered while making a spectacular catch in Dodger Stadium on June 3 is worse than originally thought. After it was determined that he tore a ligament in that toe, his time on the injured list was extended to at least four weeks, a big blow to the Yankees' hopes of recovering during the second half of this season. Judge is considering having surgery on that toe during the off-season. See MLB.com. I have stubbed my toe badly a few times, causing permanent joint stiffness, so I can sympathize with Judge. Get well soon!
On the National League side, the Braves and Dodgers tied with three elected starting players each: Sean Murphy (C), Orlando Arcia (SS), and Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF) from Atlanta, and Freddie Freeman (1B), Mookie Betts (OF), and J.D. Martinez (DH) from Los Angeles. Nolan Arenado (3B) from St. Louis, Corbin Carroll (OF) from Arizona, and the incredible Luis Arraez (2B) from Miami round out the lineup. Arraez has been batting very close to .400 for most of this season, and has an outside chance of becoming the first player since Ted Williams in 1941 to break that barrier.
Unfortunately, only one Nationals player was chosen for the All-Star Game, pitcher Josiah Gray. He has done very well this year overall, but I think that the Nats' right fielder Lane Thomas was more deserving. He is currently batting over .300, with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs. Joey Meneses also deserved consideration, but he has fallen into a slump in recent weeks, and his average is down to .280.
Having swept the Miami Marlins, the Atlanta Braves' winning streak continues unabated, and they now have the highest winning percentage (.674) in the major leagues. The Braves look very hard to beat, and will certainly make it at least through the first round of the postseason this year. (After that, who knows? Their postseason history is less than encouraging.) A big factor in the Braves' surge is Ronald Acuña, who recently became the first major leaguer ever to hit 20 home runs and steal 40 bases before the All-Star break. In contrast to Juan Soto, his rival in the 2018 Rookie of the Year awards, Acuña has continued to rack up superstar numbers.
This week the Braves began a road trip in Cleveland, against the Guardians, who [briefly shared] (virtual) first-place honors with the Minnesota Twins, despite having a losing record. [They are now 43-44.] The Guardians actually beat the Braves on Tuesday night, putting an end to Atlanta's nine-game winning streak. This weekend the Braves play in St. Petersburg, Florida against the only other MLB team with a winning percentage over .600 right now: the Tampa Bay Rays. That ought to be one heckuva matchup -- and possibly a preview of the World Series!
Thanks to a grand slam by Stone Garrett (his second of the year!) and more gutsy performances by their relievers (especially Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey) on Sunday afternoon, the Washington Nationals bounced back from a humiliating 19-4 loss and beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4. They thereby prevailed in their third straight series, another sign of improvement after the awful first three weeks of June. Unfortunately, things then turned sour once again...
On Monday the Nats began a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at home in Our Nation's Capital, part of the annual Fourth Of July holiday celebrations. And I was there! (Or at least close by, on the National Mall in Washington.) As has happened so many times this year, the Nats had golden opportunities to take the lead but just kept blowing it. I won't bore you with the dreary details. Jake Irvin was tagged with the loss even though he had a quality start of 6 innings pitched and just 3 runs allowed. The Nats lost 3-2 on Monday, 8-4 on Tuesday (as Patrick Corbin had another lousy outing), 9-2 on Wednesday (as Josiah Gray failed to live up to his All-Star billing), and then 5-4 in 11 innings on Thursday, as Mackenzie Gore's bid to recover from his awful night against the Phillies on Saturday was cut short by a rain delay of nearly two hours. The Nats took a 3-2 lead in the 7th inning thanks to a solo home run by Alex Call, who was just called back up from the minors, but then the Reds tied it. In the bottom of the 9th, Riley Adams hit a one-out double, and then C.J. Abrams hit a long fly ball to the right field fence but Nick Senzel made an awkward leaping catch to save the game, which went into extra innings. On the very first pitch in the top of the 10th, that same guy hit a 2-run home run, and that turned out to be just enough for the Reds to win it. As a result, the Nationals were swept in a 4-game series for the first time this year. [That indignity befell the Nats twice last year: August 4-7 at Philadelphia, and July 1-4 at home against the Marlins.]
To their credit, the Reds have surged into first place in the NL Central Division for the first time in years. The combination of aging veteran slugger Joey Votto and young slugger Elly De La Cruz is a very potent one. Just a year or two ago, the Reds were a bottom-dwelling bunch of misfits, much like the Nationals are now. Things change!
Speaking of sweeps, all 29 other MLB teams have won a series in a sweep since the last time the Washington Nationals did so. That was against the Pittsburgh Pirates, in Washington from June 14 to 16, 2021. And I was there!
After the seats and other salvageable items were removed from RFK Stadium late last year and in the early months of this year, abatement of asbestos-containing materials began. In June, the D.C. government gave official approval [for the] demolition of the structure itself, and that work has now gotten underway. In the photo below, you can see the void where the football press box used to be at the top of the upper deck on the first base side. It was quite sad to see the once-grand rusting hulk first hand. For further updates, see eventsdc.com . Apparently, RFK seats are still available for sale; maybe I'll get myself one after all...
On a related note, the impending sale of the NFL Washington Commanders (formerly known as the "Redskins") franchise by Daniel Snyder to Josh Harris raises the likelihood that the land on which RFK Stadium sits could be made available for a new football stadium. (NFL owners will meet to formally approve the transaction on July 20.) Such an outcome is by no means guaranteed, as there is much political opposition from neighborhood groups as well as other political factions in the District. But it is the most logical place for such a stadium to be built, and it is probably just a matter of how much the new owners of the Commanders are willing to pay for the stadium. Rep. James Comer (R-KY) [plans to introduce] a bill to facilitate the use of the federally-owned land to allow a new stadium to be built there. [This legislation seems intended to smooth over differences between the D.C. government and Congress over law enforcement policy, etc.] (See the Washington Post)
I thought I had sent a batch of e-mail messages to various people before I embarked on my grand tour of the western states, but apparently they were not delivered. After trouble-shooting, I will try again in the next couple days. My apologies for being incommunicado.