Notes on the 2017 All-Star Game

So, FOX Sports is still using that football robot thing to lead in to a baseball game?

Is it just me, or does Alex Rodriguez sound like he’s reading off a teleprompter during the interview segments?

Nice segment honoring Latin Hall of Fame players. I wonder what an All-Time Latino Team would look like.

Anyone see Mike Trout? I know he’s rehabbing from a thumb injury, but he’s been playing rehab games, is the only representative of his team at the ASG, and was voted to start by the fans. He could have at least showed up in uniform….

Hey, FOX! How about showing the names of the reserves and coaching staff as they are being introduced? It would be a nice courtesy to the fans who haven’t seen these players before (and closed captioning is on too long a delay).

How about announcing the full umpiring crew? Pretty much every broadcast (TV *and* radio) takes a minute to run down the umpires for the game….

Finally gotten rid of that stupid “winning league in the ASG gets home-field advantage in the World Series” thing. I understand why it was felt to be necessary, but it’s should have been retired years ago.

Nice touch to have the gold stars with the number of ASG selections on the sleeves of the players. Did you notice that they were all single digits? Robinson Cano and Yadier Molina led the players with eight each (and given their ages, they’re not going to get many more). Looks like Henry Aaron’s record of 25 ASGs is safe (and not just because they don’t have two ASGs in a year anymore). I’m not sure what it says that we have no veteran players still playing well enough to be an All-Star. You have to wonder if all these young players will still be performing at anywhere near the same level in five years…. And how many of today’s players are “locks” on being chosen for the Hall of Fame?

The “in game” chats were kind of neat, but they will get tired very, very fast. Lucky for everyone that nothing was hit to a player while they were being interviewed….

Were the managers allowed to use the Replay Challenge? There wasn’t anything close enough for one, so we didn’t find out.

I wonder if Nelson Cruz is going to get reprimanded for the photo….

A nicely played, crisp, quick game. And not just because there was little offense. Pitchers were ready to pitch, hitters were ready to hit… And no visits to the mound or mid-inning pitching changes. Do you think Commissioner Manfred was paying attention?

Is it “All-Star” or “All Star”?

It was fun, wasn’t it?

Who Actually IS an All-Star?

Well, the voting has ended, and the teams have been announced – the starters as selected by fan voting, and the remaining rosters as selected by the Commissioner’s Office (taking into account fan voting, the need to have at least one representative from each team, and the need to have a balanced roster). To my dismay, I find that I got the number of players on each team wrong. It’s 32, not 35. That’ll show me….

Anyway, one can see the full rosters in many places. These are all listed by position. But what if they were listed by team? What would they look like? Let’s compare them with my selections, and see how off I was. You will also note that there are only 31 chosen players for each team here. The last spot is chosen in one final round of fan voting. We shall see…..

Don’t forget. The actual rosters are subject to change due to players being injured. Mike Trout will still be rehabbing by the time the game comes around; his starting spot has been given to Boston’s Mookie Betts.

NOTE: Italics indicate the starters as chosen by the fans.

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Who Wants to be an All-Star?

It’s been a fun and exciting first half of the season. Teams expected to be average (Rockies) are suddenly amazing; teams expected to do well are, well…. (Giants). Some players are maintaining their usual level of awesomeness (Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw), others have come out of nowhere (Aaron Judge).

With all that, there’s barely time to consider making an All-Star team.

But we must. Now, a few things have to be kept in mind:

1. The fans pick the starting position players and DH.
2. Each team must have a representative.
3. Each team gets a total of 35 players.

Those are the basics. You’ll want at least three catchers and two or three people for each of the other defensive positions. And with #2, each team has *someone* who is having a good season.

With that in mind, what would my All-Star teams look like?

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It Was So Hot

Where I live, we’ve just been through the first “heat wave” of the summer. Three days where the temperature was in the mid 90s. Needless to say, people are already whining about how unbearably hot it’s been. Wusses….

My personal approaches to “beating the heat” involve sitting around the house in my underwear (who’s going to see me?), listening to Christmas music (to distract me), and remember that it can be a hell of a lot worse.

It could be as hot as it was in the summer of 1936….

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Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan

Some years ago I was summoned to perform a civic duty at the Federal Courthouse in lower Manhattan. As it turned out, my judgment was not needed on a jury that day. So around lunchtime, I found myself in the oldest part of New York City on a lovely summer day. What else could I do but stroll around and explore? There’s quite a bit of interest there, if you know where to look.

Should you find yourself in Manhattan with half a day to kill….

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The Eurovision Camp Factor – II

Well, another Eurovision has come and gone. Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won everyone over with his passionate love song, “Amar Pelos Dios”.

But of course, no one watches it for the songs, right? You all want to see wacky staging and crazy costumes!

A few weeks ago, I posted a “Eurovision Camp Factor” scale, setting up scores from 1 (a basic, straightforward performance) to 10 (way over the top in everything). How did the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest turn out?

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Cinco de Mayo

I haven’t been seeing much in the way of advertising this year for any Cinco de Mayo festivities or promotions. Perhaps it has to do with the current socio-political environment, or maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places.

Be that as it may, the holiday is in effect “Mexican-American Day”, just as “Juneteenth” and “Columbus Day” are “African-American Day” and “Italian-American Day”.

Those gringos who think it marks Mexican Independence Day are way off. That happened on Sept. 16, 1810, when – taking advantage of Spain’s preoccupation with Napoleon – Fr. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla made the first cry of revolt against the hated Gachupines (native Spaniards) in the village of Dolores. Eleven years later, the Treaty of Córdoba (signed on August 24, 1821) completed the War of Independence.

This holiday actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A weak Mexican government found itself heavily in debt to European countries. Britain and Spain negotiated a settlement plan, but France decided to invade and seize control of the country. Outnumbered by roughly three to one, the Mexican Army dealt the French invaders a stunning defeat.

It’s not so much an “independence day” as it is a “coming of age” celebration (a Quinceañera, if you will) for the country, as it marked their first real victory over a foreign power.

So share some tequila with your friends and neighbors (and friendly neighbors), and and celebrate how much of what makes America great is that we’ll welcome anyone, especially if you bring something to the party.

Presidents Barack Obama (US) and Enrique Peña Nieto (Mexico) enjoying tequila in 2013. Photo by White House Photographer Pete Souza

Eurovision: The Camp Factor

Another Eurovision approaches, and commentators here in the US are, if they talk about Eurovision at all, will often bring up the “campiness” of the proceedings, and go on in a snarky attitude about how silly the whole thing is.

While it’s true that the show has been campy in the past (thanks in part to scoring rules that tended to favor spectacle), and still gets there occasionally, the acts you see are more like those who would appear as the musical guest on a late night talk show. The performances aren’t really different than what you’d expect to see for an act with a similar career arc (a few years in the business with an album or two under their belt) at a similar venue.

If you insist on watching the show for the campiness and not for the great number of fine performances, here’s a handy 1 – 10 scale for judging the Camp Factor of a performance (with examples from the past five years of Eurovision). There’s no “zero” score (or “nil points”, to use the Eurovision term) for campiness. Simply by association, you get a bit of campiness rubbed off on you.

(lots of embedded videos after the jump)

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Science Fiction Short Films

I’ve been a science fiction fan since high school. Not involved in “fandom”, but just a person who appreciates the story-telling potential of the genre. I also enjoy a good short film, as I have already mentioned here.

Science fiction is one genre that a lot aspiring filmmakers work in when they try out their skills. Sometimes, it leads to actual fame. Neill Blonkamp’s Oscar-nominated District 9, for example, was adapted from his short film “Alive in Joburg”.

Two years ago, award-winning animator Don Hertzfeldt released “World of Tomorrow”, a sixteen minute look into a strange future. When it came out, reviewers weren’t just calling it one of the best short films of the year, but one of the best films of the year in general. It was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Animated Short”, but lost to the more family-friendly and “multiculturally correct” “Sanjay’s Super Team”.

Well, there are awards specific to the science fiction community. Perhaps it won the Hugo Award for “Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form”. I looked. It wasn’t even nominated. The nominees for 2015 were all TV episodes.

The Hugos are given by fans, so it’s possible not enough of them saw it. Hertzfeldt released it as a “pay per view” item, and I suppose not enough fans wanted to bother coughing up the $3.99 to see it – assuming they even knew about it.

Well, I’m going to a local science fiction convention this weekend. I’m making it my mission to promote the incredible amount of wonderful work being done in short films, that can be seen (for free!) online. Instead of trying to remember names and URLs, or be so crass as to make a handout, I’d do a blog post and then just refer people here.

I don’t want to clog up your monitor, so I’ll give a list of films showing the quality and variety available after the jump.
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On Pitcher’s Wins – II

With baseball season beginning next week, it’s going to be a great relief to have something other than politics to talk about in everyday conversation. Now I could use this opportunity to discuss my picks for the Divisional Champions (Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Astros), but I really haven’t been paying attention to how Spring Training has been going. There are a divisions where things should be interesting (AL and NL East, AL West), but it will probably come down to which team stays the healthiest over the season. And of course once the playoffs begin, it’s almost impossible to predict an outcome.

So what else is there to talk about?

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