Second half of MLB season to be interesting

Ken Morse

On July 6, 1933, Major League Baseball held its first Midsummer Classic at Comiskey Park in Chicago to coincide with the World’s Fair. The one-time only exhibition game quickly became a fan favorite, and major leaguers will come together Tuesday for the 89th All-Star Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

The All-Star selection process has varied over the years.

How many baseball fans out there remember punching out the old IBM card fan ballots presented by the Gillette Company while sitting down at Municipal Stadium watching the Waterbury minor league teams?

The fans chose the starting nine for the first All-Star game with the managers selecting the nine reserves. From 1935 through 1946, managers selected the All-Star teams. Fan voting was brought back in 1947, but a scandal in 1957 when Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot boxes, selecting Reds to every position except one, led then-Commissioner Ford Frick to discontinue fan ballots.

Fan voting was restored for the 1970 All-Star game. Today, fans, players and the commissioner’s office play a role in the selection process.

Over the years, MLB has tweaked the All-Star Game, including adding events.

In 1985, the All-Star Game featured the first Home Run Derby, which has become a fan favorite. However, over the years, the players have become disenchanted with the event, citing that it can create a Home Run Derby hangover.

Last year’s Home Run Derby winner, Aaron Judge of the Yankees, went on to bat just .179 with seven home runs in the 44 games following the All-Star game. Many players have been affected by this phenomenon in the past, leading to the decision of several big boppers to sit out this year’s event.

For over a decade, the All-Star Game decided home field advantage in the World Series — a change made after the 2002 All-Star Game ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings. The outcome of the game no longer decides home field advantage, thanks to a recent change in the MLB players’ agreement.

Speaking of the World Series, two of our three local teams have aspirations of adding to their championship legacy. The Mets, well…

The Mets started the season like a house on fire, racing out to an 11-1 record and staking an extremely early claim to first place in the N.L. East. But, it didn’t take long for their deficiencies to surface.

The Mets’ house is no longer standing. The Mets are 39-55 and 13.5 games back in their division with not even a glimmer of hope for a playoff run.

The same can’t be said for the Red Sox and Yankees.

The Red Sox and Yankees were touted as the teams to beat in the A.L. and they haven’t disappointed.

Boston leads the A.L. East with a 68-30 record, 4.5 games ahead of the Yankees (62-33).

Tampa Bay is third in the division and 18 games back. It’s safe to say this will turn out to be a two-horse race with an exciting finish as the Yankees play out the regular season Sept. 28-30 at Fenway Park.

Unfortunately, one of these two teams will end up in the wild card bracket and will need to survive a one-game showdown to advance in the postseason. The chances of the two meeting for the A.L. Championship is a strong possibility, and we all remember the 2004 series when Boston became the first team to battle back from a 3-0 deficit and win a series.

New York has a strong bullpen but only one starter, Luis Severino, which has shown consistency. They are built on the long ball, with Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, but the team’s .252 average was eighth in the league, and they do strikeout a lot.

Heading into last weekend’s games, the Red Sox were first in batting (.271), first in runs (502), second in home runs (130) and had the lowest strikeout rating in all of baseball. That coupled with a pitching staff that has two 11-game winners in Ricky Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, and two 10-game winners, Chris Sale and David Price, has them standing above all else with the best record in MLB.

Sustainability will be the key and that could come down to both bullpens. Heading into last weekend’s games, the Yankees had the second best ERA with the bullpen posting a 2.74, and Boston sported a sixth-best 3.19 ERA.

The Red Sox and Yankees should make for an interesting second half of the season around these parts. The dog days of August will soon be upon us and a wild September finish is in the offering.