If you are one who loves the annual July All-Star Game and its accompanying festivities, then this is a good week for you. If not, then it’s probably an excruciating four-day layoff from a regular season that’s featuring games of increasing importance. But it’s only a few days. Even in the absence of games that matter, there will quite possibly be some big baseball news that comes before the week is through, including information from the Biogenesis case. So, even if you are counting down the days to the return of real games, there is plenty to watch for this week.
Home Run Derby – Love it or hate it, it’s here. The traditional Monday-before-the-All-Star-Game exhibition will feature eight of the game’s most exciting power hitters putting on a show in New York. There are baseball fans who hate the Home Run Derby and believe those who participate sometimes suffer in the second half because they change their swings too much. There are plenty who make it through just fine, and it’s always fun to see the game’s best have some laid-back fun. This year, Robinson Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder will represent the American League, while David Wright, Pedro Alvarez, Michael Cuddyer, and Bryce Harper will swing for the National League. That is a combined 155 homers this season. With batting practice-style pitching on display Monday night, the bombs will be sure to fly.
All-Star Game – Like the Home Run Derby, the All-Star Game itself seems to bring lukewarm excitement to baseball fans. There was a time when the players took this game as seriously as any other. Just ask Pete Rose and Ray Fosse. Times have changed. Major League Baseball has tried to reinvigorate the game by putting home field advantage in the World Series on the line and, while it may have helped a little, it’s still more of a showcase than anything else. So, after going unbeaten for 13 years in the All-Star Game, the American League will be looking to pick up its first win since 2009 on Tuesday night. And Mets fans will get the treat of seeing their young star Matt Harvey start Tuesday’s game at Citi Field. It will end up being one of the highlights of this season in Queens.
Trade Watch – There have been a few notable swaps so far during this trading season, but nothing that would qualify as a blockbuster. This week, we may see the closest thing to it. It’s something that’s been expected for a while, but, as CBS’s Jon Heyman reports, Cubs executives have reportedly told pitcher Matt Garza that he will be traded, which could happen between the All-Star Game and the weekend. There have been numerous teams which have inquired about the Chicago star, but Heyman believes the Indians and Rangers are the frontrunners, while the Cardinals and Red Sox are also in the mix. Garza may not be a true ace, but he has pitched like it lately. In his last six starts, he has gone 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA. That will make both the Cubs happy, since his price tag is going up, and his future team, as they will be getting a solid, top-of-the-rotation type of starter.
Biogenesis Watch – ESPN reported last week that MLB is getting ready to hand out its punishments in connection with the Biogenesis scandal. Commissioner Bud Selig will deliver them sometime after the All-Star Game, and they could come as soon as the end of this week. The big question that remains is how long they will be suspended for. Selig is reportedly looking at 100-game multiple-offense bans for Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, but the MLBPA will surely appeal those since neither has been suspended in the past. According to the New York Daily News, though, Rodriguez met with league and union officials and is possibly considering a plea deal. The paper also reports a 150-game suspension might be the best that A-Rod could hope for. Braun may also consider a plea deal for himself, as well. Regardless of what happens with these cases or when, once the All-Star Game passes, it’s a near certainty that the Biogenesis saga will be in the headlines in some form or another for the rest of the season.
Matchups of the Week – With regular season games halted for a few days, there is a shallow slate of series on tap for the week, with each team getting one over the weekend. Among the most notable are Dodgers-Nationals, Rays-Blue Jays, Yankees-Red Sox, Pirates-Reds, Orioles-Rangers, Athletics-Angels, and Diamondbacks-Giants. In terms of intriguing pitching matchups, the Los Angeles-Washington series is full of good ones. New Dodger Ricky Nolasco opens it against Stephen Strasburg on Friday, followed by Zack Greinke and Gio Gonzalez on Saturday, and capped by Clayton Kershaw and Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday. The New York-Boston series will also see Hiroki Kuroda and John Lackey squaring off on Saturday, followed by C.C. Sabathia and Jon Lester dueling on Sunday night. And, while the Phillies-Mets series isn’t exactly must-watch TV at this point in the season, a Cliff Lee-Matt Harvey matchup on Sunday afternoon could be very entertaining.