• As Major League Baseball reached its traditional halfway point with the playing of its annual All-Star game, it’s as good a time as any to select the mid-season award winners for 2017:
    • National League MVP:  Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks.  For the past few seasons, Goldschmidt has been the best player nobody knows.  If he continues to play in the second half of the season like he did in the first half, everyone will know who he is.  His .313 batting average, 20 home runs and 67 RBI are all in the top-nine of the National League and is a main reason why the Diamondbacks are in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.  Honorable mention:  Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals and Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies.
    • American League MVP:  Aaron Judge, New York Yankees.  Yankee fans proclaim “Here comes the Judge!” when their right fielder comes to the plate and you can make the same statement about the rookie’s impact on the rest of the league.  Judge leads the American League in home runs (30), is second in RBI (66) and third in batting average (.329).  At this rate, the verdict on the AL MVP race is clear–All rise for Aaron Judge.  Honorable mention:  Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, Houston Astros.
    • National League Cy Young:  Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals.  In the closest race of all of the awards, Scherzer, at this point, gets the slight edge.  He leads the NL in ERA (2.10), strikeouts (173) and WHIP (0.78) and is third in wins (10), helping the Nationals open up a 9.5 game lead in the NL Eastern Division.  Honorable mention:  Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers and Zack Grienke, Arizona Diamondbacks.
    • American League Cy Young:  Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox.  When the Red Sox traded for Sale during the off-season, they were hoping to find the ace of their rotation.  So far, it’s been mission accomplished.  Sale, who opened the season by striking out 10 or more batters in eight consecutive starts, tying a major league record, leads the AL in strikeouts (178) and WHIP (0.90) and is second in wins (11) and ERA (2.75).  Without Sale, Boston certainly wouldn’t be leading the AL East at the All-Star break.
    • National League Manager of the Year:  Bud Black, Colorado Rockies.  No one, not even the most ardent Rockies fans, predicted that Colorado would contend for a wild card spot, much less a NL West Division title.  But Black, in his first year as the Rockies manager, has Colorado firmly esconsed in the NL playoffs with a 52-29 record and a 7.5 game lead for the second wild card spot.  Honorable mention:  Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers, Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers.
    • American League Manager of the Year:  Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays.  Last year at the All-Star break, the Rays were 34-54, 17.5 games behind in the AL East.  This year, Cash has the Rays 3.5 games behind in the AL East and holding the second wild card spot with a 47-43 record.  If Tampa can fix their inconsistent bullpen, Cash will find himself managing in the post-season.  Honorable mention:  Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins and A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros.
  • Meanwhile, for the fourth consecutive year, Reds fans mark the All-Star break as a time to determine what player on the current roster will be dealt to a contending team prior to the trading deadline at the end of the month.  In the past, the organization has placed a priority on trading those players with the larger contracts, and this year appears no different.  Given the fact that Joey Votto and his $22 million contract and Homer Bailey and his $19 million contract are untradeable for a variety of reasons, the best option for the Reds is to shop for a deal involving catcher Devin Mesoraco.  Mesoraco’s $7.2 million contract combined with the fact that the Reds have two other serviceable catchers , Tucker Barnhardt and Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner, on their roster making the major league minimum makes a trade involving the 2014 NL All-Star catcher ideal and a perfect scenario for a team looking to cut costs.  Unfortunately, the market for Mesaraco is weak, at best, considering he has played a total of 79 games since 2015 and is currently on the 10-day disabled list  with a strained left shoulder and with no scheduled timetable for a return.  That leaves starting All-Star shortstop Zack Cozart ($5.325 million) and closer Raisel Iglesias ($3.5 million) as the leading candidates to leave Cincinnati before the end of July.  Iglesias seems the likeliest to be moved, specifically to the Washington Nationals or the Tampa Bay Rays who are in need of a reliable closer.  Cozart’s future, on the other hand, is more difficult to predict.  There are currently no contending teams who are in dire need of a shortstop.  Only the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins can improve at the position, with the Diamondbacks the most likely suitor.  Regardless of the possible scenarios, one thing is for certain–Reds fans, for the fourth straight year, will witness one of their star players leave town in order to save money and obtain prospects.  Hopefully, one day soon, the shoe will be on the other foot.
  • For those of you keeping score at home, the Reds magic number to clinch the National League Central Division at the All-Star break is 83.
  • The Volume V Scoreboard Stumper answer was:  Dwight Gooden, Randy Johnson, Jake Peavy and Clayton Kershaw.  Here is the Volume VI Scoreboard Stumper:  Four active major league players have appeared in 1,000 or more games at first base.  Who are they?
  • July 1, 2017 came and went and by the end of the day, the New York Mets wrote a check to Bobby Bonilla for $1 million.  It’s certainly a check that won’t break the Mets’ bank and in today’s baseball, not a great deal of cash.  The thing is, Bonilla hasn’t played for the Mets since 1999 and for any MLB team since 2001.  The reason why Bonilla continues to receive a paycheck from New York, 18 years since he was last an employee, is, depending on your perspective, due to a savvy agent or because of a clueless organization.  After the 1999 season in which he finished the year with a .160 batting average, four home runs and 18 RBI, the Mets released Bonilla, despite owing him $5.9 million for the 2000 season.  Instead of paying him the remainder of his contract immediately and in one lump sum, the Mets wanted to defer the remaining salary to a later date.  Bonilla’s agent negotiated a deferred payment schedule buyout of the contract, with an eight percent annual interest rate that required the Mets to begin annual payments of $1.19 million in 2011.  The Mets have now made seven payments totaling $8.35 million, and thanks to the 8% APR, have 18 more payments to go until the contract is completed.  When it’s all said and done, on July 1, 2035, Bonilla will have received a total of $29.8 million for that final year of his Mets contract.  Better yet, if possible, for Bonilla, is that he is a resident of Florida, a state with no income tax.  Needless to say, it’s a good gig if you can get it.
  • With the baseball season more than halfway complete, you have to wonder if MLB Productions is considering the prospect of filming The Hangover:  Part Four–The Story of the 2017 Chicago Cubs.
  • Now that ESPN has apparently decided to hitch its hype train to Los Angeles Laker rookie guard, Lonzo Ball, how will LeBron James get any publicity or air time?
  • Like everyone else in the free world, I withdrew my name for consideration for the general manager’s position with the New York Knicks.
  • The only reasonable explanation for the unexpected results at Wimbledon 2017 which included Roger Federer winning his eighth Wimbledon title without losing a set, Venus Williams reaching the tournament’s final and Martina Hingis winning a mixed doubles championship, is that the tournament was relocated to Jurassic Park.
  • With NFL training camp just around the corner, make sure you pick up your copy of my book, Legends of the Jungle at IUniverse.com, online at Barnes and Noble or at Amazon.com.

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