Baseball's "Hot" Topics

BASEBALL's "HOT" TOPICS

OUR MID-WEEK EDITION OF JIM SEZ GOES 'ROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES AS WE TACKLE A BATCH OF "HOT TOPICS" INCLUDING NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR CHATTER

By Jim Hurley:

Is it us or does this 2011 Major-League Baseball season have a strange feel to it as we begin to enter the so-called "dog days of summer"?

Consider the fact that the Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates sat atop the American League Central and National League Central divisions, respectively, while heading into Tuesday's action- now what would have been those odds prior to the start of this here-and-now campaign this late in the season?- while the likes of the cash-strapped Los Angeles Dodgers and the normally always-competitive Minnesota Twins would be complete non-factors in their respective playoff chases some 3 ½ months into the season?

Like we said ...who knew!

Still, there's plenty of juicy "hot topics" worth discussing as we wind our way towards the July 31st MLB Trade Deadline and we'll tackle them shortly in today's Mid-Week Edition of Jim Sez. First, however, this important message:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers release Major-League Baseball Winners each/every day and you can be part of all the action -- just remember to call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here and make sure you're all aboard for a summer filled with all our MLB winners! The calling/check-in times are after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays; anytime after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday Baseball action; and than anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the weeknight action. Now go ahead and pile up all your summertime Baseball winners!

Editor's Note: The National Football League inches closer to a resolution with its silly lockout and be reminded that- according to in-the-know-sources- the NFL Preseason schedule is expected to go on as planned although the August 7th Hall of Fame Game between the St. Louis Rams and the Chicago Bears does figure to get scratched. We'll keep you posted and than make sure you're all aboard for the NFL Preseason slate this summer as there will be plenty of Side & Totals winners for sure.

THE MLB REPORT

Now, let's get back to a batch of Baseball "hot topics":

Q: WHAT SHOULD MLB DO ABOUT ITS ALL-STAR GAME?
A: In the wake of last week's farce-like happenings- see 16 of 84 MLB players skipping the annual All-Star Game for one reason or another- it's high time Commissioner Bud Selig and his staff took stock in the so-called Midsummer Classic and do the only thing it makes sense to do:

Make the game all about money.

Say what?

Simply put, instead of making it about "home-field advantage" in that year's World Series- an idea that was a bad joke back in 2003 when initially instituted and thus remains a bad joke today- make it about money 'cause that's all that matters to the modern-day player. Make the winner's share three or four times larger per player than the loser's share and hereby take away all individual All-Star Game bonuses.

Consider that MLB players get bonuses for making the All-Star teams and than they don't even bother to show up for the game ...now that's a complete joke.

Forget about league pride and all this silly talk- make it about "moolah" and you'll see some real hardball played each/every All-Star Game. Hey, maybe even 3,000-hit guy Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees will decide to skip a vacation in Miami for a shot at playing for the American League squad. Stay tuned.

Q: WHAT BIG-TIME PITCHERS ARE EXPECTED TO GET MOVED PRIOR TO THE AFOREMENTIONED JULY 31st
TRADE DEADLINE?

A: No doubt that there are some "name" pitchers getting mentioned as trade bait possibilities these days but, sorry, we simply don't buy the notion that the Colorado Rockies are gonna ship RHP Ubaldo Jimenez to the New York Yankees nor do we subscribe to the belief that the Seattle Mariners will deal away either RHP Felix Hernandez nor kid righty Michael Pineda. Folks, all of the above will be staying put mainly because possible trade partners just don't have the necessary "chips" to make it happen. Still, there figures to be some significant movement of other big-league hurlers and prominent on the short list of starting pitchers who could/should get change-of-address include the following:

JEREMY GUTHRIE, Baltimore Orioles- No doubt the numbers were bleak while heading into last night's scheduled home start versus the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox as the down-on-his-luck Guthrie was 3-13 with a 4.45 ERA and there's no question the Birds will be entertaining some serious offers for this righty hurler who does have a nifty 80-to-36 K-to-BB ratio. It is highly likely Guthrie will get shipped to the NL where both the Cincinnati Reds and the Colorado Rockies have interest in his services.

MIKE PELFREY, New York Mets- It's becoming increasingly clear that the cash-short Mets will be "sellers" in this market and dealing away this righthander could net NYM a couple of decent prospects. Pelfrey (5-9, 4.67 ERA) has staggered through a rough year and keep in mind the Mets called him their "#1 starter" after it became known that LHP Johan Santana would not pitch till late in this 2011 season. Maybe the sinker-baller will thrive with a change of scenery and among the potential landing spots are the Chicago White Sox and the aforementioned Cincinnati Reds.

RYAN DEMPSTER, Chicago Cubs – Maybe all of the above here in this to-be-traded list won't knock your socks off but Guthrie, Pelfrey and this Chitown righty all could change the fortunes of their new teams. Dempster- who comes off a 2-1 Wrigley Field win against Florida in his only post-All-Star Game start last Friday afternoon- does sport a winning record (7-6) on a really bad Cubbies team and he could be a major innings-eater and winner with either the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.

Q: FINALLY, HOW DO YOU RANK THE TOP MANAGERIAL JOBS DONE IN THE NATIONAAL LEAGUE SO FAR?
A: Folks, you could make the argument that one of the NL Manager of the Year frontrunners isn't even on the job anymore (see former Washington skipper Jim Riggleman) but no question there's a great battle for the award at this- give-or-take- 100-game stage of the season- but right now we'd rank 'em like this:

Pittsburgh's first-year manager Clint Hurdle has to be the leader as his Buccos exited Monday's crisp 2-0 win against Cincinnati at 50-44 overall- the fifth-best record in the senior circuit. Hurdle has energized this fan base and this ball club and isn't it funny how "nobody" really wanted this managerial job last winter?

Arizona's Kirk Gibson would get our silver medal right now with his new-and-improved Diamondbacks at 52-44 overall following Monday's 3-0 win in the desert against Milwaukee. Gibson's given the D-Backs a major "change of culture" with an emphasis on fundamentals and playing hard with every pitch and don't you just know that 'Zona plays fierce just like its fiery skipper; Atlanta's under-the-radar Fredi Gonzalez has helped to lift the Braves to a 57-39 mark so far this year and who would have thought the post-Bobby Cox Era would have been so seamless? Put it this way: If Gonzalez gets his team into the post-season in 2011 and Hurdle/Gibson don't do the same, than at year's end you may want to flip the script and list "Gonzo" as the favorite for the award. Just how come nobody in the media is tossing bouquets his way these days? It is tough to figure.

P.S., if you wish to add a name here than trot out New York Mets manager Terry Collins who has done more with less thanks to all the injuries that include 3B David Wright, 1B Ike Davis and the aforementioned Santana. Collins- who looked to be an odd choice for the job- instead has been rock-solid and might have the Mets a handful of games above the .500 mark had LF Jason Bay done anything of note so far (he hasn't!).

NOTE: Catch our NFL News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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