Dan's Dugout: July Will Be Busy Month for Baseball • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: July Will Be Busy Month for Baseball

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Those fireworks in the sky indicate that baseball has reached the traditional halfway marker of July 4.

By now, teams have a pretty good idea of where they’re headed – both in the four weeks left before the trade deadline and for the balance of the season.

The 30 teams combined for more home runs in June than any previous month in baseball history and will probably break that record again during the dog days of August, if not before.

When the weather warms and humidity rises, the ball flies.

Gary Sanchez (left) and Aaron Judge will both be in the Home Run Derby Credit: Cesar Rivera/Latin Faces

Gary Sanchez (left) and Aaron Judge will both be in the Home Run Derby
Credit: Cesar Rivera/Latin Faces

By now, we know that Aaron Judge will probably join Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki as the third player to grab both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player trophy in the same season.

We also know that Judge and Cody Bellinger, the National League’s rookie rave, are serious threats to Mark McGwire’s freshman record of 49 home runs.

We also know that the home run deluge has made pitching even more prized than previously thought.

Any sane scout could see during spring training that Bartolo Colon was finished, a product of too much age, too much fat, and too many innings. Yet he still has serious suitors – or will the minute the disappointed Braves shove his rotund figure out the door.

Stephen Strasburg would be No. 1 on any staff that did not have Max Scherzer

Stephen Strasburg would be No. 1 on any staff that did not have Max Scherzer

Pitching is so precious that teams with only two solid starters are thriving. The Houston Astros, with Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, Jr., are blazing a historic trail in the American League West. And the 1-2 tandem of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg has put the Washington Nationals on a pennant path despite the complete absence of a dependable bullpen.

With so many off-days in the postseason, rotations no longer need to be five-deep. That’s why the Boston Red Sox could coast to the AL East crown even without solid contributions from Rick Porcello, last year’s Cy Young Award winner. The acquisitions of Chris Sale this year and David Price and Craig Kimbrel last year make all the difference.

Good managers help too. Cleveland’s Terry Francona showed last season that creative manipulation of his bullpen could go a long way – even to the tenth inning of World Series Game 7.

Francona’s reward, rather than a World Series ring, was the right to manage this year’s American League All-Stars.

His opponent, in the other dugout, will be Joe Maddon, who parlayed humor, instincts, and versatility into a juggernaut that took the Chicago Cubs to their first world title in 108 years.

Victories have not come easily for Joe Maddon this season

Victories have not come easily for Joe Maddon this season

They probably won’t repeat – you heard it here first – but it won’t be another century before they win again.

As for the trade deadline, general managers need to figure out fast whether they are buyers, sellers, or neither. Players on the verge of free agency, like Atlanta lefthander Jaime Garcia, are almost certain to depart as two-month rentals. A bunch of veterans from the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets, World Series opponents just two years ago, could also move.

With 10 of the 30 teams able to reach postseason play with the current wild-card system, only a handful of clubs consider themselves out of the running. That list includes the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, and the suddenly-sagging San Francisco Giants, winners of World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

With the All-Star Game, Hall of Fame Inductions, and trade deadline all scheduled for this month, July will have fireworks long after the Fourth has faded into memory.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Control artist Kenley Jansen couldn't control his temper

Control artist Kenley Jansen couldn’t control his temper

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen stirred a hornet’s nest when he criticized Los Angeles fans for failing to elect any Dodgers to the National League’s All-Star lineup . . .

Pine tar on the bat, a dead issue since the 1984 George Brett incident at Yankee Stadium, resurfaced in Milwaukee when plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt rejected bats used by Jonathan Villar (Brewers) and Marcell Ozuna (Marlins) . . .

Anybody notice that the Seattle Mariners promoted an outfielder named Boog Powell? . . .

Assuming experience counts more than statistics, the Texas Rangers made a wise gamble in acquiring 40-plus righthander Jason Grilli from the Toronto Blue Jays . . .

Proving that life does begin at 40, Fernando Rodney has been virtually untouchable this season as the late man in the Arizona bullpen . . .

Fernando Rodney has been untouchable Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Fernando Rodney has been untouchable
Image Credit: Bill Menzel

How did Michael Conforto make the NL All-Star roster over fellow Mets slugger Jay Bruce? . . .

Yoenis Cespedes, supposedly the big man of the Mets outfield, continues to suffer hamstring problems that are hampering his performance and ability to stay in the lineup . . .

With shortstop Trea Turner out with a fractured wrist and a bullpen that rates as the worst in the National League, could the Washington Nationals lose their grip on first place in the National League East? . . .

For a leadoff man, Boston centerfielder Mookie Betts swings a big bat, as evidenced by his second eight-RBI game in two seasons . . .

If Detroit is willing to trade long-time ace Justin Verlander, the Chicago Cubs seem willing to pick up the bulk of his huge contract . . .

Aaron Judge, front-runner in the AL Rookie of the Year sweepstakes, is the first Yankee since Derek Jeter in 2009 to garner the most fan votes in the All-Star balloting . . .

The Yankees are considering exploratory surgery for first baseman Greg Bird, who hit .451 with eight homers during spring training but went 6-for-60 in New York before ankle pain shut him down . . .

Ryan Zimmerman is one of three Nats in the NL's All-Star lineup Photo Credit: Bill Menzel

Ryan Zimmerman is one of three Nats in the NL’s All-Star lineup.
Photo Credit: Bill Menzel

Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman, starting first baseman for the National League, has not been an All-Star since 2009 . . .

Unless defending NL MVP Kris Bryant wins the final vote for the All-Star team, the only Cub on the roster will be Wade Davis, in his first year as Chicago closer . . .

Mazel tov to Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart, who gets a donkey from teammate Joey Votto for winning the fan election over Corey Seager (Dodgers) . . .

Royals lefty Jason Vargas is a first-time All-Star after being first in the majors to win 12 times . . .

Toronto bolstered its catching and offense by acquiring Miggy Montero from the Cubs . . .

Unsung Brewers closer Corey Knebel fanned 68 hitters in his first 39 2/3 innings . . .

Starting the All-Star Game earlier, or switching it to a weekend day game, should hike viewership, which sunk well under 10 million last year for the first time in half-a-century.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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