What will you be watching in the Olympics?
Makakilo: The event that best fits my schedule is women’s beach volleyball. It’s possible I’ll watch a few matches.
James: I have no firm plans to . However, I rarely do and then usually wind up watching 10-20 hours of Olympic coverage anyway. I suspect I will tune in for the women’s soccer medal rounds if the USWNT manages to get that far. Same for baseball and basketball on the men’s side. I used to tune in for all the gymnastics, but I just don’t have that sort of time to devote anymore.
Keegan: Swimming is always at the top of my list. It’s my next favorite sport behind baseball because I was so good at it. I maintain that Katie Ledecky is one of the most dominating Olympians, so she is a must watch. The women’s 100m backstroke prelims were earlier this morning, and the Olympic record in that event was broken in three straight heats, so that final will be very exciting. I’ve always been a big fan of the summer Olympics in general. Outside of swimming I will take in track and field, skateboarding, water polo, and some rowing. My TV will be fixated on the games.
Steven: I’ll probably only watch the main events, like the 100/200/400 meter dash as well as Men’s and Women’s Basketball. We’ll see how it goes further along.
Jim: I enjoy the sports that you don’t see the rest of the year. So far, it’s been archery, handball, fencing and skateboarding that we’ve watched, plus a bit of the gymnastics. We’ll probably also tune in for the rock climbing. I’m really not enthralled by swimming or running. The latter feels too much like NASCAR, in that they only turn left, and the former is just back and forth. :)
Dano: I don’t care so much for the summer olympics, so I don’t think there’s anything in particular that I’m going to make an appointment to watch. I’ve had the Olympics channel on this weekend in the living room, and I periodically wander through and see what they’re airing. Right now it’s women’s volleyball.
Should baseball and softball be part of the event?
Makakilo: After the 2004 Olympics, baseball and softball were formally taken off the list of Olympic events. As the host nation, Japan got baseball and softball added to this year’s event. They are not on the schedule for 2024.
New events were added this year. Breakdancing will make its debut in the 2024 Olympics. And the IOC is considering adding Competitive Video Gaming in 2024.
Perhaps the Olympics of the future will include many very short and highly entertaining events that target a teenage & young-adult audience. Could an Olympics version of baseball and softball be created and added to the Olympics? Maybe. Should it be created? No.
James: The politics of baseball going in and out of the Games has always bothered. Me. Baseball is one of the more popular major sports around the world. Yes, it should be included. And, since we have not yet adopted enough top-level women’s baseball leagues, yes, softball should also be included.
Keegan: Softball definitely should be. Baseball should only be in the Olympics if they can build it to what the World Baseball Classic is. I want to see the best players on the world stage.
Steven: Like basketball, it only works if the stars play. I just don’t see how the MLB would allow their players to skip out during the season. Of course, they could plan it around the All-Star break, with the WBC every 2 years and the Olympics every 4, but I just don’t see the approval from the owners.
Jim: I tend to think the Olympics needs them, more than the sports need the Olympics, especially in baseball’s case. We already have the World Baseball Classic as a country-based team event, and I’m not sure what the sport would get out of it. It would likely only be watched significantly in countries where the game is played anyway, so it’s not really going to be a great broadening of the sport’s base. I’d rather give the slot to a sport I can’t watch. Though probably not break-dancing, which will be debuting in 2024…
Dano: Like others, I’m not terribly interested in Olympic baseball if stars aren’t playing. I wouldn’t mind seeing women’s softball stick, though.
The D-backs are playing better since the break. What are the keys?
Makakilo: The keys were consistently good pitching plus consistently good batting. Details follow:
In the 8 games since the break, there was a 6-game positive pitching streak (6 or less runs allowed) AND a 6-game positive hitting streak (3 or more runs scored). The combination of streaks resulted in a win-loss record of 5-3 (prior to Sunday’s loss)!
James: Mostly, I think it is just health and a bit of migration towards the mean. With actual starters getting healthy enough to pitch deeper than the third inning, the team has seen an uptick in performance. It has also helped that they have played against the Cubs and Pirates.
Keegan: It’s very difficult to maintain that level of suckage as long as they did. Regression towards their actual talent level along with players returning from injury has helped. Specifically, pitching has improved since the All Star Break. 5.48 team ERA before vs. 4.18 after. .823 OPS against before the break vs. .745 after, along with an increased strikeout rate.
Steven: The team has gotten healthier, especially on the pitching side of the ball, and not relying on minor league pitchers helps tremendously. The offense has responded as well, with a 131 wRC+ vs 83 in the first half. The hot streak won’t continue and with trades on the horizon, it’ll be up to the youngsters to keep up the offense.
Jim: To be honest, playing poorer opponents to a large degree. They may have gone 8-7 over their last fifteen games, but seven of the eight wins came against other teams that are also below .500. Sweeping the Pirates at home was pleasant, but that’s a team which is 17-35 on the road this year. I do think getting something approximating full health is definitely a factor though.
Dano: I think it comes down almost entirely to having Widener, Gallen, and Bumgarner back and more or less functional, as well as the mediocre quality of our most recent slate of opponents. But with a starting rotation that actually resembles what we were expecting to have before the season started, we’re going to continue to have substantially better results than we did in May and June, I think.
The trade deadline looms. Predict who’ll be gone by this time next week?
Makakilo: Players who will be free agents next season are most likely to be traded. Assuming the oldest will be traded soonest, although time is getting short, I predict four players will be gone.
- Soria, age 37
- Cabrera, age 35
- Reddick, age 34
- Escobar, age 32
James: There’s who I would trade, and then there’s who has done enough to garner any sort of deadline interest. The players who I feel have done enough to make sure they have some sort of trade value, even if only marginal are:
- Eduardo Escobar
- Merrill Kelly
- Joakim Soria
- Asdrubal Cabrera (if he can prove health)
David Peralta should be traded as well. However, his very reasonable contract may actually still stand as an impediment to moving him. Kole Calhoun has only just come back from the IL. If he gets on a bit of a hot streak, he may well garner some interest given his plus defense and the pop in his LH bat. I’d like them to move Josh Reddick, but his bat is nowhere near potent enough for a team to trade for him as a corner infielder. But, YCPB, maybe the Diamondbacks get lucky and someone offers to simply take him for cash considerations. Tyler Clippard would be an easy player to trade if he had not suffered his first career injury. Now, I’m just not sure there is enough time left before the deadline for the Snakes to showcase him to teams. With a high workload, he might be able to get four or five appearances in by the deadline.
Steven: Escobar and Cabrera for sure, along with one of Caleb Smith and Merrill Kelly. There’s probably some others they’d like to trade, like Peralta, Ahmed, Bumgarner, but the down years from them all would mean it’ll be a straight salary dump at best.
Jim: Everything must go! Well, there are probably only a couple of the established major-leaguers that I would consider personally as being untouchable: Ketel Marte, Zac Gallen and Carson Kelly. Of the rest, how many would still be around the next time the team is genuinely relevant? I’m assuming that’ll be 2023 at the very earliest, since teams that lose 110+ games don’t rebound into contention often.
Dano: I’d bet on Escobar and Cabrera, like everyone else is saying. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ahmed gone as well. As much as it pains me, also, I’m bracing for Merrill Kelly to get moved also. I’m not quite so sure that’s gonna happen, though—he’s definitely going to be appealing for any number of teams, but given what the past couple of months have demonstrated in terms of our truly terrible organizational depth in terms of starting pitching, I think we might choose to hold onto him despite other clubs’ interest.
Can the Giants hold off the Dodgers in the NL West?
Makakilo: In my mind the odds are about 50% Giants and 50% Dodgers. On the other hand 538.com gives the odds of winning the NL West as 60% Dodgers, 27% Giants, and 13% Padres. Injuries could tip the balance. Trades at the deadline could tip the balance.
James:I’ve been skeptical of San Francisco’s ability to stay out in front since the beginning of the season. Nothing has really changed that. I think we have begun to see what injuries can do to the Giants, even minor ones. The Dodgers have been able to close the gap despite injuries, while the Giants are starting to show they need to improve their depth. Both teams have money though, so just about anything could happen at the trade deadline, which could alter the dynamic. Short of a big move by the Giants, I think the Dodgers finally take control of the division.
Steven: I’d bet against it unless something awful happens with the Dodgers and injuries.
Jim: The Giants keep surprising me in this regard. I’ve been expecting them to crack for at least two months, but they keep pecking away, and taking three of four in Los Angeles last week shows they have no intention of folding. Between the loss of Kershaw, Bauer and now Mookie Betts, this feels like the most vulnerable the Dodgers have been for a while. You have to go back to 2016 to find a time the Dodgers weren’t leading the NL West going into play on July 25.
Per Fangraphs, the Dodgers’ odds of the division haven’t changed much since Opening Day, dropping only from 70.2% to 68.0%. But that’s mostly because the Padres haven’t mounted the expected challenge, and currently sit 5.5 games back of the Giants. It does look like all three teams will make the post-season though. Put it this way: I’m definitely pulling for the Giants.
Dano: As someone who totally didn’t see the Giants coming at the start to the season, I’m really just shaking my head at the whole thing. They’re clearly not just a fluke either, so I’ll say sure, why not? Go Giants.
Assuming athletes were nude at modern Olympics (as there were in ancient times), which sports would be must-see or must-avoid TV?
Makakilo: My view is women’s curling is the most engaging spectator sport in the modern Olympics. Much of the contest is strategy: each move builds on previous moves and anticipates future moves. Much of the contest is execution. Surprises in execution cause bursts of emotion and impacts strategy. Curling is a must see.
James: Confining myself to the summer games, I would probably not stray ,much from my current interests. I have always been a sucker for combining grace and power. Frankly, nude gymnastics would just increase my likelihood of tuning into that sport. As for sports I would probably avoid, soccer and baseball/softball. I wouldn’t be thrilled about watching the athletes get torn to shreds through the simple act of playing the game. Ask the 1976 White Sox about sliding without pants. Now, expand that tenderness to athletes’ nether regions, or even just the torso as well, and I’m just not feeling it.
On the other hand, fencing would get very “interesting”. Sure, one can put a tip on the blade, but tips fall off. Also, the nub impacting the body, without padding, is still likely to leave bruising. I see lots of potential there for people to be interested in fencing as a borderline bloodsport. Not sure how much I would watch, but I would certainly understand if other people had a morbid fascination.
Keegan: Nude cycling would be a disaster.
Jim: Watching the skateboarding, we were surprised a) how often they failed to land their tricks (those YouTube videos are heavily edited, it appears!), and b) how little protection they were wearing. Doing the sport naked feels like it would be an all-you-can-eat buffet of meat crayons. I’d also be avoiding the men’s high bar. Far too much flapping around! But I think, after the initial shock wore off, it’d probably all become entirely normal. These are among the fittest people on the planet, so it might inspire folks like me to get off the couch. [And you can blame Ask Reddit for this question!]
Dano: Um, no thank you. That said, some of the racquet sports—badminton and tennis, for instance, would probably be amusing. Modern pentathlon, just because it’s such a weird event. Maybe taekwondo? Surfing? Anything involving the possibility of hard impacts with opponents or surfaces, or involving too much machinery (I second Keegan on the cycling, for instance) or pointy implements, please just no.