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>>Mets' Alonso Outlasts Fellow Rookie Vlad Jr For HR Derby Title

 

Baseball's profoundly impressive young talent base was on display at the 2019 Home Run Derby Monday night from Clevelands' Progressive Field as Pete Alonso of the Mets topped fellow rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays in the finals. 

 

Alonso becomes the third rookie ever to win the Derby, joining Aaron Judge of the Yankees in 2017 and Wally Joyner of the Angels, who was co-champion in 1986. Alonso triumphed despite having just the third highest home run total on the night (57). 

 

Alonso took home $1 million -- the largest prize in Derby history -- but Guerrero's performance will be the one everyone remembers. Through three rounds, including a marathon second round against Joc Pederson that went to three tiebreakers, Guerrero racked up a Derby-record 91 home runs on Monday night. Along the way, he set a single-round record with 29 home runs in the first and second rounds. Pederson tied that mark in the second round to force the tiebreaker.

 

Ronald Acuña Jr. also had an impressive showing as he hit 25 home runs in the first round before falling to Alonso in the second. In all, the eight contestants combined for 311 home runs, the most ever in a single Derby. 

 

>>Astros Ace Verlander Blasts MLB Over "Juiced Balls"

 

If you've been following along with Major League Baseball this season, you know the baseball is hopping over the fence at alarming rates -- and it's due in part to the ball itself. A combination of changes, including reduced seams and a more-centered "pill," have made the ball more aerodynamic -- capable of carrying further and at higher speeds than past iterations. Hence the league-wide home-run barrage that is threatening seemingly every record on the books. 

 

For the most part, pitchers have remained quiet on the matter. That changed Monday, when Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander used the All-Star Game to air his grievances with MLB and the new baseball. Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, Verlander said quote - "It's a f---ing joke. Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f---ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."

 

The regular-season numbers resemble what would happen if the Home Run Derby balls were used all year long. Over the course of the first half, teams homered 1.37 times per game; the record high entering this season was 1.26 times per game, set in 2017. Long balls are becoming more frequent in AAA as well. 

 

Obviously this isn't the first time MLB has faced these accusations. Rather, the charge seems to pop up every 10 or so years, like clockwork. There was the rabbit-ball epidemic of the late-80s, a slew of allegations in the '90s and '00s, and now this. (Japan had its own juiced ball scandal a few years ago -- and the league later admitted to being behind it.) 

 

Verlander, an eight-time All-Star who is starting his second All-Star Game on Tuesday.

 

>>Red Sox Among AL East Contenders Interested in Mets Starter

 

The Boston Red Sox are the defending World Series champions, but they would not qualify for the playoffs if the season ended tomorrow. Rather, the Red Sox will enter the second half some nine games back in the American League East and two behind in the wild card hunt. 

 

Perhaps predictably, Dave Dombrowski is doing his best to right the course -- including, evidently, seeking rotation help instead of waiting for the end of July, per Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic the Red Sox are seeking starting pitching.

 

The Red Sox have since been linked to numerous names, including New York Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, according to the New York Post. The Red Sox also reportedly had scouts at Detroit Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd's last start, and are almost certainly interested in the other usual suspects -- Madison Bumgarner and Tanner Roark among numerous others. 

 

The Red Sox will face some challenges in landing a starter. Foremost, they're already over the luxury tax number by nearly $37 million, per some estimates. Were the Red Sox to exceed the $40 million mark -- as they would with nearly any veteran addition -- they would be charged an additional surtax and would again have their draft pick dropped next June.

 

On top of that, the Red Sox have an underwhelming farm system after years of win-now trades and promotions. Baseball Prospectus ranked them last in the majors entering the season. MLB.com, meanwhile, gives just eight of their prospects a future potential of 50 or better -- meaning, essentially, a league-average player.

 

This isn't to suggest the Red Sox will come up empty in their search -- indeed, making a trade with the Mets for Wheeler would seem plausible, given he's an impending free agent having a subpar season. Those factors are likely, however, to limit the upside of what they can do.

The Red Sox entered this week ranked 18th in the majors in rotation ERA. Nathan Eovaldi is expected to return from the injured list as their closer. 

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