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Rapid reviews of all 30 MLB ‘Players Weekend’ caps

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association have collaborated on something called Players Weekend, which runs from Aug. 25 through Aug. 27 and features brightly colored uniforms and caps. Players will have the option to put their nickname on the back of their jersey.

I was very much prepared to laugh at this, but then I saw Kyle Seager’s uniform.

And that makes up for absolutely any crime against fashion or tradition. I am in. Chase Utley’s is a delight, too.

Excellent. There are a lot of dandy names that we’ll have to unpack in a separate post. I’m guessing the idea is to make the uniforms bright and fun, and the nicknames are included so you can really get a sense of the players’ personalities.

Mm-hmm. I can sure get a sense of their personalities with those names, and that’s not even sarcasm. That’s the honest truth. But focus on the good nicknames.

Along with the uniforms, every team will have hats. Because it’s unlikely that you’ll pony up $200 for one of those uniforms, the hats are probably the most important change to you, the consumer. I have quick thoughts on those hats.

I’m not saying MLB needs to take two weeks off because of the All-Star Game or anything. But it would be nice if the Derby was on a Tuesday, and Monday was a real day off with the actual All-Star Game on Wednesday, and then MLB took the rest of the week including the weekend off. Come back Monday. Give the players, and the fans, and the media a few actual days off to rest and reset. We’ll all be thrilled when baseball comes back, and maybe we would have even gone and done that thing we’ve been meaning to do by the time it returns.

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Cam Fowler injury update: Ducks All-Star defenseman out 2-6 weeks with knee injury

Ducks All-Star defenseman Cam Fowler is out anywhere from two to six weeks with a lower-body injury, GM Bob Murray told reporters Thursday evening.

I hate to say six weeks, but it could be, Murray said. He could come around really quickly and he could not. We’ll know much more when the playoffs start.

Fowler, 25, played in all 80 games until Tuesday’s injury and has a career-high 11 goals with 28 assists and a plus-seven rating. He had to be helped off the ice and didn’t return after a knee-to-knee collision with the Flames’ Mark Giordano in the third period of Anaheim’s 3-1 win earlier this week.

Capuano, 50, has been on the Islanders’ bench since the 2010-11 season, when he took over coaching duties on an interim basis. He was hired full-time for the 2011-12 season and led the Islanders to a playoff berth in 2012-13, their first in six years.

In sum, Capunao went 227-192-64 in New York, including consecutive 100-point seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

In his seventh season with the Islanders, he was the NHL’s fourth-longest tenured coach.

The timing of the move is a bit curious, coming amid a 5-3-2 10-game stretch and one day after the Islanders shut out the Bruins. But the Islanders had regressed substantially from a year ago, when they finished 45-27-10 and won a Stanley Cup playoff series for the first time since the 1992-93 season.

Weight’s first order of business will be to figure out how to correct the Islanders’ goaltending situation, which was allowing 2.98 goals per game, and getting more out of the team’s top players. Islanders captain John Tavares leads the team with 32 points in 42 games.

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The Perfect Pitching competition involves pitchers attempting to hit as many bats as possible

This is obvious to the point where I’m going to mail it in. This is what I wrote when I graded the rumor that had Gray going to the Astros:

The A’s philosophy hearkens back to the old Branch Rickey quote, which is roughly Better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late. Trading their best players with years of team control is how they got Dan Haren for Mark Mulder, and it’s how they got Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson for Haren.

Then they traded Anderson for Drew Pomeranz, whom they traded for Yonder Alonso, who will bring back a prospect or three this deadline. This trade chain will live forever, and the point is that it’s an organizational philosophy to look the future, cheap seasons of a good player as something that enhances the value for another team, not the A’s.

Fans have often pointed to the NHL’s skills competitions as something MLB could integrate into its own All-Star festivities, and the KBO provides a blueprint. In particular, there’s the Perfect Pitcher competition and the Perfect Hitter competition. (There’s no Perfect Bunting competition yet, but I believe that if we keep insisting upon justice, we will get there as a people.)

The Perfect Pitching competition involves pitchers attempting to hit as many bats as possible, which, OK, doesn’t sound optimal, but the bats are batterless, and it would give Aroldis Chapman something to be good at again. This year, LHP Hyun-Seung Lee of the Doosan Bears won it in a ~sudden death~ round. Sudden death! This feels like a no-brainer.

There’s even something for those They-Fan DH Haters Club members out there: RELIEF PITCHER Yoon-Dong Kim of The Kia Tigers cleaned up at the Perfect Hitter competition. The event features hitters trying to hit balls off a tee to hit targets scattered across the field.

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Royals have won 8 in a row and might actually be good now

Back in May, it looked like the Royals were just going to waste their 2017 season. That was no small thing, either, as Kansas City had a number of free agents who could leave following the year, important pieces like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain. The last two months have been a revelation, though, with the Royals making up for a terrible start and then some to launch into the middle of the postseason chase right before the trade deadline.

Kansas City has now won eight games in a row, and sits at 53-47 after a 22-30 start to the year. They’re only 1.5 games back of the defending AL Central (and American League) champions, the Indians, and the Royals are also in possession of the second wild card, just half-a-game back of the Yankees for the first one.

So a deal that moves a pending free agent for prospects who can help them get what they really need, like a closer, setup man, or left fielder in a three-way trade? Now we’re talking. This makes a whole bunch of sense, especially if they’re confident that Weaver can pitch as well as Lynn right away.

It doesn’t have to be a three-way trade, either. The prospects coming back for Lynn just have to make them feel better about losing whatever prospects they ship out for bullpen/outfield help.

What the Royals would gain from trading for Lance Lynn
The Royals might have the most urgency of any team in baseball. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jason Vargas, and Lorenzo Cain are all going to be free agents after the season. Even if they can afford to sign them all — which they probably can’t — that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. This is probably the last run with this core. Win now, or forever hold your peace.

The Royals could use a starting pitcher or two, but they don’t have the prospects (or the inclination) to go after a cost-controlled fella like Gray. They can afford a rental. That’s all they should bother with.

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Ryan Kesler’s 6-year-old son Ryker scores goal on Canadiens’ Carey Price

Is it too early to say Ryker Kesler has a future in hockey?

The 6-year-old son of Ducks center Ryan Kesler demonstrated he might be following in father Ryan’s footsteps in 12 years or so. Especially if he can score on elite goalies like he did Saturday night.

It’s awesome to see the elder Kesler with a mile-wide smile while recording. NHL All-Star weekend is usually full of feel-good moments, especially considering this is Kesler’s second All-Star game appearance and his first since 2011 (then with the Canucks).

Canada has won every international, true best-on-best hockey tournament since 2006. But it’s a stretch that nearly came to an end in 2010 at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, when the United States pushed the host Canadians to the limit.

After a surprise victory in the group stages against Canada, the U.S. and its northern rivals met again in the championship game, with a chance for Canada to avenge its only tournament loss and clinch gold on home ice.

The teams would need overtime to decide a winner, though, and that set the stage for Crosby to play the role of Canadian hero.

Tavares is concerned with the Islanders’ never-ending arena issues and question marks, as well as the makeup of the roster moving forward. The former won’t be settled any time soon, while the latter is a work in progress with Jordan Eberle joining the team this year and the pursuit of Matt Duchene still hot and heavy.

It’s hard to believe the Islanders somehow won’t find a way to get their franchise player signed long-term by opening night, though. If they don’t, this will become a far bigger soap opera than Duchene’s in Colorado.

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Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin reaches 30 goals for 12th straight season

Alex Ovechkin has reached another historic milestone.

The Capitals winger and captain on Saturday scored his 30th goal of the season to help Washington top the Coyotes 4-1 for its fourth consecutive win.

Ovechkin, who scored on the team’s power play in the first period, joined Hall of Famers Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky as the only players in league history to score 30-plus goals in each of his first 12 seasons.

It’s very huge, obviously, Ovechkin said, via ESPN. It’s nice to be in history. But more history to come.

The Capitals, who have yet to win a Stanley Cup, sit atop the Metropolitan Division, leading both the Blue Jackets and Penguins by three points.

It is the standard against which all other draft classes are measured.

In 1989, the Red Wings landed two of the greatest players in NHL history with third- and fourth-round selections. Nicklas Lidstrom (No. 53) became one of the three greatest defensemen in the history of the sport and the best since Bobby Orr. Sergei Fedorov (No. 74) became one of the best two-way centers of the past 30 years and had a cultural impact on the sport that would be tough to measure.

Those two players alone would make it one of the top five or so draft classes in NHL history, but the Red Wings also collected defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov in the 11th round, Mike Sillinger in the first, Bob Boughner in the second and Dallas Drake in the sixth.

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MLB trade rumor grades: Ian Kinsler to the Brewers?

The Brewers are reportedly interested in adding Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler to their team, and you know what that means: it’s time for us to check into how believable and likely this rumor is!

ESPN’s Buster Olney is the one who originally reported that the Brewers are digging into the possibility of acquiring Kinsler, which, man, that’s a lot of couching in part of a single tweet. That’s the name of the game in July, though, and it’s why we’re here to break things down for you.

What’s weird about all of this, though, is that no one seems that upset about the balls potentially being juiced and homers being on the rise (and no one really should be). Baseball purists loved the steroid era, too, until everyone was told to please think of the children. Lowering the seams on the baseballs seems pretty harmless comparatively, so even the oft-vocal purists are happy with the results (or, at least, not upset enough by them so as to be heard). Lowering the seams is no different than raising the mound, other than the fact that it benefits hitters instead of pitchers, and baseball’s initial boom came from using a ball made from something other than rolled up wads of chewing tobacco stuffed into socks, so this isn’t even new territory in this regard.

And yet, MLB is on the defensive here and it’s unclear why. Fans like offense. Juiced balls means more offense, and without the moral conundrum that juicing players brought to the table. Just roll with it, MLB, don’t spend time searching for the real reason we’re seeing so many homers.

Manfred keeps bringing up cities he wants MLB to expand to, but he recently left a clue as to why he keeps bringing them up: MLB wants to use these cities as leverage in order to get teams like the Rays and A’s new stadiums, and we’re not going to see any expansion until that plan works.

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American NHL players may boycott World Championships to support U.S. women’s team

The NHL players’ association released a statement Friday saying its members fully support the United States women’s team in its ongoing labor dispute with USA Hockey, but some players appear to be willing to go further to back the cause.

Hockey agent Allan Walsh tweeted Sunday about rumors in NHL circles that American players might boycott the upcoming World Championships to show their solidarity with the women’s team, and USA Today Sports later confirmed such discussions have taken place.

Anybody losing their top player, it’s obviously a gigantic hole, Boucher said. But we’ve had games without Erik. We were playing it tight, and we have to play the same way. We don’t have the same breakout abilities. We don’t have the same taking the rush abilities, the transition into the offensive zone and all that … the power play … but I think as a team, our game won’t change. We’re playing the same way. We’re expecting our players to buy in.

Karlsson previously missed two games with a foot injury but returned Monday to record a goal and assist in a shootout loss to the Red Wings. He added another goal in Tuesday’s win over Detroit but failed to finish the game.

Karlsson leads the Senators with 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists) through 77 games and ranks fourth in the NHL in average ice time at 26:50 per game.

Ottawa can clinch the postseason with one point against the Bruins or losses by the Lightning and Islanders.

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MLB trade rumor grade: Zach Britton to Indians?

Over on Roster Resource, they’ve helpfully tallied up the needs of every contender. The Rays are looking for a setup man or a closer, the Red Sox were looking for a setup man, and the Royals were looking for all sorts of things that they’ve since acquired.

They need their players to get healthy, but once they do … yeah, it’s a pretty complete roster. The lineup is complete. The rotation is so complete, it has six pitchers in it. And we all know about the bullpen, which helped them come within a single game of winning the World Series. They don’t need to dump prospects to improve the team.

But, just hear me out on this one: What if they could take their super bullpen and make it a super-duper bullpen? Makes you think.

When Gray struggled mightily last year, the A’s were struck by the Fear of Grieve, and it must have been absolutely jarring. Young, talented pitchers disappear all the time. What if it happened to Gray? What if it already happened?

He improved, and his trade value soared. There are monsters under the Let’s Make a Deal box. The A’s would like the year’s supply of Turtle Wax and not mess with the box this time.

The Braves don’t have a window of contention that’s easily defined. They have prospects knocking on the door (Ozzie Albies, Lucas Sims, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Ronald Acuna), but the best hitters are hyper-advanced for their age, which means they could struggle in the majors for three years before anyone would even think of panicking. And the best pitchers are pitchers, which is super risky. The Braves might have the best collection of sad, young pitcher tales over the last decade, so you don’t need to tell them.

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Sidney Crosby responds to criticism from Senators owner Eugene Melnyk

Sidney Crosby doesn’t have much to say about Eugene Melnyk.

The Senators owner openly criticized the Penguins captain during a radio appearance on Friday, calling him a whiner and demanding a lengthy suspension after Crosby failed to draw a penalty for his slash of Senators defenseman Marc Methot on Thursday.

When asked about Melnyk’s censure during Pittsburgh’s morning skate on Sunday, Crosby wasn’t interested in discussing it.

I’m just going to leave it, Crosby said. He likes to hear himself talk, so let’s just leave it. It was four days ago.

The slashing incident left Methot with a grotesque finger injury that will sideline him for weeks. While the play may have deserved a penalty, it’s unlikely a suspension would be carried out.

For all of the great players this franchise selected in the late 1980s/early 1990s, they were kind of spread out across several drafts. The first draft for the franchise after joining the NHL was actually its best.

The Nordiques took a 1,000-point player with each of its first two picks as an NHL franchise with Michel Goulet at No. 20 and Dale Hunter at No. 41. Then the fourth pick at No. 83 was Anton Stastny, who had 636 points in 650 games. That’s a heck of a welcome to the NHL draft.

Pickings are slim here. Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek are the only players the Blue Jackets have drafted with more than 400 NHL points. The Nash and Voracek drafts were largely whiffs other than them, so it’s either a one-man haul or 2006 when they selected Derick Brassard, Steve Mason and Derek Dorsett. We’ll take Nash here.

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