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Before assessing the present and focusing on the future it is appropriate to pay homage, of sorts, to the latest inductees to baseball’s Hall of Fame. As the oldest of the major sports’ Halls of Fame, baseball’s Hall in Cooperstown, New York holds a special place not just in American sports in general and baseball in particular but as part of American culture and society.

This past weekend the 2017 class was inducted with three outstanding players, one of the best baseball executives of the past half century and a man who was a team owner before serving as Commissioner in what may have been baseball’s most controversial era since the Black Sox scandal of a century ago.

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez each had lengthy and accomplished careers and put up numbers in line with their now fellow Hall of Famers. With no set or objective criteria for “what makes a Hall of Famer” there will always be valid points both for and against players elected, so all three of these deserving players had their detractors. But it would be hard to argue that any of the three were not among the best and most consistent at their positions during the majority of their careers.

John Schuerholz was an outstanding executive with several teams, most notably the Atlanta Braves. He was responsible for drafting and acquiring talent that led to the Braves making it to 14 straight post seasons from the early 1990’s to the mid-2000’s.

The most controversial of the inductees was Alan H Selig, better known as “Bud.” After owning the Milwaukee Brewers for several decades Selig became Commissioner in 1992. He oversaw many innovations in MLB including the introduction of interleague play, unifying the two leagues, which led to a centralization of umpires, and the introduction and expansion of the Wild Card.

 Not all of his stewardship went smoothly as he is often criticized for “turning a blind eye” to the use of steroids that significantly increased as the new millennium approached. Nor was his now-reversed decision to have the winner of the All Star game determine home field advantage for the World Series. He is to be praised for his decision to permanently retire Jackie Robinson’s number 42.

That last action may have the longest lasting impact going forward and will serve to educate and inspire generations of baseball fans to come.

Of course, the Hall of Fame is supposed to record for posterity the greatest players and accomplishments. The absence of Pete Rose and Joe Jackson, however, means visitors to Cooperstown a hundred years from now will be denied a portion of baseball history. Selig could have prevented this “ignorance of history” by allowing both to be included. Such is owed to future fans of this great game.

As this column is being penned, er, typed, the MLB trade deadline is just a few hours away. Over the past week there was a flurry of minor trades but nothing that could be considered earthshattering – or game changing for that matter.

Many of the teams in ­contention for the Playoffs added bullpen depth, and aside from Arizona’s trade with Detroit for J D Martinez a couple of weeks ago, perhaps the most noteworthy hitters on the move were Eduardo Nunez going from San Francisco to Boston and Melky Cabrera going to Kansas City from their Central Division rivals, the Chicago White Sox.

Oft injured power hitter Lucas Duda was traded by the New York Mets to Tampa Bay and in a bit of irony Duda’s first game with his new team was just a few miles from Citi Field as Tampa was at Yankee Stadium for a weekend series. Duda homered for the Rays in each of his first two games as a Ray but Tampa lost both of those games in the midst of dropping three of the four games in that series.

Monday began with the Yankees in first place in the AL East, a half game ahead of Boston and 3.5 games ahead of Tampa, as most teams had completed the first two thirds of their regular season schedules.

The AL Central is looking more like a two team race between Cleveland and Kansas City. The Indians started the week with a 2 game lead over the Royals as both teams had 9 game winning streaks end over the weekend. KC is 5 games ahead of third place Minnesota.

Houston continues to lead the AL West by a whopping 16 games and the Astros also have a 10.5 game lead over Cleveland for the best record in the junior circuit. But Houston has some concerns about the quality and depth of its starting pitching, which becomes a huge factor in the post season. It would not be a surprise if shortly after this column is submitted the Astros acquire a quality starter, perhaps Yu Darvish, who as of mid-Monday morning was considered almost certain to be traded. Oakland’s Sonny Gray was also being prominently mentioned as being on the move with the New York Yankees the leading contender according to most sources.

The interesting race in the National League is in the Central Division where the top four teams are separated by just 5.5 games. After taking two of three games over the weekend in Milwaukee the Chicago Cubs are atop the Division, leading the Brewers by 2.5 games with St. Louis 2 games further back and Pittsburgh a game behind the Cardinals.

Washington in the NL East and the LA Dodgers in the NL West each have commanding leads of more than a dozen games and might well clinch their Division titles shortly after Labor Day.

Here is a look at three weekend series.

Washington at Chicago Cubs: Washington has a solid rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez; all have strong seasons. Although Strasburg is on the DL he could be cleared to return during this series.

In games that match Scherzer, Gonzalez or, if available, Strasburg against Quintana, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester look to playing the UNDER if the Total is set in a non-wind affected range of 7.5 to 9. In such matchups also look to playing the underdog if priced at +120 or more. Should none of these seven named pitchers be the matchup, look to back the Cubs at -130 or less and to look OVER Totals of 9 or less.

New York Yankees at Cleveland: The Yanks’ acquisition of Jaime Garcia from Minnesota on Sunday was a stop gap move in case Sonny Gray was acquired, which turned out to be the case.

Cleveland’s ace is Corey Kluber and he can be backed against any Yankees starter other than Luis Severino if laying -140 or less. Likewise, Severino may be played against any Cleveland starter other than Kluber or Carlos Carrasco at a price of -150 or less. Carrasco can be played against other than Severino if laying -125 or less. Cleveland can also be played as underdogs of +130 or more in starts by Mike Clevenger or Danny Salazar against other than Severino. The Yanks can be played at -125 or less with any starter against other than Kluber or Carrasco. Look to play UNDER Totals of 8.5 except in starts by Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin or Trevor Bauer. In such starts look for OVER Totals of 9 or less provided the Yankees start other than Severino or C C Sabathia.

Milwaukee at Tampa Bay: The weekend’s lone interleague series pits a pair of teams in the middle of Divisional races but also on the periphery of making runs for a Wild Card. Milwaukee’s best starters have been the current DL’s Chase Anderson (expected to return by late August, Jimmy Nelson and Brent Suter. Tampa’s rotation has been led by Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and rookie Jake Faria. In matchups of Nelson or Suter against Archer, Cobb or Faria look to play the underdog if getting +110 or more and also to look UNDER Totals of 8 or higher. In starts involving one of those five named starters against any other starter play Milwaukee’s Nelson or Suter if laying no more than -120 or Tampa’s Archer, Cobb or Faria if laying -135 or less. If Tampa starts any other pitcher against other than Nelson or Suter the Rays can be backed at -120 or less.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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