Freedom of choice

The time has come, and Thursday marked the final day of fan voting for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. As a fan, I have been following the voting closely and the Royals’ fans attempt to get their entire roster into the game. However, I had not yet myself voted on the proceedings.

Now I have, and here are my choices:

National League

  • First baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona (.350, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 15 SB): He leads the NL in all four categories at the position. This is about as no-brainer as it gets.
  • Second baseman, Kolten Wong, St. Louis (.289, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 6 SB): This was a fairly tough call, with Miami’s Dee Gordon (.350, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 26 SB) and San Fran’s Joe Panik (.314, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB) having very nice years. But Wong’s been pretty clutch for the Cardinals, who have the best record in the NL.
  • Shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis (.301, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB): I waffled back and forth between Peralta and Panik’s double-play mate Brandon Crawford (.270, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 4 SB). I finally settled on Peralta because it’d probably be good for the team defensively to have that kind of familiarity up the middle, and with both providing similar pop Peralta’s average stands out.
  • Third baseman, Todd Frazier, Cincinnati (.283, 25 HR, 54 RBI, 8 SB): The New Jersey native is battling with Matt Carpenter of St. Louis (.275, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 1 SB) for the starting nod, and Frazier’s far more deserving to take the spot in his home ballpark with a career year. Nolan Arenado (.288, 24 HR, 68 RBI) gets a strong mention for an impressive first half, but Colorado’s third sacker will have to settle for coming in for the final innings.
  • Catcher, Buster Posey, San Francisco (.304, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB): Like first base, not really much competition in this category either, though it is worth acknowledging the first halves of Pittsburgh’s Francisco Cervelli (.300, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB) and LA’s Yasmani Grandal (.269, 12 HR, 31 RBI).
  • Outfielders, Bryce Harper, Washington (.340, 24 HR, 58 RBI, 3 SB); Starling Marte, Pittsburgh (.285, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 15 SB); Giancarlo Stanton, Miami (.265, 27 HR, 67 RBI, 4 SB): Harper and Stanton are locks, and it’s a real shame that Stanton will have to sit this one out after his recent injury. The third spot was trickier, and Arizona’s AJ Pollock (.300, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 16 SB) was nearly my pick. But I like to spread things around, and it’s hard to argue against Marte’s performance … and feels weird that it’s not Andrew McCutchen.

American League

  • First baseman, Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (.344, 15 HR, 53 RBI, 1 SB): Credit to Texas’ Prince Fielder for a first half I’m pretty sure no one ever thought he’d have again (.342, 12 HR, 49 RBI), but no way I don’t want the game’s best long-tenured hitter up there taking hacks to give us an early lead if I’m AL manager Ned Yost.
  • Second baseman, Jose Altuve, Houston (.298, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 23 SB): Altuve gets my vote to hopefully propel him past Kansas City’s Omar Infante (.230, 0 HR, 23 RBI, 1 SB) and put a respectable player at the position. While I think Altuve deserves to be there in Cincinnati, the person who should start but won’t is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis (.346, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 10 SB). At least I have faith he’ll be chosen a backup.
  • Shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, Boston (.289, 3 HR, 33 RBI, 4 SB): I couldn’t believe what a sorry crop of starters were listed on the ballot at this position, and the Red Sox youngster gets credit here for putting together a solid sophomore season on a terrible team and providing something to cheer about.
  • Third baseman, Josh Donaldson, Toronto (.302, 19 HR, 51 RBI, 3 SB): Baltimore’s Manny Machado (.303, 16 HR, 44 RBI, 11 SB) has made a great run to get to this point, but Donaldson’s been consistent all season for the Blue Jays and gets my vote.
  • Catcher, Stephen Vogt, Oakland (.295, 13 HR, 53 RBI): KC’s Salvador Perez (.267, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 1 SB) won this vote in a landslide, but I’m going to give the 30-year-old A’s backstop some love for a fine first half in again a somewhat weak field. I will note that former Braves perennial all-star Brian McCann (.265, 12 HR, 49 RBI) could get a spot on this team as a backup.
  • Designated hitter, Nelson Cruz, Seattle (.307, 20 HR, 48 RBI, 1 SB): The Mariners’ occasional outfielder was red-hot from the start and is my choice over Texas’ Mitch Moreland (.300, 14 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB) and the Yankees’ A-Rod (.280, 15 HR, 45 RBI, 1 SB) in an impressive bounceback campaign.
  • Outfielders, Brett Gardner, New York (.304, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 15 SB); JD Martinez, Detroit (.281, 20 HR, 48 RBI, 2 SB); Mike Trout, Los Angeles (.303, 21 HR, 44 RBI, 9 SB): Here as in the NL, Martinez and Trout were pretty simple picks. For the third slot, I could have gone with the people’s choice of Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain (.299, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 15 SB) or Baltimore’s Adam Jones (.295, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB) or credited a surprising resurgence from Minnesota’s Torii Hunter (.277, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 1 SB). Josh Reddick (.287, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 3 SB) has also had a nice year, but I was shocked when I saw Gardner’s stats and opted to go with some more speed with a little pop thrown in, like Cain but more so and lefty.

Feel free to let me know if I’m crazy, where I went wrong or even how great my picks are. I feel like the most questionable choices are ones where there was no clear choice so I’m comfortable with them. We’ll find out who actually gets in Sunday.

Voice of Harold

mlb_allstar_12Holy crap. I actually agreed with something Harold Reynolds said on “MLB Tonight.”

Harold used to be one of the people that made ESPN watchable, both on “Baseball Tonight” and elsewhere on baseball broadcasts. Then he was the face of Little League Baseball coverage, blowing up the kids’ performances to gargantuan size, then he got fired for sexual harrassment.

Reynolds resurfaced on MLB Network after ESPN settled his lawsuit, but seemed to have the opinion that any information that didn’t directly relate to having played the game meant nothing. He was paired with polar opposite and former ESPN colleague Brian Kenny on a new afternoon show, MLB Now, with Kenny very much a fan of stats and analytics and Reynolds basically saying those things don’t help much at all.

Analytics has become something of a divisive issue, with some sharing Reynolds’ disdain for them and saying that they cause people to ignore what’s right in front of them in on-the-field actions and evaluation and off-the-field work. This is often argued by those who simply don’t understand what analytics can provide, and so instead of trying to learn more about them they simply make fun of them because that’s what people do with things they don’t understand.

Needless to say, I believe analytics can be a very useful tool and most of baseball seems to be agreeing as teams create departments dedicated to trying to utilize this additional tool for player evaluation that will hopefully help bring home titles and help create dynasties.

Analytics isn’t really what this post is supposed to be about, but it is part of the larger point. I don’t listen to a lot of what Reynolds says, in part because he refuses to listen when analytics arise in discussions of the sport. But he said something Monday night in studio that I agreed with, though I’ll rephrase it slightly: MLB is trying to have the All-Star Game both ways, and it’s hurting the game and the sport.

Baseball’s midseason classic is an exhibition game, meant to be a reward for top performances of the first half of the season voted on by fans with selections made by players and coaches as well. Every team gets a representative, and managers try to play as many players as they can to give them a chance to experience the potentially once-in-a-lifetime event.

But ratings were dropping and interest seemed to be waning, so in an effort to bring gravitas and interest back to the game they made it count for home field advantage in the World Series for whichever league wins. In theory every player deserves to be there and should be a solid choice to come up in a key situation late in the game if need be, but by the same token Kansas City fans are trying to vote Royals second baseman Omar Infante into the game despite him being possibly the worst player at the position in the American League this year.

In addition, MLB is promoting the game and online voting for it with the Twitter hashtag #ASGWorthy, which is being used after players have particularly good individual games. Monday’s MLB Network mention with the hashtag went to the Reds’ Billy Hamilton after he went 2-for-4 and stole four bases. But Hamilton has no other numbers that make him worthy of an All-Star Game slot except for his universe-topping 40 steals, so again a contradiction arises.

If it’s an exhibition, then let the vote and first-half performances determine the roster and it shouldn’t count for anything. Guys have bonus clauses for making the game, and that’s logically tied to them doing big things on the field to earn such a selection. The top stars in the game should be able to draw fans, and if not then you need to figure out how to better market these players. But if it is going to count for something, let managers have more say in the rosters, let them manage it like a playoff game and give them the opportunity to put a guy like Hamilton on the bench to use as a pinch-runner late in a close game, or a Nelson Cruz to pinch-hit in a key spot.

While I still probably won’t agree with a large amount of what Reynolds has to say, the voice of Harold won’t be quite so grating for awhile and I’ll be listening to him a little more closely for awhile.

Royals

Kansas City closer Greg Holland likely won't be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game this summer, but a lot of his teammates are poised to represent the Royals next month if the voting holds. (Associated Press)

Kansas City closer Greg Holland likely won’t be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game this summer, but a lot of his teammates are poised to represent the Royals next month if the voting holds. (Associated Press)

As I’m typing this sentence, the American League voting for the All-Star Game makes it look like ballots were only handed out in Kansas City — even though ballots aren’t handed out anywhere any more.

Eight of the nine starting spots in the AL lineup are populated by Kansas City Royals, with only Los Angels Angels center fielder Mike Trout — the pride of Millville, New Jersey — breaking up a vast sea of blue.

The top overall vote-getter when the most recent numbers were released Monday was Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who had just over 7.2 million votes. Trout, the defending AL MVP having another stellar season (.297, 13 2B, 18 HR, 39 RBI, 47 R, 8 SB), is second in voting among outfielders and nearly 700,000 votes behind KC’s Lorenzo Cain (.287, 11 2B, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 38 R, 11 SB). Royals outfielders sit third and fourth in voting, meaning Trout’s the only thing preventing a sweep of the defending AL champs in the starting lineup.

Over 300 million votes have been cast at mlb.com, the only place voting now occurs for the Midsummer Classic. Kansas City fans have obviously hit the internet in droves to figuratively stuff the ballot box with their players, even someone like second baseman Omar Infante who’s barely hitting above .200 and is by more than a few measures the worst everyday second baseman in the league. Diminutive Houston Astros second sacker Jose Altuve (.290, 11 2B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 27 R, 17 SB) is running a close second, and is a much better candidate.

Altuve is one of the only players seemingly to have any shot of catching one of the runaway Royals before the voting deadline at 11:59 pm July 2. Detroit Tigers perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera (.344, 13 2B, 14 HR, 47 RBI, 37 R, 40 BB, 1 SB) is within half a million votes of KC’s Eric Hosmer (.296, 13 2B, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 34 R, 25 BB, 3 SB), and Nelson Cruz (.317, 7 2B, 18 HR, 41 RBI, 34 R) trails the Royals’ Kendrys Morales (.275, 18 2B, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 33 R) at designated hitter. No one else is within a million votes of second, and Perez stands nearly four million votes ahead of Oakland’s Stephen Vogt (.281, 7 2B, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 31 R, 35 BB).

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this situation, with only a cursory nod to the Kansas City fans and what they’ve accomplished. Most stories point out the 1957 All-Star Game, when Cincinnati fans went to the park in droves and voted seven Reds into the starting lineup. The reaction from baseball was swift, as commissioner Ford Frick replaced two of those players and then took the vote away from fans the following year. They didn’t get it back for a dozen years.

This is the first season that voting has been exclusively online, a sign of the changing times and also likely at least part of the explanation for the skewed vote totals. MLB has stated that it’s investigated the anomaly and found no signs of wrongdoing on the part of Royals fans, but it’s really ticking a lot of people off. If I were a fan of an AL team that was being slighted due to this, I probably would be too.

But I’m not, and I’m really not. By the end of the All-Star Game, most if not all position players will have played and I love that of all teams achieving this utter imbalance that it’s the Royals. There were a lot of people wondering how on Earth Kansas City got the Midsummer Classic in 2012, and then the city put on one of the best shows in recent memory with huge fan turnout and support that almost made you forget how MLB has done everything it could to make the game “count” and yet devalue it at the same time.

I would certainly like to see Altuve overtake Infante at second base so the worst player at the position isn’t recognized purely due to where he plays. But a) there will be growing pains as the league transitions to online voting only, b) after seeing the love for the Royals when they faced the Giants in the World Series last October this can’t be all that surprising and c) if you want to see a different player voted in, GO VOTE. It’s easier than ever, which Kansas City fans have taken advantage of better than anyone else.

There’s still two-plus weeks of voting left, and Cabrera and Vogt already seem to be making up ground while the Astros have started a campaign to get Altuve voted in at second. Maybe this Royals takeover at the (online) ballot box will spur a renewed interest from fans that perhaps should have been more involved but weren’t until the desire to dethrone Infante, Hosmer or Mike Moustakas hit them.

And while Kansas City isn’t New York, LA or Chicago and is part of flyover territory, how many players might see this outpouring of support from the re-energized fan base in the middle of the country and perhaps hope that some day they can be Royals?

A Dunn, a Deer, a real bad Deer….

Rob Deer is often referenced by baseball fans when try to come up with a woeful average guy who still has some value due to impressive power. There’s good reason for this, considering his historic distinction of the record for lowest batting average for a batting title qualifier since 1920 (the live-ball era) with a .179 mark in 1991 with the Tigers.

Deer did hit 25 homers that season, but just 14 doubles and, thanks to the horrific average, just a .386 slugging percentage to go with a league-high 175 strikeouts. (Baseball Reference did a nice little piece with a chart that you can check out here.) But with the pace being set now, Deer might finally be off the hook as future fans might invoke the 2011 season of Chicago White Sox DH Adam Dunn.

Adam Dunn went 1-for-4 Sunday to raise his season average to .160.

As the chart shows, through Saturday’s game (yet another 0-for-4, this one with three strikeouts) Dunn was on pace to obliterate Deer’s standard for futility, hitting .159 in over 300 at-bats with a league-leading 118 strikeouts which puts him on pace for over 200 for the year. Perhaps even more telling: After seven straight seasons of at least 38 homers, Dunn is set to finish short of 20 at this rate.

The signs might have been there last year, when Dunn belted 38 homers and drove in 103 runs, actually finishing 21st in MVP voting and adding a career-high 36 doubles. He batted .260, actually one of the higher averages for a guy who’s a career .250 hitter coming into the year and hit a career-best .267 in 2009.

But he also set a new personal mark for strikeouts with 199 last year while walking just 77 times, his lowest total since 74 in his second full year in the bigs with Cincinnati in 2003, when he batted a career-worst .215. That was also the last year he didn’t reach 30 homers, but he “only” struck out 126 times. His batting average on balls in play was just .237 — the lowest mark until this season’s .235.

The difference this season is obviously the strikeouts, and the combination has produced these historically bad numbers. And the White Sox don’t exactly have a ton of other options either, meaning that Dunn will likely continue to get the at-bats necessary to stay on the list and surpass Deer’s abysmal campaign.

On that Baseball Reference chart (which goes back to 1893), practically every other player is from the dead-ball era with one notable exception — new Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, who entered Sunday batting .186.

Dan Uggla is still hitting below .190 for the season, but has batted over .300 in the last two weeks and could finish with a fifth straight 30-homer season

Uggla’s season is different for a few reasons, however. First, the power is on par or better than Deer’s was back in ’91, with 15 dingers through 93 games. Also, his walk-to-strikeout ratio (31-84) isn’t as atrocious or even out of line with his career numbers.

The biggest thing for Uggla is that he’s actually showing signs of pulling out of his season-long funk. He’s batting .316 over the last two weeks with four doubles, three homers and six RBIs, seven walks and just nine strikeouts. That gives him an on-base percentage of .436 in that time, and a slugging mark of .719.

By contrast, Dunn has been even worse recently. Over the last 28 days, Dunn is hitting .088 with 35 strikeouts in 68 at-bats and just one double and two homers. His average on balls in play in that span? Just .129.

The White Sox signed Dunn to a four-year, $56 million contract in the offseason to acquire a reliable power source to anchor their lineup who would still be just 34 at contract’s end. Instead, they might have paid all that money for the answer to a trivia question.

Watch it, Buster

Jeff Berry is an agent, and he wants to protect his investment.

The Marlins' Scott Cousins collides with Giants catcher Buster Posey as he tries to score the go-ahead run in the 12th inning Wednesday night.

It’s understandable that, after watching one of his star clients get seriously injured in a play during a game, that he might initially react with the idea that there should be a way to avoid such an injury in the future. But when the injury happens to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in a collision at home plate as the Florida Marlins’ Scott Cousins is trying to score the go-ahead run in the 12th inning, there’s not much he can do.

Berry went so far as to contact both Major League Baseball — speaking to head of on-field operations Joe Torre, who broke into the majors in 1961 as a catcher — and the players union once he’d made further reviews of the play. The video does indeed support his contention that Posey was set up in front of home plate as Cousins was barreling toward him.

What is also clear from watching the video is that, while it’s true that Cousins went after Posey to knock the ball loose, it was in part because Posey was trying to catch the ball and lean backwards into the path of Cousins as he was heading for the plate. That ill-advised move is in part why Posey’s legs were in a position to be caught under him, allowing Cousins to break his leg and possibly cause knee damage.

Posey is likely done until August at the earliest, and Berry is upset about that. He seems more upset than Giants manager Bruce Bochy — a former Major League catcher — who said it’s a regrettable incident and one of the toughest plays in the sport, but he didn’t see things changing any more than Torre did. For that matter, neither does Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a highly-respected field boss who used to be a highly-respected backstop.

ESPN’s Buster Posey agrees with Berry that something has to be done, citing the millions of dollars invested in Posey by the Giants and his relative importance to the team. Posey notes that the book Moneyball helped change perceptions about baseball that had stuck around years beyond their usefulness simply because “That’s the way it’s always been done.”

But by that same token, umpires have been proven so fallible in recent years with the improvements of video replay and every game being televised everywhere now that for the sake of accuracy they could have been replaced by sensors and computers. Yet while Buster might be in favor of increased replay, to take the umpires out of the action entirely would affect the basics of the game.

Home-plate collisions are patently different from umpiring, I know. Careers are affected by these collisions, and this plus the everyday wear and tear on catchers got the Nationals to draft stud Bryce Harper and immediately make him an outfielder, not to mention have the Twins thinking about moving Joe Mauer out from behind the plate.

The thing is, for some like Mauer and perhaps Posey, what they bring to the position of catcher is an inherent part of their value. Move Mauer to right field as some have suggested, and he becomes Ichiro Suzuki without speed or as much defense, and maybe not even as much power.

It’s a decision every team has to make as to whether the dangers that come with putting on the tools of ignorance — they’re not called that for nothing — outweigh the benefits of having a star player in the lineup at the position. Olney argued that this kind of play in a game in May could keep Posey out of games in September now, but by winning that May game it might make the September game less necessary to win. Every game means the same, as does every win.

In the end, this event alone isn’t likely to spur major reform in the game. If Pete Rose’s violent hit on then-23-year-old catcher Ray Fosse to win an All-Star Game in 1970 — one that permanently injured Fosse’s shoulder, very likely altered and shortened his career and still causes problems — didn’t bring anything more than a little resentment from Fosse not for the play itself but for things Rose said years after the fact, then why this play?

Maybe Jeff Berry is having flashbacks. He was once a player himself at UNC-Charlotte — a catcher. And I can understand that he wants to protect other catchers, especially ones that he has a personal stake in. And with the rarity of home-plate collisions these days, maybe there is something to be done to help phase them from the game.

But it’s not a matter of playing too hard in May, or a dirty play on the part of Cousins. It’s simply an unfortunate incident that highlights one of the dangers of a non-contact sport.

Stupid is as stupid does

Watching high school baseball for a living allows me to see some plays that are … frowned on by coaches, to put it politely. I’ve also seen coaches make mistakes that hurt their teams, which they’ll often own up to after the game if they’re worth their salt.

At the major league level, mistakes are not always admitted after the fact. Even when it’s obviously not the smart play, everyone will leap to the defense of the offender in question.

That seems to be exactly what happened Tuesday after Texas Rangers third-base coach Dave Anderson sent Josh Hamilton from third on a foul pop-up near the Detroit dugout because no one covered home on the play. Hamilton charged for the plate and was met by Tigers catcher Victor Martinez returning from foul territory to take a throw and tag him out to end the inning.

That was far from the end of the issue. The problem was that Hamilton slid head-first into home and suffered a “small non-displaced fracture of the humerus bone just below his right shoulder,” according to MLB.com. He won’t even swing a bat for a month, and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

Texas Rangers star and reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton will miss up to two months after breaking his arm Tuesday on a questionable play trying to tag and score from third on a foul pop-up near the third-base dugout.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to baseball fans, or Rangers fans in particular. Hamilton is in his fifth major league season and has played at least 100 games in a year just twice. One of those was last year’s MVP campaign in which he played 133 games but basically missed September with two broken ribs.

Anderson said he was following the team’s mantra of being aggressive, trying to put pressure on the defense. But it was the top of the first inning. Hamilton had just given the Rangers  a 1-0 lead with an RBI triple … one that ended with him sliding head-first into third. Nelson Cruz was on deck and would have come to the plate with two out, the Cruz who’s hitting .273 with five homers and 10 RBIs after Tuesday’s game.

While Martinez and third baseman Brandon Inge went to make a play on the pop-up and pitcher Brad Penny forgot to cover home (big surprise), the foul territory around the infield isn’t all that deep. Martinez may have been out of position, but he wasn’t that far from home.

It would be one thing if Hamilton was on the move when rounding third, but tagging up he’s not nearly as fast and an alert Martinez headed for the plate as soon as Inge caught the ball and Hamilton moved from third. Inge easily fed him as he ran toward home, and Martinez made a nice diving play as Hamilton dove for home.

“As soon as the ball went up, I saw the catcher leave home plate and saw the pitcher was not covering home,” Anderson said. “I was telling Josh there was nobody at home plate. I thought we could try and steal a run. It was a tough play for the catcher, running away and catching a shuttle pass like that.

“I thought it was an opportunity — two outs, try to take advantage of it. That’s what we do, try to take advantage of things. When the ball is in the air and nobody is covering, go to home plate and see what happens.”

“I have absolutely no issue with Dave sending him,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “That’s a big tenet with Wash (manager Ron Washington) and what he teaches. We play aggressive baseball and take extra bases. The chance for him to get hurt on that play is minimal. I don’t think that had anything to do with it.

“I would encourage Dave to continue to be aggressive.”

But this team knows Hamilton’s injury history, and knows how hard it can be to get along without him. You know, the reigning AL MVP. By the way, Hamilton himself called the play “stupid” (both tagging up in the first place and sliding head first when he did, though he felt the head-first slide was the only way he could be safe). He didn’t want to do it, but listened to his coach.

It’s one thing to be aggressive, but you can easily be too aggressive, especially with a player as important as Hamilton. You don’t want to change the way you play when you’re off to a stunning 9-1 start like the Rangers were. But how much more can things change when your best hitter is taken out of the lineup for two months for an injury on a questionable play that was completely avoidable?

David Murphy was plenty serviceable as a fourth outfielder for the Rangers last season (.291, 26 2B, 12 HR, 65 RBI, 14 SB), and he’ll have to be at least that again in Hamilton’s absence if Texas wants to stay hot and keep the pressure on the rest of the AL West.

The Rangers went 19-10 without Hamilton last year, but I wouldn’t want to roll those dice again. In the end, if anyone knows a thing or two about bad decisions it’s Hamilton. I’m with him on this one. It was a stupid play, and the Rangers have to hope they don’t pay the price.

Another poll! Another poll?

Yes, I know. But this was something we talked about in the office tonight, how deep the National League Rookie of the Year field is, and when I looked at the stats it was even deeper than I thought. The AL crop is pretty limited, but the NL is very strong. I’m interested in what everyone thinks.