Berhalter insists U.S. ‘happy with the result’

PHILADELPHIA — Gregg Berhalter said he was happy to see the United States advance to the semifinals of the Gold Cup, despite his side struggling Sunday in its 1-0 quarterfinal victory over tournament upstart Curacao.

The U.S. scored the game’s only goal in the 25th minute, when Weston McKennie nodded home Christian Pulisic‘s cross, then absorbed some pressure in the second half to advance to the semifinals against Jamaica, which defeated Panama 1-0 earlier in the day.

“We’re happy with the result of this game,” Berhalter said in his postgame news conference. “That should be said.

“I’m proud of the guys for their effort, and now we move on to Nashville. We know it’s going to be a good game. Jamaica is a good team, a robust team. We know they have some good attacking pieces.”

Berhalter was also full of praise for Curacao, which reached the knockout rounds of the Gold Cup for the first time.

“I think they played an excellent game; you see they have clear ideas in their buildup,” he said. “Their goalie [Eloy Room] is excellent with his feet.

“To me it’s a great story, a small country like that being able to come to the tournament and play the football that they play. It was great.”

– U.S. Player Ratings: United States barely bailed out by Pulisic
CONCACAF Gold Cup: All you need to know
Full Gold Cup fixtures schedule

While Berhalter was pleased with the outcome, this was a labored victory for the Americans. But he made no apologies for the scoreline, especially given the nature of knockout-round games.

“I think you guys wanted us to go out there and beat them 5-0, but we knew it was going to be a difficult game,” he said. “You look at all the quarterfinals in this tournament, and Copa America, they’re all tough games. They know there’s no tomorrow if they lose.”

The U.S. did have some chances to add to its lead following McKennie’s goal, but couldn’t capitalize, including one chance from Pulisic in the 57th minute where he failed to hit the target. But for long stretches, the attack looked static against a stout Curaçao defense.

“We kept them hanging around, and they were very compact,” Berhalter said. “For us, it’s about moving them out of position. Their midfielders were man-to-man, against Weston [McKennie] and Christian [Pulisic], and our job was to move them out of position to now find Gyasi [Zardes] or one of our wingers in the pocket.

“Especially in first half, there were times when that came off and it was OK, and then there were others when there wasn’t enough movement to execute that.”

The U.S. also looked vulnerable defensively in transition, as Curacao was able to play through the home side’s press. Curacao also looked dangerous from set pieces, with Darryl Lachman‘s 42nd-minute header sailing just over the bar.

“We were trying to press the goalie, who was very calm with his feet,” Berhalter said. “He was able to switch fields, find the free players and able to cut it back against the pressing guy to find the free player. And we didn’t commit enough numbers forward to the press.

“In particular when we’re coming from one side now, releasing our weakside winger to join the press, we didn’t do that well enough in the first half.”

Given that the U.S. press wasn’t working, Berhalter opted to play more conservatively in the second half, daring Curacao to break the Americans down with the U.S. trying to grab a second goal in transition.

“We weren’t going to press the goalie,” he said. “You saw in the first half that the goalie didn’t want to play the ball forward. We were happy not to fall into the trap of trying to press them.

“It would cost us more energy than it was worth, so we dropped off and mostly didn’t press goalkeeper.”

Berhalter added that this approach was why forward Jozy Altidore didn’t play a part in the game. The strategy ultimately worked, though goalkeeper Zack Steffen was forced to tip Leandro Bacuna‘s 84th-minute drive over the bar.

Now the U.S. will face Jamaica in the semifinals, a team, Berhalter said, that “has quality.” Having lost to the Reggae Boyz 1-0 in a friendly in early June, Berhalter said he’s aware of what his side will need to do to prevail in Wednesday’s meeting in Tennessee.

“I think it’s about speed, speed of moments, having a mentality to turn their defenders, having a mentality to disorganize their defense and get behind their defense,” he said.

“We could have been more aggressive with that tonight for sure, and that’s something when I think about the last Jamaica game, it’s a very similar type of performance where we had an early flurry, could have scored a goal, and then after that we lacked speed and the movements to get behind their back line.”

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NBA free agents: Team-by-team lists for 2019 and 2020

Who are the free agents this year and next year? We have the lists.

Trade tracker

Key: Restricted = Restricted free agent; Player = Player option; Team = Team option; ETO = Early termination option


ATLANTA HAWKS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


BOSTON CELTICS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


BROOKLYN NETS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


CHARLOTTE HORNETS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


CHICAGO BULLS

2019 free agents

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CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

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DALLAS MAVERICKS

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DENVER NUGGETS

2019 free agents

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DETROIT PISTONS

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GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

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HOUSTON ROCKETS

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INDIANA PACERS

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LA CLIPPERS

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LOS ANGELES LAKERS

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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

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MIAMI HEAT

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MILWAUKEE BUCKS

2019 free agents

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MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


NEW YORK KNICKS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


ORLANDO MAGIC

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


PHOENIX SUNS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


SACRAMENTO KINGS

2019 free agents

2020 free agents


SAN ANTONIO SPURS

2019 free agents

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TORONTO RAPTORS

2019 free agents

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UTAH JAZZ

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WASHINGTON WIZARDS

2019 free agents

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Meghan Markle, Prince Harry To Host Private Christening For Son: Report

Washington DC: 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, are all set to forgo another royal tradition, which has been quite popular, over the past years.

The couple is planning to host a private christening for their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where they married in 2018, and where Harry was christened in 1984, reported E! News.

The baby boy’s baptism will be a private affair, royal sources told the Sunday Times, as cited by E! News. So people can’t expect any fan gatherings, and more importantly, any candid photos of the baby boy outside the venue.

However, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry may post some pictures of the royal baby on their Instagram account following his baptism. Traditionally, the royal family releases their own portraits from the christenings.

Forgoing public appearances and photo opportunity outside christenings isn’t unusual for the royal family. However, in recent years, Harry’s brother Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton treated fans by allowing the press to take candid pictures of them and their family arriving and leaving the christenings of their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

The couple also debuted their kids publicly by appearing with their children outside the hospital hours after their births. William and Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana and their father Prince Charles did the same.

The brothers’ cousin’s Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie were also captured with their parents Sarah, Duchess of York and Prince Andrew, Duke of York outside before and after their own christenings.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are yet to appear with their son in a public place or show his full face to the world. They offered a glimpse of him via a small press photo-call at Windsor Castle, days after his birth.

The Sunday Times quoted sources close to the royal couple as saying that the pair considers their son to be a “private citizen” and that they intend to keep many details of his life personal since he is not in the direct line of succession.

“Privacy is more precious to Harry than to almost any of the other member of the royal family. As Archie is not an HRH (His Royal Highness), he feels he has every right to strictly police his son’s privacy,” the publication quoted a source as saying.

The royal couple welcomed their son on May 6.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Explosion Rocks Diplomatic District Of Kabul, Dozens Injured

Kabul: 

Dozens of people were wounded with fatalities feared as a powerful explosion rocked Kabul early Monday, targeting an area of the Afghan capital housing military and government buildings, officials said.

The rush-hour explosion sent a plume of smoke into the air above the Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of the city, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

An AFP reporter said he could hear gunshots shortly after the blast.

“Dozens of wounded were taken to hospitals from today’s blast in Kabul,” health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar tweeted.

The area was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, while the nearby “Green Zone” diplomatic area was put on lockdown, with no one allowed in or out.

The heavily-secured neighbourhood is home to some military and government buildings, including one shared by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and defence ministry, as well as the Afghan Football Federation and the Afghan Cricket Board.

Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman, told AFP that the blast occurred near the federation’s gates.

“Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries. We don’t know if the attackers have entered the building,” he said.

Nearby Shamshad TV station, which was attacked in 2017, aired images of broken glass and damage to its offices but said it was not the target.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, and police said they did not yet know the target or nature of the blast.

Both the Taliban and the so-called Islamic State group are active in Kabul.

The explosion came two days after the Taliban and the US began their seventh round of talks in the Qatari capital of Doha as Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan’s September presidential election.

The negotiations have so far centred on four issues — counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.

A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after more than 17 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among huge swathes of Afghans who fear the militants will return to some semblance of power.

In return the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent extremist groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

US officials have previously said they are hoping for a deal before the upcoming Afghan presidential elections, which have already been delayed twice and are now set for September.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Sources: GSW closing on Russell, Iguodala deals

Golden State and Brooklyn are trying to finalize a sign-and-trade deal, delivering All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell on a four-year, $117 million maximum contract to the Warriors, league sources told ESPN on Sunday.

To create the salary-cap flexibility to turn Kevin Durant‘s free-agent deal with the Nets into the acquisition of Russell, the Warriors would trade three-time champion Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies with a protected 2024 first-round draft pick, league sources tell ESPN.

Memphis would get the 2024 pick protected Nos. 1-4 in that year, protected to No. 1 in 2025 and unprotected in 2026 if the pick still hasn’t been conveyed, league sources told ESPN.

The departures of Iguodala and Durant would end an era with the Warriors, who’d retool their roster with a Russell-Stephen Curry backcourt until Klay Thompson returns from a torn ACL injury sometime next season.

Russell has become the object of a fierce recruiting battle in the aftermath of Kyrie Irving joining Durant with the Nets. The 23-year-old is a restricted free agent who would likely soon be renounced in Brooklyn and become an unrestricted free agent. The Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves — who wanted to engage Brooklyn with a sign-and-trade — have also been aggressive in pursuit of Russell in a deal.

Russell enjoyed a breakout fourth NBA season, putting up the type of numbers many expected when the Lakers took him No. 2 overall in the 2015 NBA draft.

The point guard helped lead Brooklyn to 42 wins while making his All-Star Game debut. He did so by averaging career bests in points (21.1 per game) and assists (7.0) as the Nets reached the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

He made 234 3-pointers, the most in a season in Nets history. And according to Second Spectrum data, the Nets set 3,225 picks with Russell as the ball handler, which trailed only Trae Young and Kemba Walker for most in the NBA.

But Russell offered more to the Nets than just numbers. Teammates and coach Kenny Atkinson alike lauded him for his leadership, improved conditioning and professional approach to the game.

Russell had said his desire was to remain in Brooklyn, but after the Nets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia 76ers, he acknowledged much of what happened in the offseason was out of his control.

“I definitely want to be here,” he told reporters. “But I also know it’s a business, too. So I’m not going to play that role like I don’t know what could possibly happen.”

Russell has career averages of 16.5 points and 5.1 rebounds, while shooting 41.9% from the field and 35.3% from 3-point range over four NBA seasons.

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U.S. barely bailed out by Pulisic in sorry showing against Curacao

With a trip to the semifinal on the line in Philadelphia, the United States defeated Curacao 1-0 in game marked by disjointed American play and the surprising confidence apparent from the Caribbean nation.

Positives

The win and little else. This is a tournament, after all, and the point is to advance. A singular moment from Christian Pulisic gave the Americans the goal they needed and the defense managed to hold on to the advantage. Not only would losing have ended their Gold Cup, it would have been a traumatic blow to any sense that Gregg Berhalter’s program is progressing.

Negatives

A lack of energy and aggression from the U.S., as evidenced by a press that was haphazard and disconnected. Curacao’s ability to not only put together long periods of possession, but to bypass the American midfield with ease made the game a much more tense affair that it should have been. Whatever progress Berhalter has made with his system, it was not on display in Philadelphia. Players all over the field played with a tentativeness indicative of a group still not sure where to be and when.

Manager rating out of 10

4 — Berhalter got away with making 11 changes for the final group-stage match against Panama, but that choice might have affected the rhythm of the team for the quarterfinal. The Americans won, but never looked comfortable. Even the goal seemed to be an anomalous moment rather than indicative of the performance as a whole. Berhalter was more lucky than good on the night.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Zack Steffen, 5 — Made a pair of necessary saves in the last 15 minutes to preserve the win. Guilty of some nervy moments in the first half that put the U.S. goal under threat. Kept the Americans’ string of clean sheets at the Gold Cup going.

DF Nick Lima, 4 — Aside from a few moments, was invisible going forward. Pushed back from a high position as the game wore on and the Americans struggled to keep the ball.

DF Aaron Long, 5 — Made clear errors with the ball and appeared flustered at times. Slow to apply pressure in front of goal.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 6 — Passable on a rough night for everyone in the back. Defended well at times, was sloppy in others.

DF Tim Ream, 3 — Turnover prone. Too passive in one-vs.-one defensive situations. Adding nothing going forward.

MF Michael Bradley, 6 — Asked to do a lot of work. Hit-and-miss with passing going forward. Covered ground, slowed down Curacao as he could, aided in recovery.

MF Tyler Boyd, 3 — Wasteful, committed numerous turnovers. Lacked a consistent first touch. Combined with Paul Arriola and Pulisic on the left side but was otherwise a non-factor.

MF Weston McKennie, 5 — Scored the goal, but struggled in possession in the midfield. Turned the ball over numerous times across both halves.

MF Christian Pulisic, 6 — Created the lone goal with an inch-perfect cross to the back post. Made some things happen on the dribble, but missed a couple of chances to put the ball on goal.

MF Paul Arriola, 4 — Industrious with defending, otherwise did little in the attacking end of the field.

When is the CONCACAF Gold Cup?
Full Gold Cup fixtures schedule

FW Gyasi Zardes, 4 — Good off the ball, bad on it. Ineffective when dropping in to provide an option in midfield. Provided no goal threat, missing on the best opportunity.

Substitutes

MF Jordan Morris, NR — Energetic, tracked back to help in defense with the U.S. absorbing pressure in the final half hour.

DF Omar Gonzalez, NR — Brief cameo with the U.S. pushing to the final whistle.

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Snubs, surprises and more: Breaking down the All-Star rosters

Bryce Harper signed a record-breaking $330 million contract with the Phillies as a free agent. Manny Machado signed a $300 million contract with the Padres as a free agent. Neither is a 2019 All-Star.

Tommy La Stella, traded in the offseason from the Cubs to the Angels for a player to be named later after hitting 10 career home runs in five major league seasons, is a 2019 All-Star. He’s one of 31 first-time All-Stars — almost half of the 64 players on the two rosters. La Stella will make $1.35 million this season — or less than Harper will earn on average every 10 games over the life of his 13-year contract.

As they say: You can’t predict baseball.

The reserves for the two All-Star squads were announced Sunday, and as always, there were some snubs, a couple of surprises and someone from every team, including the Orioles and Mariners. Let’s go over the rosters and weigh where things went right and where things went wrong.

Remember the roster rules: The fans vote for the position player starters, the players vote for a backup at each position (including three outfielders) plus five starting pitchers and three relievers, the rosters consist of 20 position players and 12 pitchers, and — as you know! — every team must have a representative.

No Harper, no Machado. I wouldn’t classify either one as a big snub, though I had named both to my personal All-Star team. In Machado’s case, he was battling a crowded field at third base in the National League, and his recent surge at the plate — he has hit .424 with 10 home runs since June 13 — came too late to beat Anthony Rendon and Kris Bryant in the player vote. (Nolan Arenado is the NL starter at third base.)

Rendon: .311/.398/.630, 19 HRs, 58 RBIs, 3.2/2.6 WAR (FanGraphs/Baseball-Reference)

Bryant: .287/.398/.537, 16 HRs, 41 RBIs, 3.1/2.4 WAR

Machado: .279/.354/.519, 20 HRs, 56 RBIs, 2.4/2.5 WAR

Rendon deservedly makes his first All-Star team. In picking my team, I had Machado in a coin flip over Bryant for my final roster spot, but Bryant over Machado is perfectly reasonable, given that both players are proven stars.

Harper’s case rested more on his making it as either the Phillies’ lone pick or maybe squeezing in as a backup outfielder from a field that lacked any clear choices. J.T. Realmuto made it as the Phillies’ rep as a third catcher behind starter Willson Contreras and Yasmani Grandal. The NL roster includes only the three outfielders the players voted in: Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl of the Rockies and Jeff McNeil of the Mets.

The numbers:

Blackmon: .337/.383/.653, 20 HRs, 56 RBIs, 2.1/1.8 WAR

Dahl: .317/.362/.552, 12 HRs, 51 RBIs, 1.4/1.4 WAR

McNeil: .348/.412/.5098, 6 HRs, 34 RBIs, 2.3/2.7 WAR

Harper: .250/.368/.471, 15 HRs, 59 RBIs, 1.8/0.8 WAR

Did Harper deserve to make it based on numbers? No, especially if you look at that Baseball-Reference WAR figure. Going with Realmuto over Harper (or Rhys Hoskins) is certainly reasonable.

Dahl is the surprise here, as the players apparently vastly underrated park effects in their voting. Why Dahl, for example, over Juan Soto (.297/.402/.534, 14 HRs, 52 RBIs)? Dahl has had some big, late-inning hits for the Rockies, but it’s almost like the players just looked at batting average and ignored that Dahl plays for the Rockies.

The biggest NL snub: Max Muncy. Still, the NL roster is really good. Dahl is the only selection that stands as a surprise, and it’s not like he’s a bad choice. In fact, 18 of the top 21 NL position players in FanGraphs WAR made it on the roster, with the exceptions being Muncy (tied for sixth in WAR), Eduardo Escobar (17th) and Machado (19th).

Muncy ranks tied for fourth among NL position players in bWAR, which easily qualifies him as the biggest NL snub. But it’s understandable that he just missed (unfortunately, he was also snubbed last season). He was considered a first baseman for the voting process, and Freddie Freeman won the fan vote, with Josh Bell and Pete Alonso as backups. Both are deserving selections, and Bell is the Pirates’ lone rep. The other positions with two backups are catcher, third base and shortstop (Paul DeJong and Trevor Story). DeJong is the Cardinals’ only rep. Story is currently on the injured list but is expected back this week, so there’s no clear injury replacement path as of yet for Muncy.

Three Dodgers starting pitchers make it: Hyun-Jin Ryu was the easy choice and probably is the leading candidate to start the game, and Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler also made it. That makes the Dodgers just the fifth team in 20 years with three starting pitchers to make the All-Star Game:

2018 Astros (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton)

2011 Phillies (Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee)

2011 Giants (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong)

2010 Yankees (CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes)

Good job, Dodgers!

The NL pitching staff works for me. I had 10 of the 12 picks on my roster, with the only differences being Caleb Smith over Sandy Alcantara as the Marlins’ rep and Cole Hamels over Mike Soroka. Soroka, with his 9-1 record and 2.13 ERA, is having a terrific first half, so no argument there. Hamels landed on the IL after we ran our rosters on ESPN.com, so Soroka would have been my next choice.

Biggest AL snub: Xander Bogaerts. While 18 of the top 21 NL position players by FanGraphs WAR made the league’s roster, in the AL, only 11 of the top 21 made it. This is mostly the result of two factors: position crunch (too many of the best players at the same positions) and needing a player from all those bad AL teams.

We end up with three DHs on the AL roster (Daniel Vogelbach is the Mariners’ rep) and two backup second basemen (La Stella and Royals rep Whit Merrifield) but no Xander Bogaerts, who entered Sunday ranked second in FanGraphs WAR among AL position players and tied for 12th in Baseball-Reference WAR.

Francisco Lindor beat Bogaerts as the backup shortstop. Yes, Lindor missed time, but he’s obviously one of the best players in the game, and considering that the All-Star Game is in Cleveland, I’m glad he made it. Bogaerts is having a better season than teammates Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, who made it as backups, but I’m fine with those two being on the team, given that they’re having good seasons and are two of the biggest stars in the game.

Other AL snubs, based on FanGraphs WAR, include Marcus Semien (seventh), Rafael Devers (eighth), Max Kepler (11th), Gleyber Torres (13th), Byron Buxton (14th), Yoan Moncada (15th), Brandon Lowe (17th), Hunter Dozier (18th) and Tommy Pham (19th).

Pham versus Austin Meadows: Speaking of Pham … this is interesting. Pham has been vocal about the All-Star selection process, perhaps aware that he might end up on the short end of things. A couple of weeks ago, he complained that the big-market teams have an advantage in the voting. That’s true, though it’s worth noting that no Red Sox made it this year as starters, and they’re the defending World Series champs (Bogaerts wasn’t even one of three finalists at his position). Also, players from the Twins, Rockies, Brewers and Diamondbacks got voted in as starters.

Pham later suggested that the rosters should be determined by a combination of games played, wRC+ (weighted runs created) and WAR. “Those three things should determine the position player All-Stars,” he said. “wRC+ is an important stat offensively and neutralizes park factors. WAR is your overall contributions. I think those three things should be the determining factors which determine All-Stars.”

Part of Pham’s concern is that making an All-Star team can factor into the arbitration process. Pham had a good case as one of the three backup outfielders — not as good as that of Betts or Joey Gallo, but I had him on my team. Instead, his teammate Meadows beat him in the player vote:

Meadows: .291/.366/.516, 12 HRs, 41 RBIs, 2.0/1.8 WAR

Pham: .284/.384/.468, 13 HRs, 35 RBIs, 2.2/2.5 WAR

Pham was the better choice, especially because Meadows had no track record heading into this season, other than as a prospect. It’s pretty easy to see what happened: Meadows got off to that booming start, and that lingers in the mind more than a hot May or hot June. So Pham lost out (though Kepler probably has a better case than Pham anyway).

The new-look AL pitching staff. Blake Snell, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale and Trevor Bauer finished first, third, fourth and sixth in the 2018 Cy Young voting, but none of them made it, due to performance and/or injury (though Sale ranks second in FanGraphs WAR, thanks to excellent peripherals). No arguments about Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole or Mike Minor making it, and Lucas Giolito‘s emergence has been one of the best stories of the season. Marcus Stroman makes it as the Blue Jays’ rep (and is having a solid season), and Shane Greene makes it as the Tigers’ rep (he has an 0.87 ERA, though he has allowed five unearned runs in addition to three earned runs).

Lance Lynn leads AL pitchers in FanGraphs WAR and ranks third in Baseball-Reference WAR, but his ERA is 4.00, so the players overlooked him. I was also surprised that Jose Berrios didn’t make it. He’s 8-4 with a 2.89 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 112 innings. Twins teammate Jake Odorizzi made it instead. He’s 10-3 with a 2.73 ERA but has thrown just 85 innings and was nowhere near as good as Berrios last season. (Again, this is probably more about the timing of when the players vote. Odorizzi had a 1.92 ERA on June 9.)

Orioles rookie John Means is probably the biggest “who is he?” All-Star in a long time. An 11th-round pick in 2014 out of West Virginia, he had one major league appearance last season and a 3.72 ERA in the minors. Baseball America did not include Means among the Orioles’ top 30 prospects — he turned 26 in April, old for a prospect, and he doesn’t light up the radar gun — and the Orioles don’t have a great farm system.

He made the Baltimore roster out of spring training as a reliever but was soon moved into the rotation. Now he’s 7-4 — almost a third of Baltimore’s 24 wins — with a 2.50 ERA, and he ranks fifth among AL pitchers in Baseball-Reference WAR. I have no idea how the rest of his career will turn out. Maybe he just had the best two months he’ll ever have.

But John Means will always be an All-Star.

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Snubbed no more! How Anthony Rendon stopped being baseball’s Glenn Close

Anthony Rendon is an All-Star. Finally.

Once again, the fans did not vote Rendon to be the starting third baseman for the National League (he finished fifth at his position). However, in a shocking break from tradition, the powers that be actually selected him to be a reserve. To paraphrase a 2017 quote from former Washington Nationals teammate Daniel Murphy, they must have finally gone to FanGraphs. As such, they knew that heading into Sunday’s announcement, Rendon ranked 12th in the majors in WAR among position players, and second among NL third basemen. In other words, Rendon has been one of the best players in baseball this year. Still, he gets no love from the electorate. This should come as no surprise.

Since the beginning of 2014, his first full season in the majors, Rendon has established himself as one of the best all-around players in the bigs. During that time, he has amassed a total of 27.9 WAR, which ranks seventh among all position players. The top 30 players on that list have combined to make 78 All-Star appearances over the past five seasons, and every one of them has been to the Midsummer Classic at least once — except for Rendon. Until this week, he was basically MLB’s version of Glenn Close.

If you’re a baseball fan, you probably know Close from the classic 1984 flick “The Natural.” She played Iris Gaines, Roy Hobbs’ hometown girlfriend, a role that earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination from Academy Award voters. It was the third time she was nominated, and the third time she lost. Since then, Close has received four more Oscar nominations (including earlier this year for “The Wife”), and all four times she’s whiffed. If you’re scoring at home, she’s now 0-for-7 lifetime and is arguably the greatest actress who has never won an Academy Award.

Unlike the Oscar voters’ repeated snubbing of Close, the fact that All-Star balloters have never voted in Rendon is only mildly surprising. After all, the fan balloting is typically dominated by players whose teams draw really well and/or have an intensely passionate following, and the Nats don’t really fit into either category. Plus, stat-stuffer guys like Rendon — versatile players who do a bunch of things well but don’t have one obviously eye-popping stat — tend to get lost in the shuffle. Especially when they’re pathologically quiet, like a certain Nats third baseman.

Having said all that, the fact Rendon had never been named a reserve — an honor not determined by the masses and therefore considered to be significantly more meritocratic than the fan vote — was a whole lot harder to swallow. But not impossible. Here’s how it happened:


2014: The Nobody Really Knew Who He Was Yet Year

The fans messed this one up royally by voting Aramis Ramirez as the NL starter, despite a first half in which Milwaukee’s third baseman posted a relatively ho-hum .795 OPS and accounted for an even ho-hummer 1.3 WAR. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny then chose Cincy’s Todd Frazier (deserving) and Cardinals corner man Matt Carpenter (questionable) as the NL’s reserves.

Fun fact: Rendon’s 3.8 WAR at the break that year was the best among all National League third basemen, just ahead of Frazier’s 3.6 WAR.

Bonus fun fact: In his first full season, Rendon went on to finish fifth in the MVP voting.

(Glenn) Close but no cigar scale*: 5.5. It’s tempting to go higher here based solely on the data, but like it or not, it takes time for young players to penetrate the collective subconscious of both fans and managers alike. That said, it takes less time today — the Interwebs being what they are — than it did five years ago. If 2014 were 2019, Rendon probably gets in.


2015: The He Was Hurt Year

Rendon suffered a sprained MCL in spring training and played only 18 games in the first half. Frazier was the deserving starter in his home park, where he also won the Home Run Derby. And skipper Bruce Bochy got it right by tabbing Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado as the reserves (although Justin Turner had a legit case, too).

Fun fact: Bryant entered the All-Star Game as a sub, but not at third base. Instead, he played left field, where he’d made one career start previously.

(Glenn) Close but no cigar scale: 1.0. Nothing to see here.


2016: The He Had A Meh First Half Year

Rendon was healthy this time around, but his numbers weren’t. He went into the break hitting .254 with nine homers and a 103 OPS+ that wreaked of averageness. Bryant (starter), Carpenter and Arenado all deserved their nods.

Fun fact: Even though Rendon didn’t make it, the Nationals sent five players to the Midsummer Classic, tied for their most ever (Bryce Harper, Murphy, Wilson Ramos, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg).

(Glenn) Close but no cigar scale: 1.0. It’s not called the All-Average Game.


2017: The Daniel Murphy FanGraphs Year

Rendon finished the first half with 4.0 WAR, best among all MLB position players and significantly higher than the 2.6 WAR of Arenado, who won the fan vote. Arizona’s Jake Lamb (2.3 WAR), who hit a mess of homers early in the season, was named a reserve. When the Final Vote candidates were announced, Rendon was one of three third basemen on the NL ballot, along with Bryant and Turner. The following day, when asked why Rendon should be an All-Star, Murphy said simply: “Do you go to FanGraphs?” Despite Murphy’s rhetoric, Turner won the Final Vote.

Fun fact: Just because Rendon lost out, that doesn’t mean the fans completely ignored FanGraphs. Among position players, Turner (3.8 WAR) ranked third at the break behind Rendon and Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager.

Bonus fun fact: Rendon, who ended up placing sixth in the MVP balloting, was one of four players who finished the season with more walks than strikeouts.

(Glenn) Close but no cigar scale: 7.0. One of the most egregious snubs in modern, data-informed All-Star history.


2018: The Timing Is Everything Year

Exactly one month before the Midsummer Classic, Rendon didn’t deserve to be there. He’d missed three weeks with a busted toe and was hitting .254 with six homers and 23 RBIs. Over the next month, he went on a tear, hitting .333 with nine bombs and 22 RBIs. By the time the break rolled around, he had raised his OPS more than 100 points and ranked third in WAR among NL third basemen. The two guys ahead of him (Arenado and Eugenio Suarez) both made the All-Star Game. Had NL skipper Dave Roberts opted for one more third baseman, it probably would’ve been Rendon or Carpenter. Instead, Roberts carried four first basemen (Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto and Final Vote winner Jesus Aguilar).

Fun fact: From June 15 through the end of the season, Rendon’s .981 OPS ranked him third in the NL behind Christian Yelich and Carpenter.

(Glenn) Close but no cigar scale: 3.7. Judging solely by stats as of the All-Star break, this number would be higher. Way higher. But because All-Star voting starts so early relative to the actual game, the process suffers from the opposite of recency bias. You’d like to think the reserve selections, which are made much closer to the Midsummer Classic, would help offset the lag-time issue in the fan voting. But it doesn’t always work out that way.


2019: The He Finally Made It Year

Under the new format, the top three vote-getters at each position on the “Primary” ballot have a run-off battle to determine the starter. Rendon was a fairly distant fifth in the fan voting behind Arenado, Bryant, Josh Donaldson and Turner. That meant that the only way he was headed to Cleveland in July was as a reserve. Until a couple of years ago, it was the manager who selected his bench guys. Now, it’s a combination of a players’ ballot and the commissioner’s office. Regardless of who’s pulling the strings, had Rendon and his 1.017 OPS (the best among MLB third basemen) gotten the cold shoulder yet again, it would have qualified as one of the great unsolved mysteries of our universe. Fortunately for Rendon and baseball (and the underpaid detectives whose job it is to solve the great unsolved mysteries of our universe), he finally made it.

Fun fact: Rendon’s 3.1 WAR through the end of the primary voting was almost as much as the combined WAR of the two guys immediately ahead of him in the polls (Donaldson and Turner).

(Glenn) Close but no cigar scale: N/A

*A snub-o-meter measured from 1 to 7, where 1 is completely understandable and 7 is the ultimate injustice.


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Trump in North Korea: KCNA hails ‘amazing’ visit

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North Korean state media has hailed US President Donald Trump’s impromptu visit to the country as “an amazing event”.

On Sunday, Mr Trump became the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea, accompanied by leader Kim Jong-un.

Mr Trump had earlier tweeted asking Mr Kim if he would like to meet while the US president was in South Korea.

On Monday, KCNA carried extensive coverage of the unprecedented meeting.

North Koreans rarely receive news of the outside world, and the heavily controlled media has depicted the US as its most hated enemy for decades.

Images of the US president walking into the North as a friend of Mr Kim will be an extraordinary sight for ordinary North Koreans.

Negotiations over North Korea’s controversial nuclear programme have stalled since the second summit between the two leaders ended without an agreement in February.

After their surprise talks on Sunday, they reaffirmed their claims to friendship and said talks would continue through their negotiating teams.

Critics have dismissed the occasion as an act of political theatre which does not make substantial progress towards North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.

What happened at the DMZ?

Mr Trump visited South Korea at the weekend, following the G20 summit in Japan.

He was scheduled to hold talks about the stalled North Korea nuclear negotiations with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and to visit the demilitarised zone (DMZ), the buffer area between the two Koreas since the end of the Korean War.

On Saturday, he tweeted a message to Mr Kim, suggesting he could “meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”

After a day of speculation and backroom diplomacy, Mr Trump and Mr Moon confirmed on Sunday that Mr Kim had accepted the invitation and there would be a “brief handshake”.

They arrived at the DMZ shortly after, and following a brief tour, they and Mr Kim approached the military demarcation line.

“Good to see you again. I never expected to meet you at this place,” a smiley Mr Kim told Mr Trump through an interpreter in an encounter broadcast live on international television.

“Big moment,” Mr Trump said, “tremendous progress.”

Mr Kim invited Mr Trump to step over into North Korea, saying he would be the first US president to do so. The US president then spent a few minutes on the north side, later saying he was “proud to step over the line”.

Looking relaxed, Mr Kim then crossed into South Korea alongside Mr Trump and said: “I believe this is an expression of his willingness to eliminate all the unfortunate past and open a new future.”

For a brief moment, Mr Trump and Mr Kim were joined by South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, an unprecedented three-way gathering.

What agreements did they reach?

The encounter had initially been billed as a short greeting but Mr Trump and Mr Kim ended up talking for almost an hour in a building known as the Freedom House, on the South Korean side of Panmunjom, the “truce village” inside the DMZ.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim agreed that negotiators would meet in the next weeks to resume discussions about North Korea’s nuclear programme. Mr Trump told reporters he was “not looking for speed [but] looking to get it right”.

He said sanctions on North Korea would remain in place, but appeared to leave open the possibility of easing them as part of the talks. Mr Trump also said he had invited Mr Kim to visit Washington.

What have North Koreans heard about the visit?

In unusually quick reporting, KCNA called the last-minute meeting an “amazing event”, noting that the leaders had exchanged “historic handshakes at Panmunjom, a place that had been known as the symbol of division”.

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It quoted Mr Kim as saying it was his “good personal relations with President Trump that made such a dramatic meeting possible at just a day’s notice”.

They would “continue to produce good results unpredictable by others and work as a mysterious force overcoming manifold difficulties and obstacles in the future,” it said.

Confirming comments from Mr Trump, KCNA said the leaders had agreed to “keep in close touch in the future” and to “resume and push forward productive dialogues for making a new breakthrough in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and in the bilateral relations”.

How are US-North Korea relations?

Negotiations with North Korea to try to convince it to abandon its controversial nuclear programme reached a peak last year when Mr Trump and Mr Kim had a historic meeting in Singapore.

They both committed to the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula, but without clarifying what that meant.

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It was hoped their second meeting, in Hanoi in February, would make some concrete agreement about North Korea handing over its nuclear programme in exchange for some of the tight sanctions against it being lifted.

But those talks ended with no deal, as they failed to agree on the pace at which sanctions should be eased.


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