Second Thoughts: Home Run Derby steals All-Star spotlight

I had two tasty Nathan’s hot dogs for lunch Saturday. I resisted the urge to dip the buns in water and demand that Jill put 70 more dogs on the grill. Obviously, I’ve got some work to do to catch up to Joey Chestnut. What is with that guy? He’s not even fat.

The Home Run Derby is sure to set ratings records Monday night, especially if the seeds hold and the finals feature a showdown between Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. That’s a lot of testosterone, and the thought of those giants hitting 500-foot bombs makes me want to down a bottle of Nugenix.

The derby has supplanted the NBA’s slam dunk contest as the premier All-Star sideshow. The format — 4 minutes on the clock, timeouts — seems perfect. Extra time can be added for extra-long homers. Stanton will have the crowd behind him, and Judge might be the strongest guy in baseball, but don’t sleep on Cody Bellinger and Miguel Sano.

The Reds won’t be in the playoffs this year, but there is reason for optimism at the break. Cincinnati is primed to win more than 70 games for the first time since 2014, and it has some promising young players (Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, Scooter Gennett, Jose Peraza, Raisel Iglesias).

I would not part with Iglesias unless the Nationals guarantee Congress will balance our budget. I would trade shortstop Zack Cozart. He is performing way above expectations and will be 32 in August. The light-hitting .253 career hitter will be a free agent at season’s end and will command much more than the $5.3 million he is making this season.

The worst thing about Ohio State basketball under Thad Matta — hands down — was the Buckeyes’ laughable nonconference home schedule. Most games, save the occasional Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup, were snoozers. New coach Chris Holtmann, whose Butler teams played tough non-league slates, promises to cut down on the parade of 16 seeds at the Schottenstein Center.

It’s probably too late to improve this season’s schedule (although I’m sure UD would agree to play), but expect an upgrade for 2018-19. Buckeyes fans deserve a nice diversion leading up to bowl season.

The Celtics are getting serious about challenging the Cavaliers in the NBA East. Gordon Hayward is reuniting with his college coach, Brad Stevens, giving Boston more firepower. (Man, I wish Butler would’ve taken down Duke in the 2010 championship game.) If the Celtics take the next step, there’s no way LeBron James will pick up his player option for 2018-19. He figures he needs another title or two to move into MJ territory.

Trending up: Hunter Greene, Kenny Perry, Alex Wood. The Reds broke open the piggy bank to sign Greene, the No. 2 pick in the baseball draft. The California high school graduate received a $7.23 million signing bonus. People who know baseball rave about Greene’s potential as a pitcher or shortstop. Hopefully we’ll get to see him in a Dragons uniform while he works his way through the Reds system. I have no idea why my Twins didn’t take Greene with the No. 1 pick.

Trending down: Ezekiel Elliott, Taj Gibson, Shia LaBeouf. The NFL has been investigating domestic violence charges against Elliott for a year, and there is chatter that he might be suspended. One “insider” even warned fantasy football players who possess the top pick to pass on Elliott. That’s serious. Elliott is a fantastic player, but he’s building a reputation as a knucklehead. The kid turns 22 this month, so some discipline might help him in the long run.

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