By Joe Snyder

The Los Angeles Dodgers got off to a blazing start, slacked off for a bit much due to several key injuries, but are riding high with a 56-29 record and are ahead by eight games over the second place San Diego Padres.

To make things bigger, they are hosting the 93rd annual Major League Baseball All-Star Classic which begins at 4 p.m. next Tuesday at the now 60-year-old Dodger Stadium.

Four Dodgers made the National League All-Star team including starters, outfielder Mookie Betts and first baseman Trea Turner, along with pitchers Clayton Kershaw and unbeaten Tony Gonsolon. Gonsolon has been the big surprise for the Dodgers with an 11-0 record and an earned run average of 1.62, currently the best in the National League. He should be a strong candidate for the National League’s starting pitcher, which will be selected by NL and Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snilker.

It is rather disappointing that premiere player Freddie Freeman was left out of the all-star game. He has lately been red hot with his bat in keying the Dodgers to their current seven-game-winning streak, entering this week’s key series on the road against the always tough St. Louis Cardinals and their two-game Freeway Series against L.A.-Anaheim Angels on Friday and Saturday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim before the four-game all-star break. Of course, all 32 Major League Baseball teams must have, at least, one player represented. This makes room to get all of the teams represented.

The L.A. Angels, meanwhile, have been big under achievers after a good start. They were one time as good as 24-13 before their great downfall, that included a franchise record 14-game losing streak and the recent four-game sweep by the host Baltimore Orioles.

A combination of injuries, lack of offense and inconsistent pitching and defense have plagued the Angels as they now lost 32 of their last 43 games entering this week’s three-game home series against the American League Western Division front-running Houston Astros (56-29). They managed to get two American League starters in versatile player Shohei Ohtani and already multiple time AL Most Valuable Player Mike Trout.

The Angels (38-49) still lack depth in virtually all areas. They need to make more moves during the offseason that begins in October.

There will be a good L.A.-area flavor in the all-star game at Dodger Stadium. Former Southern California high school and college players in the classic for the American League include starting outfielder Glancarlo Stanton (Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High) and pitcher Gerrit Cole (Orange Lutheran High, UCLA), both from the top Major League record team leading New York Yankees, now 61-25 and 14 games ahead of their rival Boston Red Sox (47-39) despite losing their last two games in Boston on Saturday and Sunday.

National League local stars are defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves ace pitcher Max Fried (Studio City Harvard-Westlake High), third baseman Nolan Arenado of the St. Louis Cardinals (Lake Forest El Toro High), catcher Travis Arnaud from the Braves (Lakewood High) and Jeff McNeill of the New York Mets (Cal State Long Beach).

The American League won the last 13 games. Can that change on Tuesday? The Dodgers are still in strong contention to win their eighth ever World Series since the team started in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1890 but the Yankees have the best record in the Majors and the Astros, Mets and even Braves have a strong shot. The Yankees have outstanding depth all around. The Dodgers still have several key players on the injured list and are rather inconsistent with their offense.

They have to get healthy and get more consistent with their hitting, especially with runners in scoring position.

Conference Names: With the Big 10 picking up UCLA and University of Southern California from the PAC 12 in two years, and still possibly adding Oregon and Washington from the same conference, it will have up to 20 teams. With colleges across the country, from California to New Jersey (Rutgers), it might be good if it were called the Continental or Trans Continental Conference. It sounds suitable. The number of colleges in the conferences are constantly fluctuating. If any college from the PAC-12 or other conferences add to the Big-12 Conference, the best name might be the West-Central Conference, with teams from both the West coast, midwest and even South.