Week of April 27, 2018

Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. On April 27, 1961 the expansion Angels lost its first ever game to the Minnesota Twins, 4-2. 

25 Years Ago: “Put That In Your F&*^ing Pipe And Smoke It”

Most of us who follow sports – that is to say, all of us, because I’m writing a sports blog and you are reading a sports blog – have seen the video of manager Hal McRae’s tantrum following a Royals loss to the Tigers 25 years ago this week. McRae is surrounded in his office by local reporters when this happens:

Or, as The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd puts it:

In one version of the story, it was a tape recorder. In another, a sharp piece of office supplies. For years, nobody could say for sure. They watched the famous video tape, and they listened to the F-bombs. They replayed it slowly, frame by frame, like a managerial Zapruder film. The sports writers still weren’t sure, even Alan Eskew, the baseball beat man who took the foreign object to the face.

This much, we know: The flying object left a bloody, 1 1/2-inch gash on Eskew’s right cheek. It required a trip to the trainer’s room and a tetanus shot. It is, a quarter-century later, the most famous media injury in the history of the Royals, the bloody symbol of a wild managerial tirade. And 25 years later, Eskew is almost certain: It was probably an ashtray.

Thanks to Sunflower Cable out of Lawrence, Kansas, there is video of the tirade. They didn’t know what they had, and when other local affiliates called and asked for the footage, Sunflower simply handed over the footage to anyone without even putting their watermark on it!

As most of us know now, the clip went viral before “viral” was even a thing. Local and national outlets played it. ESPN had a field day with it. Eskew, known simply as “Scoop”, was asked to be a guest on radio and TV, but that wasn’t his style. His job was to cover the beat for the Royals, and so he and McRae meet face-to-face and settled up.

“McRae offered a short apology, and Scoop accepted, delivering just one request: Crab cakes during the next trip to Baltimore.”

I mean, how great is that?

Hal McRae was not that dude on this video. Players and every reporter describe him as cool, calm, blue collar. The reporters enjoyed covering his team’s beat. Players liked playing for him.

“The image he had around the rest of the country then was he was this maniac,” said Flanagan, who now covers the team for MLB.com. “And he wasn’t. He was just a cool, cool manager. He was funny. His cackle was the best cackle I’ve ever heard. He’d rather laugh than do anything.”

Covering a baseball beat in the 80s and 90s sounds like so much fun, and the guys like “Scoop” that have done it for so long (he still covers the Royals) are a part of the culture around a team. He’s part of that team’s story, because he’s been penning it for so long.  

And then there’s this last nugget that had me laughing:

McRae would receive just one more chance to manage, a hopeless situation in Tampa Bay in 2001 and 2002. But one day in 2001, he returned to Kauffman Stadium for a road series. In the hours before the first game, McRae sat at his office desk for a pregame media session. One reporter appeared in the back, wearing a catcher’s mask. It was Scoop.

Another great read from The Athletic. The link below will likely direct you to a free trial offer. I think it’s worth a few bucks a month to read solid sports reporting and feature writing without no ads.

By the way, If I ever write a young adult novel about a baseball, the reporter character in the story will no doubt be named “Scoop”. – PAL  

Source: Twenty-five years later, those who were there remember Hal McRae’s famous rant”, Rustin Dodd, The Athletic (4/20/18)

Should a Balked Run Count As An Earned Run?

For the first time in a long time, this was an article that had me hooked with the headline – “A Dumb, Specific Argument About Balks”. Boom – all-in. Perhaps a rant about headline writing in the digital age (or lack thereof) is in my near future.

Back to balks. From Little League on, balks are a part of baseball. Having played and watched baseball for over 30 years, I can’t confidently tell you what is and isn’t a balk. A balk is an intentional or unintentional act to mislead the baserunner. That’s my best, most vague attempt at defining a balk. Good enough, I guess, but I’d never feel confident enough with my knowledge of the rule to call one as an umpire in a game. 

I am not alone. Per Emma Baccelieri from Deadspin, the MLB definition of a balk in its glossary is different from the definition in the rulebook (how the hell could that be!?!):

“The rule is in place to prevent a pitcher from deceiving the baserunners,” the glossary reads, while the rulebook doesn’t get close to such an idea. There’s nothing about the intent or the result of the motion like that in the Official Baseball Rules, just a technical description, and one that can end up remarkably tricky to apply, at that.

Take a look at the gif above. It is a balk – with runners on first and third – but is this a deception in any way? That runner on third was granted home, and the runner on first advanced to second. Which brings us to the heart of the manner: should balked in runs count as earned runs against the pitcher’s stat line?

Balks leading to runs currently count against the pitcher’s E.R.A. (as do passed balls). However, unlike passed balls, balks are not the result of pitching. In fact, they are the opposite of pitching – they are the deception of a pitch.

It’s not as simple of a “of course it should count against a pitcher’s E.R.A.” as you might think. Baccellieri writes:

‘But the pitcher’s clearly responsible for the balk; he should be responsible for the run that it causes!’ you might say. Okay, yes, but—he can be clearly responsible for an error, and yet he’s not considered responsible for the run that the error causes! And you might then say that the error is related to the pitcher’s defense, which is a separate matter, while the balk relates only to his pitching proper. But does it? The whole idea of the balk is that he’s not really pitching, not near any point of completion. (If he was, it’d just be a pitch!) In Bettis’s case here, and many others, the whole thing’s really just an error—in the literal sense of the word, not the baseball sense. So why draw the line here? Why determine that a pitcher’s fielding error is exempt, and this technical error is not? On a call that is so often made or missed in error itself? Baseball grants a pitcher a little bit of mercy here; the scorecard will not ignore an error from him, but it won’t use it to statistically penalize him in the measures where it’d hurt him most. Why shouldn’t a balk be scored in the same way? There’s no reasonable consistency to any logic that treats them differently.

Here’s a real simple solution: a run scored as a result of a pitcher error, in the “literal sense of the word”(error or balk), should count as earned. Seems like solid logic to me…but wait. What if a pitcher commits an error that allows a baserunner, but then that base runner scores when the second baseman boots a grounder in a later at bat? I still think it’s an earned run, as the scoring runner is on base due to the pitcher’s fielding error, while hitter on the ground ball would be an unearned run, as he/she is on base due to error at 2B…right?

Do you see where we are? We’re in the bowels of baseball nerdery that no one but for a few of us care about. Readers – tell us what you think. How do you count a run from a pitchers balk: earned or unearned? Baseball minutiae perfect fodder for a Friday debate. – PAL

Source: A Dumb, Specific Argument About Balks”, Emma Baccellieri, Deadspin (4/24/18)

TOB: I have umped quite a bit in my life and I have no idea what is and isn’t a balk, aside from the most obvious starts and stops. But the other night I was watching a Giants/Nationals game, and the Nationals reliever kept sorta lifting his front leg, without it leaving the ground, repeatedly before he began his windup. I’ve seen far less significant twitches than that called a balk. I don’t recall if there was a runner on base, but he was pitching from the stretch so it seems likely. And if there wasn’t, and that’s his normal pitching routine, he has to get called for a balk, doesn’t he?

As for earned runs for pitchers on errors: it’s really odd. Let me paint a scenario. A runner gets on because the pitcher commits an error (come-backer, overthrows first. Let’s call the pitcher “Jon Lester”). Then, the next batter hits a ground ball to second. The second baseman tries to hurry to turn the double play, and throws it away. Next batter hits a triple. Both of those runs are “unearned” for the pitcher – but they both got on base because of his throwing error.

Minor League Player Salary Update: Still Shitty

A few weeks back we wrote about the measly pay given to minor league baseball players. I read another good article about it this week, where the following point is made:

Every team could pay its minor leaguers $30,000 a year for about $4.5 million, or the cost of a decent free agent reliever. Instead, the league got together and spent $1.3 million a year on lobbying in 2016 and 2017, and made the problem go away forever, or at least until Congress becomes aggressively pro-labor, which might be effectively the same thing.

$4.5 million? They’re making money hand-over-fist. That is chump change! Hell, Forbes estimates the Sacramento Rivercats, the Giants AAA-affiliate, generate $20 million in annual  revenue. The team has 38 players on its current roster, and to pay them each $30,000 per year would cost $1,140,000 – only 5.7% of its revenue.

Or, consider this. Last year, MLB attendance league-wide totaled 72,688,797. That’s an average of 2,422,627 per team. $4.5M divided by 2,422,627 is about $1.85. So, fine. If these rich bastards won’t pay their employees a fair salary, then sign me up for a $1.85 per ticket surcharge that would be used to pay minor league players a fair, livable wage. -TOB

Source: The Disgrace of Minor League Baseball“”, Michael Baumann, The Ringer (04/20/2018)

Video of the Week: 

PAL’s Song of the Week: Blundetto – “Mi Condena”

Tweet of the Week: 

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I was sad at first, but then I remembered that Bob Marley song: “No, woman! No cry!”

– Erin Hannon


Week of April 20, 2018

The hero the NBA deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

The Perfect Storm: Boston Marathon 2018

The weather for this year’s Boston Marathon was downright miserable, which allowed relatively average runners to have unforgettable days:

Of the top 15 women finishers, 9 of them weren’t even ranked in the top 25 runners leading into race. This means that many of the women at the top of the results are “regulars” – they have full-time jobs like you and me. They did their training by themselves or in running clubs, and then they went out and beat some of the greatest distance runners on the planet. Sara Sellers (pictured above) had only run one marathon before finishing second at Boston. Hell, earlier that week she and her brother went up to Acadia National Park to ride bikes.

While what Sellers did was downright incredible, consider a couple facts:

  • The top runners wanted no part of this race. With conditions as poor as they were, this year’s winning time (2:39) was about 18 minutes slower than last year’s winning time (2:21).
  • While Sellers is an amateur in every respect, she did pace at a sub-6:20 mile. She’s an amateur, but a talented runner to be sure

Still, her old college coach who put together a training plan for her couldn’t believe what he was seeing online.

Her Utah-based coach, Paul Pilkington, who was watching on television, had to hit refresh on his computer to make sure the results were correct. In a telephone interview, Pilkington said he knew Sellers to be “very gritty and tough in adverse conditions.” And yet, “I never thought she’d get second,” he said.

Malika Andrews and Matthew Futterman of The New York Times do a really nice job in this story capturing what’s special about sports or competitions in which us regulars are on the field/course/pitch with the greatest in the world. On the spectrum of elite runners and weekend warriors, they make it feel like Sellers is “one of us”. She’s the nurse anesthetist who trained before and after work, and then she’s finishing second in perhaps the most iconic marathons. While that’s the case in terms of training regimes and a lack of sponsors, Sellers splits reveal a talented runner finding her marathon stride at the perfect time.  – PAL

Source: The Nurse Who Took a Very Different Route to Second Place in the Boston Marathon”, Malika Andrews and Matthew Fetterman, The New York Times (04/17/2018)

TOB: This is pretty incredible. I tried to think of a major-sports comparison. It took me a few minutes, but I got it: Kurt Warner, who went undrafted out of college and worked as a grocery bagger when he couldn’t catch on with an NFL team. It wasn’t until five years later that he got to the NFL and led the Rams to the Super Bowl. Similarly, while an amateur, Sellers was not some chump off the street. She was a very good, but not great, distance runner in college. She didn’t have some out of body, inexplicable performance here, either. She finished the one, (yes one) previous marathon she ran, last September, with a nearly identical time she ran in this race – 2:44:27 and 2:44:04. Unlike everyone else, she just ran her best race, and ignored the weather. Pretty cool. It’d be interesting to see what she could do if he dedicated her time to it.

Was LeBron Acting When He Received Sad News? Or Is He Covering for the Reporter?

During Wednesday’s game between the Cavs and Pacers, news began circulating that Erin Popovich, the wife of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, had passed away. Erin Popovich’s death came, reportedly, after a long illness that the Popovich family had not publicly disclosed. Obviously, this was and is sad news. Popovich, in particular, is a beloved NBA figure, and many players, coaches, media persons, and fans sent along their condolences upon hearing the news. Kevin Durant was informed of her death and asked about it after the team’s shootaround in San Antonio ahead of Thursday’s Game 3 against the Spurs. His reaction was, appropriately, one of shock and sadness for a person he admires.

Similarly, following the Cavs’ Game 2 win, a game in which LeBron carried his team to a close victory despite his herculean effort, TNT’s Allie LaForce informed LeBron of Erin Popovich’s death during her on-court post-game interview of LeBron. LeBron’s reaction is also one of shock and sadness, and it was an emotional moment of television. I watched it live, and found it so affecting I rewound it to watch it again.

Other viewers, however, found the question to be in poor taste, and LaForce began to take a lot of heat online for the question. Some thought LaForce should not have put LeBron on the spot like that, on live TV, and asked him about such a sensitive subject without warning. I don’t agree, but I can understand the argument that perhaps she should have let him know ahead of time. Of course, things then got even weirder.

LeBron defended LaForce, saying that in fact LaForce told LeBron, off camera prior to the interview, of Erin Popovich’s passing, and clearing the question with him ahead of time. That begs the question, though: Was LeBron’s reaction all an act?

I don’t think so. Watch it again. That doesn’t seem like acting to me. That seems like genuine emotion, shock quickly turning into sadness. If LeBron is telling the truth now, then his reaction is a little odd – there was no need to sound shocked. And if LeBron is telling the truth now, LaForce should have prefaced her question by saying, “As we discussed moments ago….”

No, I think LeBron is covering for LaForce, trying to quash a controversy that shouldn’t have existed, and trying to keep the focus on the Popovich family, not on whether a reporter properly asked LeBron a question about it. As I said, I can understand thinking LaForce should have cleared the question with LeBron first, but I don’t understand getting bent out of shape about it, and turning what should be a sad story into an Internet Outrage Story. -TOB

Source: LeBron James Says He Wasn’t Blindsided By TNT Reporter Asking Him About Erin Popovich”, Laura Wagner, Deadspin (04/19/2018)

PAL: Why couldn’t LeBron just tell the truth? She obviously didn’t clear it with him beforehand, but it’s OK. It’s OK because that’s how important LeBron is to the NBA. He’s not just the face of the league, but one of the very few people that can speak on behalf of the league and/or it’s players. 

Let’s Not Forget How Great Albert Pujols Was

As of 4/19/18, Albert Pujols is 10 hits shy of 3,000 and 78 RBI shy of 2,000 for his career. He also has 617 home runs. Here’s the list of players with 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBI, and 600 home runs:

  1. Hank Aaron
  2. Alex Rodriguez

Short list, eh (also, I’m already forgetting how insanely good Rodriguez numbers are)? No Bonds (just missed on RBI), no Ruth (hits), no Mays (RBI). Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like we’ve been overlooking Pujols as he finishes up his career with the irrelevant Angels. In his prime, there was no other hitter I feared more than Pujols, and that includes Bonds (because they’d never pitch to Bonds).

Jerry Crasnick does a nice job showing us what makes one of the greatest hitters ever tick, and he highlights the reverence other players have for Pujols.

Teammate Ian Kinsler sums up Pujols’ greatness this way:

In my opinion, good hitters make adjustments game to game or at-bat to at-bat. Great hitters make adjustments pitch-to-pitch, and Hall of Famers can make adjustments as the pitch is coming. They might be expecting one thing and see another and make an adjustment and put a really good swing on it.

And then there’s how he performed against (some) of the best pitchers (also, WHAT is Ben Sheets doing on this list?):

Quick side note: I mean, my God. The Angels have a top 15 all-time player on their roster in Pujols, the best player in the world in Mike Trout (who could be a top-15 all-time player before he’s done), and the most interesting player in the world in Ohtani. And has anyone made it a point to find an Angels game on TV? I sure as shit haven’t.

The story loses me a bit at the end when it expands beyond his accomplishments within the batter’s box, and – quite frankly, it all starts to sound a little like “Cardinals’ Way” propaganda when he starts talking about the stats that matter to him (spoiler alert, Pujols doesn’t like “computers” telling him about baseball). Still, worth the read. – PAL

Source: “Inside Albert Pujols’ Path to 3,000 Hits”, Jerry Crasnick, ESPN (04/19/2018)

TOB: I’ve never been a big Pujols fan. He seems boring? And it annoyed me in that 2001-2004 range, when people argued (unsuccessfully) that he should win the MVP over Bonds, when Bonds was putting up some of the very best seasons of all time.

And as Phil alludes to, Pujols is anti-modern stats. WHY? First, those stats will place the first dozen years of his career into rarified air. Second, why do so many people, like Pujols, not understand the argument against the RBI? Yes, of course, you score by hitting your teammates (or yourself) in. But the point is simple: why is a single more important than an identical single when the first one just happened to have a teammate or two in scoring position, but the second had no one on base? The hitter had nothing to do with that. It’s chance. It doesn’t mean RBIs aren’t important, it’s just a little random. If you look at his stats, his RBIs predictably drop along with his batting average and slugging. But there are two recent seasons that really illustrate this.

In 2015, Pujols had 40 home runs and 95 RBIs – meaning he hit only 55 teammates in, and he did so on 147 hits. In 2016, the next year, he hit 31 home runs but had 116 RBIs, meaning he hit 85 teammates in – 30 more than the year before, on just 12 more hits. That makes no sense, but for the fact that teammates on base in front of you is random. In 2015, he deserved way more than 95 RBIs, because they don’t reflect how good his season was. And if a stat doesn’t reflect how good a season is, how useful is it?

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Kanye West – “School Spirit”

Tweet of the Week

Amanda McCarthy, wife of baseball player Brandon McCarthy, eviscerating a troll. A play in three acts.

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“Speaking of pimples…release the bloggers!”

Dwight Schrute

Week of April 13, 2018

Boban makes The Brow look like a normal-sized human.

How Sports Illustrated Stopped Mattering

To those of us over 30, Sports Illustrated is an institution. When I found out a fellow grad student at USF was a writer for SI, I felt cooler by association. As Michael MacCambridge writes for The Ringer, SI made a case that the realm of sports was not a juvenile triviality but instead an important part of the culture, worthy of attention and understanding.”

And for writers, like my fellow USF alumnus, SI was not a stop along the way. It was the mountaintop. As Lee Jenkins told a former boss, “I hate to leave you guys, but, you know–the Yankees just called.”

SI is about to be sold for the second time in a year. It also recently became a biweekly publication…not that many folks noticed. The end of the print version of the magazine feels imminent, even when – get this – the magazine was profitable last year.

The magnitude of the biweekly decision hasn’t even been felt yet, but it will be:

[I]f Tiger Woods had managed to win the Masters this year, it would’ve been perhaps the biggest sports story of 2018, but it would have been old news by the time the next issue of SI came out 10 days later. The same goes for this summer’s World Cup, the final of which will come during an off-week in SI’s publishing schedule. And we haven’t even gotten to football season yet.

This story is not just about the death of print journalism at the hands of the digital revolution. It’s also about the missteps made along the way that put SI and its parent company, Time, in its current predicament. At some point cost-cutting means quality cutting, and then – worst of all – people stop noticing.

As MacCambridge writes, at its best,

SI’s news stories were never about telling you who won, it was about telling you why and how they won, the subtle differences that separated one world-class athlete or team from another, and the endless ways that people revealed their character through competition. Furthermore, what the magazine learned, again and again in the coming decades, was that a sports event being televised only increased interest in those stories. The more people saw of a sport, the more they wanted to read about it. And SI was there, to provide the best story, the deepest understanding, the telling picture, the last word.

You can tell MacCambridge cares deeply about SI. It was a touchstone of his youth, and that passion is needed to make this story resonate with us. I know I’m not the only one of us to tear photos of my favorite players from of the magazine and line my bedroom walls. Best read so far this year. – PAL

Source: Who Can Explain the Athletic Heart?”, Michael MacCambridge, The Ringer (04/12/2018)

TOB: This was great, but sad to read. In many ways, Sports Illustrated changed my life. Or rather, it shaped who I am. That sounds dramatic, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration. As a kid, from about age 8 until 15, sports were my life. I lived and breathed it. I watched SportsCenter every night; I watched the NBA, college basketball, college football, MLB, and the NFL, every single day. I even watched a lot of hockey back then. I’d watch until I got the itch to run outside and play the game myself. And every single week I’d get Sports Illustrated in the mail, excitedly take it upstairs, and I’d lie on my bed, and read that damn thing cover to cover. I’ll never forget my first issue was Jennifer Capriati, who made the finals of the Virginia Slims tournament at the age of 13.

I have an uncommon amount of sports knowledge in my brain from reading SI, and not just the ones I got weekly. Each time I would visit my grandparents, we’d stay in my uncle’s old room. And each night at bedtime, I’d go into his old closet and sift through the giants stack of Sports Illustrateds from the 70s and 80s, when he was a kid. The magazines were 10, to 20 years old at that point, but I didn’t care.

I think the spirit of Sports Illustrated lives, for Phil and me, in this website. In the article, MacCambridge correctly notes that a perceived problem for Sports Illustrated is that, by the time it hits your mailbox, it seems like last week’s news. When a major story hits, by the time you can read it in SI, many fans have digested all they needed to – on Twitter, or Yahoo, or ESPN.com – three or four or more days prior.

But isn’t that actually the beauty of SI? When we started this website, almost four years ago, our philosophy was to publish once a week because the time allows us a little perspective to digest what has happened, or what we’ve read. Twenty years after I last regularly read SI, life’s realities have reduced my ability to watch hours and hours of sports every day. Getting to sit down for a couple hours and watch a baseball game is a treat. I certainly don’t sit down for two hours a week to read Sports Illustrated. But I think I’m going to start. I hope it’s still good. If so, I’ll be sure to keep the old ones in a basket in the garage, so my kids can stumble on them like I did.

New Kind of Player-Coach

Lindsay Whalen is an all-everything WNBA player from Hutchinson, Minnesota (as small of a town as you’re imagining). She holds every significant women’s basketball record at the University of Minnesota, and even brought the team to a Final Four. After college, she’s dominated the WNBA. 4 titles for her hometown Minnesota Lynx. Oh, and throw in a couple olympic gold medals, too. She’s legit.

It’s no surprise that Whalen was hired as the next women’s basketball coach at the U of M. What is surprising, however, is that she’ll still be playing in the WNBA. Per Marcus Fuller of the Star Tribune:

As part of Whalen’s agreement to become head coach, pending approval from the U’s Board of Regents, she will continue to play for the Lynx, who open the regular season on May 20. The last possible date for the WNBA Finals is Sept. 16 — about two weeks before the Gophers begin fall practice.

I love it. Why wait until she’s done playing. This is the one hire the Gophers women’s basketball team had to make. There is no other Lindsay Whalen for that program, so you do whatever you need to do to make sure she’s a part of that program forever. – PAL

Source: Lindsay Whalen hired by Gophers as women’s basketball coach”, Marcus Fuller, Star Tribune (04/12/2018)

Andre Ingram: NBA Player

Andre Ingram is 32 years old. He’s a math tutor, a father of two, and a graduate of American University. He’s also been in the NBA G-League (formerly known as the D-League) for 10 years. He’s been grinding it out for 10 years waiting for an opportunity. He didn’t want to play overseas because he felt his best chance to achieve his dream was to stay close and be ready should an opportunity arise. This week it finally happened, and Ingram made the most of it.

I don’t think I could’ve fully appreciated this accomplishment as a twenty-something. It’s hard to continue chasing a dream as an adult, and for Ingram to keep pushing while providing for his family on 30K G-League salary + tutoring is just damn impressive. And then to get an opportunity and seize it like that – 19 points on 6-8 shooting – that’s the good stuff.

As if you needed more reasons to root for this guy, check out his post-game interview:

He did it. Andre Ingram is an NBA player, not many people can say that. He’s held the same occupation as LeBron James, Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell. Right now, his shooting percentage is better than all of them, too. – PAL

Source: Andre Ingram Is The NBA’s Best Story”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (04/11/2018)

TOB: This was tough for me. My Lakers hate runs deep. But I had to begrudgingly smile at this. I think what put me over the top is how unpredictable this was once you see the highlights. His jump shot looks BAD. He sorta leans forward and jumps awkwardly. If you showed him in warmups, I’d figure he was someone’s brother or maybe a rep of a big sponsor. He doesn’t look like a professional basketball player. He certainly doesn’t look like an NBA player. But, he damn well is one. Congrats, dude.

Ohtani Watch

Last week, I went gaga for Ohtani. Phil suggested I pump the brakes. Well…

Ohtani crushed even harder over the last week. He’s now 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 0.46 WHIP, and 18 Ks in 13 innings across two starts. He even took a perfect game into the 7th against Oakland. At the plate, he now has three home runs and and eight RBIs, and is hitting .346/.417.773 (!!!!) in just 22 at bats. We will periodically update you throughout the season. You’re welcome. -TOB

PAL: If he has over 12 home runs at the All-Star break, I’ll take you out to dinner, TOB. If not, you buy me a beer, and that week’s picture is you paying for my beer with the caption: “TOB was over-eager about Ohtani. Phil was right. Just like he was about the Patriots and the Heat. Wow. He seems to be right a lot.”

If he has over 12 home runs and an ERA under 3.5 at the All-Star break, then I’ll cook you and your family dinner. If not, then you buy my ticket, a beer, and a dog for an Twins-A’s game. We post a picture from the game. Same caption as above.

TOB: The stakes do not seem even here; but I agree in principle. We’ll work out the details, including a carve out for an extended Ohtani injury. Otherwise, he might have 12 dingers before June 1!

PAL: What would you know about “steaks” – you don’t even eat red meat! Have you ever had my cooking? Damn right these aren’t even stakes. You’re getting a steal.

Video of the Week

Oh, boy.

Bonus Video

PAL Song of the Week: The Velvet Underground & Nico – “Sunday Morning”


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I just want to sit on the beach and eat hot dogs. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

-K. Malone

Week of April 6, 2018

The Best Kind of Sports Story

The Masters, which started Thursday, is one of those very few dream sporting events. When a kid plays, they imagine themselves being at the plate with the World Series on the line, throwing the Super Bowl winning touchdown, or putting for the green jacket. These are iconic venues and events that few regular folks ever attend, much less compete in, which is why I’ll be rooting for Matt Parziale.

Parziale is a 30 year-old firefighter from Brockton, Massachusetts. He works out of the same station his dad worked out of for 32 years as firefighter and captain. Parziale was a talented player growing up, but no Tiger Woods. As Ian O’Conner puts it:

Matt wasn’t a prodigy. He was a good hockey player and all-around athlete in a rugged working-class town known as the home of shoe factories and a pair of boxing champs who never backed down, Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler. Matt ended up at Southeastern, a non-scholarship member of the National Christian College Athletic Association, a group of small bible schools that didn’t exactly feature the level of golf Woods was accustomed to at Stanford.

After years of trying to qualify for the PGA Tour, Parziale figured it was time to fulfill his destiny: become a firefighter alongside his dad. He regained his amatuer golf status, and the odd firefighter hours allowed him to work on his golf game. His breakthrough came this year as he won the Mid-Am (tournament for post-college golfers to try to qualify for The Masters & U.S. Open) with his dad on his bag (his dad will be Parziale’s caddy for The Masters, too).

Parziale knew the implications of the win, and told his fiancee that they needed to move the wedding date.

After opening his personal invitation from Augusta National to play in The Master on Christmas Eve (I mean, come on!), he also found out he was rounding out a Par-3 threesome with Tiger Woods and Fred Couples this past Wednesday, which brings us to my favorite part of O’Connor’s story:

Matt waited and waited on the first tee for Woods to show up for their early Wednesday afternoon nine, looking like a boy worried that Santa Claus might not show. Suddenly, word rippled through the crowd that Tiger was heading to the nearby putting green, and off Matt and Vic marched to join him.

Woods greeted his newfound friend warmly. They chatted, took some practice putts, and then headed together to the first tee along with the third member of their group, Fred Couples, as fans shouted at them from both sides of the roped-off lane.

Parziale was first to put his tee in the ground. He lashed into his drive before two fans who had been poking fun at the sight of Matt waiting on Tiger earlier on.

“Who was that guy?” one asked.

The other replied: “He’s a guy who’s been waiting his entire life to hit that shot.”

Tiger and the firefighter walked off the tee box and down the fairway talking and laughing as if they were lifelong buds, a scene that kept repeating itself across the front nine.

This is a feel-good story that somehow doesn’t read like nacho cheese sentimentality. Enjoy! – PAL

Source: How Matt Parziale went from fighting fires to playing alongside Tiger at Augusta,” Ian O’Connor, ESPN (04/04/2018)

God Damnit, I Knew Ohtani Would Be Good

Shohei Ohtani was the talk of last offseason’s Hot Stove. For one, the new international signing limits meant no one could simply bowl him over with tens of millions of dollars, leaving everyone on equal ground. For two, Ohtani came over expecting to both pitch and hit. Logically, an AL team made sense for him – he could pitch on his start days, and then DH on other days. The book on him was that he was a frontline pitcher, but that his bat was a bit behind. The Giants were finalists for him, and there was a week there where it seemed the Giants might get both Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton (they did not).

Ohtani’s two-way status makes him more intriguing than any MLB player debut in recent memory, and with the Giants’ near miss, I was especially incentivized to keep an eye on him this Spring. He did NOT do well. At the plate, he went just 4-for-32 (.125 BA), with no extra-base hits, and 10 strikeouts. On the bump, it was a small sample size, but he gave 8 runs, including 3 home runs, in just 2 ⅔ innings of work. Yikes. I was hopeful that the Giants missing out on him was a blessing in disguise.

Nope. Ohtani began his regular season career by pitching very well on Sunday in Oakland, touching up to 100 mph with his fastball, and getting 18 swings and misses, many with his splitter. He struck out 6 over 6 innings, giving up 3 runs, all on one swing. He followed that on Tuesday, playing DH, with a no doubter 3-run bomb in his first at bat. He hit another home run on Wednesday, a 400-foot shot to dead center off Corey Kluber, one of the best pitchers in the game.

He’s now hitting .429 with an OPS of 1.286. That’s real good. And numbers aside, he certainly looks like he belongs, and is hitting the ball very hard. I guess his bat isn’t behind, and I am once again very angry that he did not choose the Giants. -TOB

Source: It’s Impossible to Overreact to What Shohei Ohtani is Doing”, Zach Kram, The Ringer (04/04/2018)

PAL: And Joe Panik is on pace to break the single season home run record. Ohtani has 14 at bats and 1 start as of Thursday afternoon. I’m pulling for him, but let’s all just take it easy.

MLB Could Pay Minor Leaguers a Living Wage for just $6M Per Team


This is an interesting interview with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. MLB has been making negative headlines lately for how much it pays minor leaguers. Here’s what minor leaguers are paid:

AAA: $2,150/month in their first year, $2,400/month in second year, $2,700/month in third, for a 5.5-month season.
(Total: ~$11,825-$14,850 per year.)

AA: $1,700/month, goes up by $100/month in additional years.
(Total: ~$9,350+ per year)

High-A, Low-A: $1,100-1,500/month, goes up by $50 per year in additional years.
(Total: ~$6,050-8,400 per year)

Note, that’s what they are paid each month during the season. In the offseason, they aren’t paid. Manfred ties himself into knots trying to justify both the low pay and the fact players aren’t paid year round. He doesn’t address the fact that minor leaguers are not paid at all during Spring Training. As the interviewer notes: “If you’re required by your employer to do something — anything, really—that is optional in name only, and not doing it will cost you your job, that constitutes working.”

The kicker comes at the end. The cost to each MLB team to pay all minor leaguers $40,000 per year would be just over $6M per team, per year. They throw $6M at the bottom of the barrel major leaguers. They can afford this! Pathetic, Manfred. -TOB

Source: On Minor-League Pay, MLB’s Stance Doesn’t Line Up With the Facts”, Levi Weaver, The Athletic (04/04/2018)

PAL: “To be fair, there are also bonuses. The top 64 picks last year all received a bonus of over $1,000,000 before taxes,but roughly 40% of players signed for one-time bonuses of $10,000 or less. The subsequent contracts can keep them in the minor leagues for as long as seven seasons with no way to leave for a higher bidder.”

It’s the last part of this that’s b.s. – a player’s rights are controlled for 7 years! That’s just absurd, especially considering the disparity of league minimum for big league players is $507K. If one team thinks a guy is a big leaguer and the team that hold the player’s rights isn’t quite sure, then that’s a potential difference of over $490,000!

Video of the Week

Sergio Garcia ends his Masters on Day 1: with FIVE shots into the drink on 15.

PAL’s Song of the Week: Willie Nelson – “Me And Paul”

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