Albert Pujols is totally going back to St. Louis right?

I haven’t been paying attention to baseball enough this season to know just how poorly Albert Pujols has been.  I mean, I knew he was very much on the decline phase of his career, as Father Time is undefeatable and even the deity-like Albert Pujols would eventually meet his maker as well, but I was still pretty surprised to see when the news broke that Pujols was going to be designated for assignment, which is a way to say released, by the Angels.

I mean this is Albert Pujols we’re talking about; as much as I was amazed by him throughout his career, he just seemed like one of those guys, that if anyone were going to show any ability to stand up to Father Time, it would had to have been him.  The guy has over 600 career home runs, only behind Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and two cheaters, has over 3,000 hits and has won multiple championships, which makes him an easy first ballot Hall of Famer, and these are the guys that tend to play forever.

But like I said, time catches up to everyone, and even the almighty Albert Pujols has reached the end.  I just never thought he would ever be someone who would have gotten DFA’d, but that just goes to show just how much the game has changed these days, and the Angels, no matter just how much talent they amass, just can’t seem to ever succeed, but by DFAing Pujols, they seem to think that there’s a chance to turn things around despite being last place in the AL West, instead of letting Pujols have a farewell tour, like many of the greats before him have had.

Regardless of the baseball geek logic and arguments, there’s no way Pujols ends his career this way right?  He’s totally got to go back to the St. Louis Cardinals, right?  Sure they’re currently in first place, have Paul Goldschmidt at first, and have literally no need for Albert Pujols, but I’d be hard pressed to believe the vast majority of Cards fans wouldn’t want to see the prodigal son return to St. Louis.

Either way, I don’t really care so much as this is more of one of those icons of a nostalgic time makes the news and gets my mind churning.  About nostalgia.  Because Albert Pujols totally needs to go back to the St. Louis Cardinals, and despite how much I dislike their squeaky clean franchise, it just seems like a storybook ending that could possibly happen, in spite of logic.

Man though, this is just all also a reminder of just how much time flies.  I remember when Pujols signed with the Angels on a ten-year deal, and hearing that this was the final year of said deal, I’m just kind of like wtf, it’s really been ten years?  When I was a kid, there was a big deal when the Washington Bullets signed Juwan Howard to a seven-year deal, and how sad I felt when he almost left before coming back to D.C.  An eternity later, I was living in Georgia, eating out at a restaurant on my own dime, and seeing a Houston Rockets game on television, where Howard was coming off the bench, and was in the last year of that same deal.

Now, I’m seeing the ends of ten-year contracts as if they’re single seasons of a Netflix show, and the professional athletes I’ve watched play their respective games are aging and deteriorating at a rapid pace, and I’m once again reminded of just how fast time seems to fly the older I get.  I feel like in two years, Ronald Acuña, Jr. is going to be 38, playing first base and relying on nothing but home runs to justify his existence in MLB.

It always amuses me when the Braves suck

Man, talk about lowered expectations.  Many sources prior to the start of the season had the Braves pegged to win the NL East again, and potentially challenge the Dodgers and the Padres for National League supremacy.  After all, they came so close during the pandemic year that didn’t count, having a 3-1 series lead on the Dodgers before choking monumentally and failing to make a completely winnable and validating World Series against the Rays that the Dodgers won instead, that surely they could be contenders again this year, right??

Admittedly I haven’t been paying that much attention to baseball or sports in general because of new dad, but I have tangenally been keeping track of Braves scores most nights, and I’m pretty sure they’re either in last place in the NL East or at least the bottom half of the standings.

But not only did the Braves drop both games of a doubleheader yesterday, and not only did they get shutout of both games yesterday, they got fucking no-hit in the second game, even though it was a shortened seven-inning game.

Sure, there’s all sorts of asterisks and MLB is not officially counting it as a no-hitter, but the fact of the matter is that the Braves had an absolutely humiliating and pathetic day of futility yesterday, and it seldom fails to amuse me when any team, much less the Braves has a day in which they get owned so hard.

Not only did the Braves get no-hit in the seven-inning second game, they got one-hit in the seven-inning first game, with the one hit coming in the sixth inning, which is the only thing preventing me from being all like well actually . . . the Braves DID get no-hit for nine straight innings on the same day technically . . .  But come on – 14 innings of one-hit baseball?  That’s fucking turrible and pathetic, no matter what way you look at it. 

And this was the weekend where the Barves relaxed a little bit more of the attendance and let more fans into the stadium; imagine the excitement of all the fans who are getting to see live baseball in Atlanta for the first time in over a year, all giddy and thrilled to have a pleasant day at the ballpark again… and then they get to sit on their hands and slog through two straight games of the Braves getting completely demoralized and humiliated, where they get one-hit and no-hit in successive games.  Complete hilarity.

Regardless, it’s still April, and there’s still a ton of time for the Braves to get their shit together and do something.  Even if they don’t, I really won’t care that much, because I’m pretty content where I’m at with my sports fandom.  My kids come first, and only if they actually become a contender will maybe I come back to give a shit, but until then, I can sit back from afar, judge and laugh at the Braves and any other team, gets owned.

How about y’all just get better at baseball instead?

I don’t pay a tremendous amount of attention to baseball anymore these days, but I came across this particular article in Sports Illustrated about how recently retired Jay Bruce basically retired because the shift killed his career, and how they opined that shifting should be made illegal in baseball.

Now as far as sports columnists go, I actually really like Tom Verducci.  He’s a well-versed guy who has good insight, adapts to the times, and has always had a fairly pleasant, readable tone in his writing throughout all the years that I’ve known of his existence, but I have to say that his opinion that the shift should be made illegal is one of the dumbest things that I’ve ever read.

In short, the shift is when baseball fielders position themselves heavily on one side of the field, because a batter might have a very predictable tendency to hit to that side of the field, thus optimizing their chances at being able to field a hit ball and get them out.  Good examples of the shift in action are this fictional instance known as the DeVanzo Shift from Artie Lange’s Beer League, and this hilariously similar but actually real instance known as the Joey Gallo Shift from the Houston Astros.

There is absolutely nothing illegal about teams shifting their fielders, and as a result over the last decade, the strategy has been adopted all over the league and employed on a countless number of mostly-left hand hitters, although there is no shortage of righties that hard shifts work on as well.  And as the number of teams employing shifts has gone up, the careers of many pull-happy hitters have gradually begun plunging down metaphorical toilets all over.

So instead of suggesting a not-illegal tactic be made illegal, here’s a wild and crazy suggestion for baseball players being victimized into retirement by the shift: get fucking better at baseball.

Learn to hit the other way.  Learn to drop a good bunt down the opposite field.  Pop your hips early and hit the ball where they ain’t; accept singles as not making outs instead of looking like a fucking idiot swinging for the fences, but then hitting a hard grounder to a shortstop playing in shallow right field 75 feet away from they’d normally be positioned.

Verducci suggesting MLB ban shifting is a sad pro-players suggestion that shields a league full of overrated assholes who get paid millions to play a kids game so that the league can make billions to exploit broadcast it.  Seriously, the league minimum last I checked was a hair under $500,000 a year, so even the shittiest 26th man on the roster is still making half a million dollars, but still can’t hit the ball to the opposite field, so the league should just change the rules?  Fuck that shit.

Players who can’t adapt to defensive strategies all deserve to have their stats and value plummet, because as often times as baseball can metaphorically be compared to life, it really is a story of adapt or die.  It’s ironic too, because so many baseball players get to the biggest league in the world, because at some point, they’re taught and demonstrated good hitting acumen, which usually involves being able to hit baseballs to various parts of the field except pull-side, but somewhere along the path of the majors, whether it’s poor coaching or aspiration of greed, guys end up these pull hitters who are eaten alive by shifts.

Guys like Pete Rose and Ichiro Suzuki are the greatest all-time hitters and played for eons respectively, because they were guys who could always hit to all parts of the field, even if they weren’t putting up gaudy home run numbers.  Meanwhile jobbers like Jay Bruce are calling it quits because they can’t produce because the shift is killing them, and all I can think of how sad and pathetic it is that there are guys that would rather quit, instead of perhaps going back to the cage and breaking the rust off of the ability to possibly hit the other way instead.

Like I said, I typically enjoy Verducci’s writing and opinions, but this one was a total stinker.  Instead of banning the shift, how about baseball players collectively just get better at playing baseball, and learning to hit baseballs to more parts of the field except their pull side?  That, right there, would be some real Moneyball shit, in the sense of it being an underutilized strategy to exploit.  

I’d love to see an MLB squad rebuild, with a mentality of building a team of good spray hitters, and then when the stars align, they go on a 98-win season, dinky-hitting all their opponents to death and march through the playoffs and bust open the World Series with all sorts of drag bunts, opposite field singles and triples down the line.  And after a few years of other teams copying that game-breaking strategy, maybe Verducci will write an article about how opposite-field hitting should be outlawed.

Thoughts on Wrestlemania Week

It occurred to me that in spite of how much I like sports like baseball, college football and basketball, or any other sport that I tend to get into for various spurts of time, when the day was over, and I really had to pick one thing to really stay interested in giving my very limited time these days, what wins out in the end is professional wrestling, the so-called fake sport.

I mean it’s really no surprise, considering my interest in wrestling precedes every single sports interest I’ve ever had in my life, so I’m literally falling back all the way to my childhood interest when there’s an overabundance of options to be interested in.

Anyway, so this past week was for lack of a better term, Wrestlemania Week.  Both NXT and the main roster broke up TakeOver and Wrestlemania into two-night affairs apiece, and to be perfectly honest, I really liked it in this format, and kind of hope it remains as such in the future, and not just a pandemic thing.  I enjoyed the fact that every single evening was a 2-3 hour event, and unlike ‘Manias in the past, wasn’t an exhausting five hour show to where I’m dog tired by the time the Brock Lesnar match at the end is over.  I literally had time to slap on a paint of coat in my second daughter’s nursery after night 1 of TakeOver went off the air before going to bed.

By breaking up the shows over multiple nights, I could build anticipation for matches on each of the nights, and I didn’t feel tired or burned out from watching any one show too long, and it actually helped me remain engaged and entertained.

However, before I get into the meat of this post and talk about my favorite matches of the week, I have to say that I was one part happy to see a raucous live sellout crowd at Raymond James for Wrestlemania, because fans really are one of the things that have been truly missing throughout the last year, and I know AEW and NXT have been running small crowds regularly, but seeing a packed house, made it feel like for the first time, something back to normal.

But on the other hand, the other part of me was absolutely mortified at the fact that there were 25,000 people sold out two nights straight in Tampa Bay, and just days prior in Dallas, were about 40,000 people packed into a ballpark for the Texas Rangers’ home opener.  The mere thought of these kinds of gatherings when coronavirus is very much still a thing makes my skin crawl at the sheer ignorance and selfishness being exhibited by all the people going to these things, and turning these gatherings into what will probably become super-spreader events.

I know people miss and desire the feeling of normalcy by going to major events like home openers and Wrestlemanias, but I’ll be damned if I go to anything expected to be packed houses, for at least, the rest of my life, if not another two years, without feeling scurred and/or paranoid the whole time.

But that’s just me.  Save for the awkward scariness of seeing tens of thousands of fans gathering in a venue again for the first time in over a year, Wrestlemania week was full of some fantastic work; and these were my favorites.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Wrestlemania Week”

“COVID” must be like, Italian, for “sucking”

The only thing that sucks about both Duke and Kentucky missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1976 is that both of their blowhard coaches are going to be using coronavirus as their excuse for the fact that they just plain sucked; and because it has been such a devastating thing throughout the last year, or the fact that most people with brains know that sports probably shouldn’t be happening in the first place right now, that they’re both going to have an act of god-like rationale to justify it and chalk the 2020-21 season as some sort of asterisked aberration that shouldn’t count.

However, make no mistake – coronavirus or no coronavirus, both Duke and Kentucky played like shit all year, and they are exactly where they belong right now as a result of it.  There’s little reason to believe that either would have done any better if the world weren’t currently in a pandemic, and if anything at all, there should probably be some suspicion to why they just suddenly sucked when there’s no crowds, no extra noise or any other external factors that being in a non-pandemic scenario would have differentiated from.

Of course, aside from coronavirus, both programs will probably cite some key prospects opting out of the season, and I don’t have enough shits to give to try and find out, but these are two of the most notorious hoops programs in the nation; at any given time, they’ll have numerous 4-5 star recruits waiting in the wings, and for every one that opts out, there’s probably another talented prep salivating in the wings to get on the court.

Either way, as a detractor for both overrated programs, it’s good that neither are in the NCAA tournament, as reckless as it might be to hold in the first place.  Both would have undoubtedly gotten bounced in the second round if not the first, by like Florida Atlantic, UMBC or Louisiana Tech, so it’s better for the NCAA to have those layup losses be filled by a potential Cinderella team from a non-power five conference.

But on that same note, for those who might actually give a shit and actually tune into any March Madness, we’ll all be denied the smug satisfaction and gambling pool of when Duke and Kentucky get upset much less filling out a bracket in the first place.  As I said, I just don’t give a shit to look closer, but in previous years, I always tried to earmark when Duke would get bounced, based on whom was in their region.  Kentucky, I often times gave a little more leash, but they were almost always bounced by the Elite Eight in any bracket I ever fill out.

Anyway, good on sports for Duke and Kentucky not making it to the dance.  Chalk one point up for supposed parity.  As for the rest of the college hoops season, none of it really counts or matters this year; that is, unless Virginia Tech wins it all, to which then it’s the greatest season of college hoops in history, and they overcame tremendous odds and adversity to climb to the top of the mountain.  But considering their placement in the ACC tournament and still got bounced by the UNC squad that ducked them earlier in the season, I don’t have too many hopes for that.

TFW your BAC is higher than your career BA

It’s that time of the year again in spite of the fact that like a year ago, it’s probably still not a very good idea, but because Major League Baseball is a machine that demands its financial tithe, the 2021 season is a-go, and it’s Spring Training all over parts of Florida and Arizona, or wherever each team is actually deciding to try and get their bodies into shape for another unnecessary season of sports while a pandemic is still very much in play.

But the specific time in which I am referring to is that with Spring Training afoot, it’s only a matter of time before a baseball player, personnel, executive or alum, makes the news having gotten a DUI, most likely from a little too much fraternization and/or having a good time with the boys.

In this case, it was an alum, in former All-Star outfielder Johnny Damon, getting pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence in Florida. And naturally, because it’s completely relevant to the conversation, the article makes sure to mention that in his baseball career, he had 2,796 hits, 235 home runs, and a career batting average of .284.

It’s one of my favorite clichés about professional athletes getting in trouble with the law.

However in this case, it actually does provide a little bit of interesting context, because batting average is a decimal number measured by three digits, much like a breathalyzer test, and in the case of Johnny Damon’s two tests, he allegedly blew both a .300 and a .294, to which I hope most people can do the math, is well past three times the legal limit of .080. I mean, anything over .000 is illegal in the state of Georgia and I’m okay with that frankly because (in a non-pandemic world) ridesharing has made any sort of driving with any booze in the system completely unnecessary.

But back to the topic at hand, not only is .294 a staggeringly high blood alcohol content that literally states that nearly 30% of his body’s blood diluted by booze, it’s higher than his career batting average. Which is ironically impressive, because a career .284 batting average is actually pretty quite good, so the fact that he was able to surpass his batting average on a night out is pretty amazing.

Obviously in the grand spectrum of things this is really pathetic; most baseball fans know Damon as kind of face of the 2004 Red Sox that came back from the 3-0 deficit to the Yankees and ultimately won the World Series, but now he’s this sad sack of retired professional athlete with too much time, privilege and money to do stupid shit, like get trashed three times the legal limit. More than likely Damon won’t do any sort of time or get anything more than a fine and slap on the wrist, whereas any ordinary American would be in pound-me-in-the-ass prison by now, most definitely if it were any sort of person of color. But since there’s little anyone can actually do about it, all we can really do, is make jokes.

Love him or hate him, Tom Brady is a winner

Not that I’ve been paying that much attention to the NFL this season other than the ironically entertaining aspects of a season that I maintain probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place; if it were up to me, the upcoming Superb Owl would be the Washington Redskins Football Team versus the Buffalo Bills, so that we could have a repeat of 1991, but a team with an idiotic interim name and a 7-9 record would, give the Buffalo Bills a loss in the Superb Owl, for old times’ sake, and the season would end in an ironic combination of some things change, some things stay the same.

Instead, we have the heavily favored Chiefs, which in itself is a little difficult to comprehend, because for the longest time the Chefs (yes the Chefs) were that one team that always made it to the playoffs, but would always get bounced in the second round, usually losing to like the Steelers or Broncos, and nobody would ever really take them seriously as legitimate contenders, especially since Andy Reid took over, and that guys manages timeouts like he manages cheeseburgers, which is to say he devours them all, and then there’s nothing left at the end.

And opposing the Chefs, is a team that hasn’t sniffed a championship since 2002, but at the very helm of it is a guy that has sniffed more than his share of Lombardi trophies in his time, in none other than Tom. Period. Brady. Period.

Just about anyone with a sports pulse knew of the general story of how Tom Brady left the New England Patriots, and instead of retirement, he just kind of inexplicably signs with, of all the teams in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  A team that had gone 59-101 over the last decade, and was coming off of three straight losing seasons, with two of them placing last in the pitiful NFC South division.

For a guy that literally had nothing left to prove, as he already has six Superb Owl championships, an underwear model wife, and lord knows how much money earned in his career, another season for a cellar-dweller like the Bucs seemed like a really sad way to end his career, and likely injured on the way out as a shit team usually can’t protect their QB.

But I guess Brady really wanted to prove that he could win without Bill Belichick, and put to rest permanently the answer to the question of who really was the talent behind the Patriots’ success throughout the last 20 years, and seeing as how one has reached the Superb Owl, while the other didn’t even make the playoffs, I guess the answer is pretty abundantly clear now, but it really shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Love him or hate him, Tom Brady truly is the GOAT of football.  It doesn’t even matter if the Bucs win the Superb Owl or not, although me personally I can’t say that I kind of would be rooting for Brady, despite the fact that I’m most definitely no fan of the Bucs, but I’ve never really had any issue with Brady, and I respect the greatness.  But he’s already proven his point and one that really was inconsequential in the grand spectrum of things but was clearly still very important to him to stamp his claim over Belichick as the real reason for the Patriots’ success.

But really, I just kind of sadistically enjoy how everyone fucking hates Tom Brady so much, but it’s like he feeds off the hate and burning rage that his existence incites within haters, and it only makes him that much more effective.  Patrick Mahomes is a legend in his own right, being someone who was capable of lifting the once-hapless Chefs into becoming the respectable defending champion Chiefs, but in two weeks’ time, he’ll be going up against the literal god of professional football, and he’ll be back to square one at having his own thing to prove.

In the end, I don’t really care who wins, because the NFL is kind of a sad sack of an organization, and I resent just how much pull and influence it has on the entire, well country.  Which is why I’d like to see Tom Brady hoist up yet another Superb Owl Lombardi, because it’s the closest thing to a giant middle finger to all the haters there possibly could be.