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Houston Astros' Carlos Correa, right, ducks from a pitch thrown by Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly as catcher Will Smith reaches for the ball during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Houston. Both benches emptied after the inning. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Shocker

What did you expect? Seriously, we'll ask again:

What did you expect?

Joe Kelly threw a 96-mph heater behind Alex Bregman as the Dodgers beat the Astros 5-2 Tuesday night. And then he yawned.

Among the billion things lost in the pandemic was the heated discussion in February about the Houston Cheaters and the revelations about the sign-stealing stories for the Astros during their 2017 run to the World Series.

The team they beat for that 2017 title? Yep, the L.A. Dodgers.
So Kelly, who has had fits of wildness throughout his career, threw that one behind Bregman — and exactly where he wanted to, in my opinion — and mocked Carlos Correa after striking him out.

I have said multiple times that the level of danger in MLB players policing themselves with 95-plus heaters north of the shoulders is extreme. Especially in matters of a guy watching a 500-foot homer for two seconds too long or taking a little extreme time circling the bases.

But, we all talked about this and the avalanche of hatred that Houston was destined to face whenever the season started after baseball announced that the Astros were embroiled in the biggest cheating scandal anyone can remember.  

While among the most baseball things to happen in this surreal restart to a 60-game sprint, Kelly's antics cleared the benches, which during a pandemic brings back the realizations that it's impossible to socially distance if you are going to fight.

Or, for Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, if you are going to argue with the umpires.

Baker to reporters after the game: "What are you supposed to do then? And what upset me was the umpires warned us. Why don't you warn him? He's the one throwing the ball. He's the one that started this mess in the first place. I didn't like it at all."

No Dusty, your players started this when they reached historic levels of cheating three years ago.

More from Baker, on whether anyone in the Houston dugout said anything to Kelly: "Don't give him an excuse. No, I'm not giving him any excuse because we didn't say anything. We don't start nothing, but we don't take nothing, either, you know what I'm saying?"

Well, the teams play again tonight. So game on, and raise your hand if you're surprised by any of this.

 

Baseball realizations

OK, what to know how surreal this season truly is?Try this one: Baseball is 10 percent done after tonight, as the Braves play their sixth game of 60.

And in that bubble of perspective, there truly is no time to tarry.

With that knowledge the dreadful start for the top part of the Braves' loaded line-up is magnified.

Ronald Acuña and Freddie Freeman are hitting .143, and Acuña has 12 Ks in 21 at-bats. (Side note: Freeman does have an on-base percentage of .400, which means pitchers are happy to pitch around the Braves first baseman and go after Marcel Ozuna, especially with the bases empty.

Two-hole hitter Ozzie Albies is hitting .217, and he and Acuña have the same .217 on-base percentage.

For a team with a growing number of questions in their rotation, the hitting trio of Acuña, Albies and Freeman needs to deliver.

And they need to start doing it very quickly.

 

Again, is anyone surprised?

So, despite a collectively bargained league policy that requires players to stand for the National Anthem, reports are circulating that the Pelicans and the Jazz are planning some sort of coordinated kneeling event when those teams open the NBA bubble restart Thursday.

I don't believe anyone is surprised by this to be honest.

But considering the teams reportedly will gather around the "Black Lives Matter" logo on the court for the anthem actions, that the league and the players have not put their heads together to come up with a different way to do this is a little puzzling.

Look, Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem was getting maximum exposure because of the emotional charge it delivered to a lot of America. Whether you hated Keep for it or believe he's in the conversations with the great social justice figures in our history, there's no denying the timing was calculated and extremely effective.Kneeling in the locker room before the game? Yawn. Kneeling before kickoff? Fine. Kneeling after the game? Go right ahead.

During the anthem? That created outrage and emotion and passion, which was the goal.

But now that conversation is everywhere. So, in a lot of ways, as we discussed earlier this week, kneeling during the anthem now is easy.

It also is needlessly confrontational, in my opinion. Because as more of us are listening to the reasons why more and more things in our culture can be offensive, is anyone among the BLM side hearing a lot of us who are offended by kneeling during the anthem?

It's a fair question, and it likely will be met with a firm "I don't care," but that's an answer of division not of progress.

And in time of trying to move forward, it's a little surprising that the NBA did not find some pregame, pre-Anthem time for a demonstration or a moment of silence or something that is not during the Anthem.

Because I can guarantee two things about Thursday's NBA restart:

> The TV numbers will be through the roof;

> And if they kneel during the anthem, it will alienate a big number of Americans.

They may not care, but like my initial reaction to the reports of protests and the kneeling, the NBA should not be surprised when it happens.

 

This and that      

 — So Roy Jones Jr. and Mike Tyson are both making boxing comebacks into their 50s and they are fighting each other. Of course the price for the pay-per-view price is $50.

— Here's Paschall — on vacation, mind you — on some college football developments as teams get waivers to move games into Week 0. Also in that story is the news that SEC bigwigs will pow-wow today about the logistics and plans for the 2020 season. Buckle up gang.

— The TSSAA got great news from the Governor's office, getting exemptions for football and girls' soccer to start practice and get the schedule going as projected. Here's more from Stephen Hargis, the TFP sports editor and high school sports guru.

— Oklahoma and Lincoln Riley agreed to a six-year extension. Good deal for both sides, as Riley is aces, and at 36-6 in his time in Norman, that's clear. Also, he's likely to be extremely well-paid.

 

Today's questions  

Which way Wednesday starts this way.

Which way would you describe anthem protests now that the positions and points of view have been changed?

Which Braves hitter are you moist concerned about?

Which elite-level coach at an elite-level program will be the first to win a natty, Lincoln Riley, Kirby Smart, Dan Mullen or Ryan Day?

As for today, well it's national lasagna day, national chili dog day and national wings day.
Friend, friend and friend.

It's also International Tiger Day, starting with Eldrick, what's on the Rushmore of Tiger?

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