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Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly (17) looks back at Houston Astros' Carlos Correa (1) after the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Houston. Both benches emptied during the exchange. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

MLB run by loony loons

Lots of points to cover here as Joe Kelly, the Dodgers pitcher who threw a 96-mph heater behind and over the head of Alex Bregman on Tuesday night.

We all know Kelly, who also heckled Carlos Correa with a "Nice swing, Bleep (a word that sounds like witch and Websters says is actually a female dog)" after striking out the Astros shortstop, was doing the cosmos and karmic work that every Astros player and every baseball fan knew was coming as soon as the MLB investigation revealed a high-tech sign stealing scheme that helped the Houston Cheaters win the 2017 World Series.

The team they beat in that series? Yep, the Dodgers.

So Kelly did what we all expected to happen in large part because baseball has forever allowed the game to police itself. Yes, I think it's completely ridiculous that a pitcher who gives up a 500-foot homer gets the A-OK to zoom a 95-mph heater at some dude who flipped his bat or took a few extra seconds watching that rocket leave or circling the bases after it.

Here's an idea pitchers? Don't want hitters celebrating or slow-walking a home run trot, keep the dang ball in the ballpark. Don't worry about the 'unwritten rules' and all the rest. Do your job and keep your temper in check, goofball.

But, as MLB has allowed the unwritten rules to continue and the game policing itself turns crusty vets like Brian McCann into judge and jury on almost every issue not related to PEDs.

And, since the MLB powers that be are doing everything in its power to make the public think "Man, the NCAA is really not the worst leadership in sports," and did very little to punish the Astros for that cheating scandal, that made it even more clear and predictable that headhunters were going to come calling for the Astros this year.

Period.

But MLB hits Kelly with an eight-game suspension. Eight games, during the Corona, is like 21 games in a regular season. How extreme is that? Well, the last suspension of that length that was not PED-related was Julio Urias last August for domestic violence. Think about that.

Hogwash.

And the reasoning is even more ludicrous, because I will offer that the lengthy and heavy suspension has very little to do with the potential career-ending 96-mph fastball over Bregman's head and everything to do with the benches clearing and teams potentially violating social distancing.

And that's junk too, because in that vein, suspend all the people who left the dugouts, because MLB, you allowed this situation to form by not handling the Astros when you have the chance.

 

ACC and the future

News came out late Wednesday afternoon that the ACC plans to play a 10-game conference schedule that will also include one nonconference game and adds Notre Dame into the league for 2020.

The SEC, which has a conference conference call to make a conference call, is looking at that model and others, as TFP college football expert David Pashgall tells us here.

OK, lots to unpack here too. Man, Thursday got heavy, no?  

> First, you would have to believe that the ACC wants that nonconference game to be the traditional in-state rivalry with so many SEC schools, like Clemson-South Carolina, Tech-Georgia, FSU-Florida, Louisville-UK. That won't work if the SEC goes conference games only.

> UNC just became a sneaky good long shot pick to potentially win the whole thing. Excellent roster returning, no Clemson (unless it's in the title game) and the schedule shake up means no Auburn at a neutral site and no trip to UCF, and Notre Dame in Chapel Hill. Hmmmmm, at 100-to-1, could that be worth a flyer?

> No divisions in the ACC and the top two teams in winning percentage will play in the conference title game either Dec. 12 or 19. Gotta believe the tie-breakers on that thing are going to be well-discussed, said if there's a 10-0 Clemson and a slew of teams at 8-2.

> Notre Dame gets — something that had to be more than a bit scary in South Bend with schedules and conferences either canceling games or announcing they were playing conference games only in the Pac-12 and the Big Ten — into a league, and the ACC will add the Notre Dame-NBC contract into the media money pot that will be split 15 ways.

So those are the ACC details.

The ripple effects are even more interesting and potential game-changers across the landscape of college football.

Let's explore.

This gets Notre Dame in a conference. This gets fewer regular-season games — which gives room on the backend of the schedule to add more playoff games. This is the first 15-team super conference.This is the first step toward major college football breaking away in my view folks.Because now remember this: The days of major college programs being willing to write that $1.4 million check for Akron to come get a whipping or $750,000 for UTC to come on down are fading away quickly.

Those major programs are now wondering why they should share and realize that the river of money easily could be sidetracked, especially with the issues of Names, Imagines and Likeness looming on the horizon.

We have always believed that when the current College Football Playoff TV deal expires after 2026, expansion is coming to the playoff field. I have been consistently against that because I think it will devalue college football's greatest asset — the best regular season in sports — but I know the money will be too great to turn down.

In fact, with fewer games on the slate this fall and the need for fiscal relief never being higher for the programs, would anyone be surprised after the SEC and the Big 12 announce its schedule plans that the playoff field is expanded this year as a trial balloon?

Corona is going to change so many aspects of our lives. We all know this.

It looks like it could expedite the expansion and be the starting point to reshape the realm of college sports.

 

NBA returns

Wow, I got wordy there. Sorry. It happens.The NBA returns tonight, and in truth, if I was the manager at Magic City, the adult-entertainment establishment in the A-T-L that has become known for having wings good enough to make Louis Williams violate the NBA bubble, I would have shipped as many wings as I could spare to the Orlando bubble. This exposure is invaluable right?

But the NBA returns, and it's attempts to have a bubble appear to be working, considering the 340 tests the league has administered since July 20, there have been zero positive results.

The NBA team will play eight games for final seeding for the playoff runs, with everyone chasing the Bucks and the two L.A. teams.

Are you excited? Better yet, will you watch?

I will watch LeBron tonight. In fact, I'm excited about watching Lakers-Clippers. I also wholeheartedly approve of the NBA plan to have juggled start times, like the 6:30 tip of Jazz-Pelicans.

Take Friday for example. The schedule starts with a Magic-Nets game at 2:30, two games at 4 p.m. and the 6:30-9 p.m. doubleheader. That's smart as so many of us are working from home these days.

In fact, as MLB spins aimlessly between the lack of discipline of the Astros and the Marlins mass infections, the NBA looks like it has its duck in a row, right?

Who knows what the game will look like or what the level of play will be or even how long the games will last?

But welcome back NBA. Like baseball, let's enjoy it while we have it, because the good Lord knows that nothing set for tomorrow is guaranteed, especially in this day and age.

Dang you, Corona.

 

This and that

— So, across the state of Tennessee, state Sen. Katrina Robinson was charged with theft and embezzlement and wire fraud. So there's that.

— We'll just leave this here, as Michael Porter Jr., the former Missouri player and current Nuggets forward, said he believes Corona is being "used for population control." Enjoy, and some of the conspiracy theories on this thing are absolutely NUTS.

— Wanna know why Ron's Ron and his baseball "Wait and see" approach made a lot of sense Wednesday? Well, any hand-wringing I may have done about Freddie Freeman, who started 2-of-14 (.143), was wiped away with a 4-for-5, three-RBIs evening that was a triple short of the cycle last night. And just like that Freeman is back to .316 with a staggering .480 OBP.

— Speaking of the Braves, greatly enjoyed watching a lot of the Braves last night. Truly. Not a fan of the cardboard cutouts to be honest. That said, the Rays have been renowned around baseball for embracing the modern science of baseball. They frequently use an opener rather than a starting pitcher, which means they give the ball to their seventh- or eighth-inning reliever in the first, and work backward. They also shift on almost every hitter. I have frequently said MLB did not roll the dice with enough quirky rule alterations and game changes to address issues, but I am strongly against outlawing the shift. Forget that, teams should punish the shift. For example, Ozzie Albies, who is hitting .214, could add 100 points to his average quickly by bunting into the open spaces of the shift.

— The Chiefs are just living right, no? A Super Bowl victory — the franchise's first in half a century — followed by a superstar QB on a Hall of Fame trajectory taking a below-market long-term extension that makes you a legit contender for a decade. In the spring they drafted super versatile Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the do-it-all running back from LSU, which felt like a great pick and a luxury pick at the time. Well, next thing you know the Corona comes calling, Chiefs starting RB Damien Williams opts out of the season, and if there is a fantasy season, CEH becomes a high-second-round pick.

— Speaking of opting and the Braves — this is the rare double blending of a This and That trilogy — Nick Markakis has opted back into action after six games. Talking about this on Press Row on Wednesday, it was pretty clear that it had to be very difficult for Markakis — who will be 37 later this year and staring at the end of his long and winding baseball road — to watch baseball and not be a part of a team for the first time since he was barely walking. Imagine that for a second. A life spent surrounded by the game becomes a retired life sitting at home watching the game. At 36. Here's the money quote from Markakis, via The Athletic's David O'Brien who broke the story, baseball has "been in my blood since 4 years old. And it sucks watching baseball when you know you can still go out there and compete and play on a daily basis. And it eats away at you a little bit."

— Here are the details of Red Bank's BJ Ragland committing to play football at Tulane. He is part of a pretty impressive recruiting haul Willie Fritz is assembling in New Orleans. That class includes a four-star quarterback form Mississippi — a top-500 national prospect who has been offered by several SEC schools, Oregon, Nebraska and others — who picked Tulane in part because of the Corona ripple effects on recruiting and, like Ragland, was convinced by Fritz and Co. on Zoom meetings. Happy 2020 everyone.

— Enjoyed this personal story from former U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp, who shared in the TFP about his connection and friendship with former Civil Rights champion John Lewis. Well played Zach. Well played indeed.

 

Today's questions    

Loads of questions to debate today if you look around.

Let's go true or false on a Thursday.

True or false, Notre Dame wins the ACC.

True or false, the SEC will play the same formatted schedule the ACC unveiled.

True or false, Joe Kelly got hosed.

True or false, you will watch some of the NBA tonight.

As for today, it's Arnold Schwarzenegger's  73rd birthday, and all things considered, Arnold's life is pretty dang unbelievable.

From meat-head body builder who barely spoke broken English to rough-edged action star in the early days of Conan and the timeless Terminator to marrying a member of the Kennedy family to becoming an absolute no-doubt, Hollywood A-list superstar, to becoming the Governor of California. Wowser.

OK, let's not over think this. What's on Arnold's Rushmore. Go, and remember the mailbag friends.

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