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Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr., right, high-five Freddie Freeman after hitting a home run during the third inning of the team's baseball game against the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

He's a bad man

OK, you know that Jim Carrey scene in The Mask, where he says, "Ssssssssmokin'" with that only-Carrey-can-make face?

I believe that's the only way to describe Ronald Acuña at the moment.

Dear Lord, 3-for-5, three extra-base hits including two homers — one that forced extra innings — and he accounted for all five Atlanta runs — four RBIs, three runs scored — in Wednesday's ugly 6-5 loss.

Ssssssssmokin' indeed. He's slashing .447/.500/1.000 right now with six homers, 12 RBIs and 15 runs scored in 12 games.

Now know this: He started the season 2-for-12, so since that three-game hiccup in Philly, he's a tidy 19-for-35 gang.

Again, ssssssssmokin' — like for real.

Of course it's unsustainable, even for a guy just this week I said will be the best Atlanta Braves player ever. And that makes this a truly wasteful first furlong of the always long baseball season.

You know the rules. First, as Annie said, it's a long season and you got to trust it. Second, until the 'er' months, it's really posturing more than pressure.

But if the rest of Snitker's squad can't help summon up enough quality pitches or quality ABs to help a truly game-changing talent on a torrid streak rarely experienced at this level, then this bunch is, well, smoking, too, but not in a good way.

In the current four-game slide that started with that ridiculous replay fiasco Sunday night, the Braves pitchers have allowed 32 runs. Yes, 32.

If that's the best they got, they are going to need some more Acuñas ASAP.

Or this season may very well go up in smoke.

 

Sports future or fad

We discussed briefly on Wednesday that gambling kiosks and betting avenues will be commonplace in professional sports venues across the country sooner rather than later.

The transition in sports media has been moving that way gradually as more shows and segments have been dedicated to gambling vernacular and predictions and picks. Be it SVP's 'Bad Beats' segment or even the entire radio station on XM that is dedicated to Fantasy sports and player props.

This will only continue, and will quickly grow.

In fact, last night the talented duo of Doug Kezirian and Joe Fortenbaugh were the voices of an NBA game on ESPN2. Yeah, that seems rather ho-hum.

But Kezirian and Fortenbaugh are the hosts of ESPN's 'Daily Wager' which is all about gambling on sports. And last night they were not there to be play-by-play guy and analyst. No they left that to Mike Breen and whomever did the game on ESPN proper.

Doug and Joe talked about every betting angle, every player prop, every in-game betting number from spreads in a specific quarter to the over/under for the first half.

It was different — and those guys are great — and remember this day. This could change so much that if ESPN is smart, they would transform ESPNU to ESPN-G, as in gambling.

Fact: Close to half the states in the union have legalized betting. Fact: There was more than $176 million bet in Tennessee alone in February, and March will be bigger than that and projected to be record-setting considering the NCAA tournament. Fact: There are more fantasy football players in this country than golfers.

Appealing to that ever-growing audience makes sense. And it will make money.

Look, I'm not saying it's everyone's cup of Joe, but with so many platforms clamoring for live programming, especially sports this makes too much sense to put on an ESPN auxiliary or on CBSSports Net. Sure have Nantz and Romo doing the game on CBS proper, but have a full NFL betting smorgasbord on the CBS spinoff sports channel.

Plus, with TV numbers dwindling for live sporting events, finding new ways to connect to viewers will be critical.

Heck, why stop there. ESPN is the biggest brand in sports, you have to wonder if they are considering being a betting shop too. Yahoo is already in that, and here's betting the leagues are looking for partners — and content — already.

Excuse me, I need to go dust up my résumé.

 

Rules, schmules

First, and let me be clear: I am forever in support of sports leagues looking at ways to make their games better. The 'We've always done it this way' is lazy and the philosophy of dinosaurs.

But there's a huge difference with finding improvements and looking at core parts of the sport. It's the difference between tweaking and twerking for Pete's sake.

With that caveat, news came this week that MLB is partnering with the independent Atlantic League to move the pitching mound back 12 inches later this summer.

Oh boy. Hey, everyone in the show throws 92-plus these days, even the Braves bullpen doofuses — Spy, doofuses or doofi? — who can't get three-up, three-down on the beginner level of Whack a Mole.

But the ramifications of moving the mound back are pretty far-reaching considering the universal measures of the sport at everything from the high school level and up.

Side note: Jim Murray is my favorite sports columnist of all-time. He crafted so many great lines through the years it's hard to pick a favorite. Whether it was his lead from the Indy 500 one year that read "Gentleman, start tour coffins" or his tribute to losing an eye. But I think my favorite one of his is, "Man has never come closer to perfection than 90 feet between the bases."

And in some ways that uniformity between the mound at Dodgers Stadium and the one at Lattanzi Field at Campbell High School where I pitched connects everyone who has played.

So something as drastic as changing one of the fundamental numbers across all of sports — free throw line is 15 feet, football field is 100 yards long, pitching rubber

"It's a direct response to the escalating strikeout rate, where you're giving the hitter approximately one one-hundreth of a second of additional time to decide whether to swing at a pitch, which has the effect just in terms of reaction time of reducing the effective velocity of a pitch by roughly 1.5 mph," Morgan Sword, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, told the AP. "The purpose of the test and hope is giving hitters even that tiny additional piece of time will allow them to make more contact and reduce the strikeout rate."

Here's the thing. Will that even address the strikeout issue? I doubt it because the analytics have put baseball's game into a three-card Monty that is either walk, whiff or big fly. Moving the mound is not going to help that because the thinking and the analytics of modern-day baseball make the skills of Tony Armas as desirable as those of Tony Gwynn.

Gwynn was a poet with a bat; Armas was a slugger who ripped and missed a lot.

For the last three seasons, there have been more Ks than hits in the MLB. That's an issue.

But it's a philosophical decision a lot more than a physical dimension.  

Thoughts?

 

This and that

— Aaron Donald apparently is investigated by Pittsburgh authorities for an alleged fight outside of a nightclub called the Boom Boom Room. OK, lots to unpack here. First, the Boom Boom Room has to have nekkid folks on stages right? Has to. (And yes, that's the old Lewis Grizzard differentiation between naked — what you are with no clothes on in the doctor's office — and nekkid.) Second, of all the none MMA fighters and or boxers on the planet, I'm having a hard time coming up with a worse person to fight than Donald. Especially in the wee hours of operation and hoppingness of any place called the Boom Boom Room. Third, dude got knocked the bleep out — and he's likely lucky to be alive. Here's a photo from a Pittsburgh TV reporter.

— The NCAA is expected to approve a one-time free and clear transfer waiver that will allow athletes to pick-up and move without needing consent or a waiver to be immediately eligible. Some are calling this free agency in college sports, and maybe it is. But the first word in that phrasing is 'free' and as long as coaches can take different jobs, schools can fire coaches and/or programs continue to recruit a player's replacement, then I'm not sure what all the hubbub and hand-wringing is about. If Tom Izzo or Coach K want to bemoan the lack of commitment, well, don't take another school's transfer. And refuse to sign the one-and-doners. Plus, as long as scholarships are one-year deals that are renewable at a coach's discretion, the student-athletes having any leverage is less about free agency than it is about control and every coach you have ever known wants as much control as they can grab. Heck, as truly all-time great as Saban is, he's processed more kids to open up scholarship space through the years than anyone could remember.      

— And for all the hand-wringing about the transfer deal, did you know that the transfer limitations were only applied to college basketball, baseball, football and hockey? All the rest, transfer all you want? Which again masks the biggest conundrum about college athletics in general: How can we more fairly treat the athletes in the sports that pay the bills for all the other programs?

— Speaking of dudes who are Smokinnnn' — ladies and gentlemen (and Intern Scott), have you met the artist known as Steph Curry. We discussed Curry becoming the all-time Warriors leading scorer with a 50-burger earlier this week. Last night he and the Warriors blitzed OKC by more than three dozen. Curry's measurable: 42 points on 14-for-20 shooting — 11-for-16 from deep — and had a plus/minus of +31 in 29 minutes.  

— Bernie Madoff died Wednesday, and really other than maybe Bobby Bonilla, should anyone be sad about this news. Hey, death comes for us all, but think of the lives that dude ruined. As for Bonilla, well, among the countless folks Madoff impacted was the Wilpon family, who owned the Mets. In an effort to stay afloat at that time, the Wilpons looked to buy out Bonilla's contract but rather than give him the several million he was owed, the Wilpons — who were making money with Madoff's ponzi scheme at the time — agreed to pay Bonilla $1.19 million a year from 2011 to 2036.  

— Yes, the rules state that when TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer writes about college hoops, it's a mandatory read and link. We know this. But Weeds, like all great pitchers, has multiple plus pitches. When he finds a local tale that needs to be told — like today's effort on an East Ridge dude giving six figures to the Pioneers athletic department — Weeds is in his briar patch.

— Side note: From Weeds' column we get to hear from Danny Gilbert, the head of the ERHS alumni association. Gang, you can add this one to our rules, not unlike Paschall on the SEC, Weeds on college hoops and any other bona fide experts, if it happened on a wrestling mat in or around Hamilton County, and Danny Gilbert is unaware of it, well, I'm pretty sure it didn't happen. Danny knows more about wrestling Vincent Gambino's fiancé knows about cars.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on UT's talented Mays brothers.

— Interesting chatter on Twitter this morning about players who should be in the Hall of Fame ahead of Julian Edelman. One of the names bandied about was Devin Hester, arguably the greatest kick returner who ever signaled a fair catch.  

— Wowser, the term 'mistress' is sexists according to AP. In fact, upon more review, the AP changed it's style last year apparently, but we're just now trying to enforce it. OK, if we can't use mistress for a lying, cheating back-stabbing adulteress — and the lying, cheating, horse's (bleep) man committing adultery too — is skank acceptable? How about dirtbag? Dirtbag is gender neutral, right? NCAA, can I get a ruling here? What about side piece?

— An 80-year-old Pete Rose picking games for anyone — and charging for it — seems about the most Pete Rose thing ever, no?

 

Today's questions

The Aaron Donald story made me think — yes, Spy that can be a dangerous thing — who would you least like to fight in each sport? Discuss.

Lots here today, so feel free to fire away.

Transfers, MLB rules, Braves stinking. Have at it.

Also remember the mailbag.

Today is April 15, normally it's tax day. Boo.

It's also Jackie Robinson Day across the majors. Yay.

Rushmore of Jackies. Go and remember the mailbag.

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