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Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull throws to a Seattle Mariners batter during the fourth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

No-no, not a coincidence

So, it's May 19 and we have had five no-hitters in the big leagues this year after Spencer Turnbull's first no-no against the Mariners on Tuesday night.

Side question: Spencer Turnbull sounds like a person who does what? Discuss. I think Spencer Turnbull sounds like the slick attorney with the million-dollar smile guaranteeing you he can get the insurance company to settle for big money. Thoughts?

Any well, so now we're averaging almost one no-hitter a week, which is pretty incredible since, you know, in the last 10 years there were 31 no-hitters before this season.

No-hitters are great. They are fun and nostalgic and make everyone acknowledge there is a no-hitter in progress without saying there's not been a hit. (And trust me, this is a real thing in every dugout or press box I've ever been in or around.)

But this growing number of no-nos is also indicative of the stagnation of baseball in general.

The league is hitting a combined .230 right now. Seriously. Somewhere Tony Gwynn and Ted Williams are at Heavenly Swinging Gates batting cage and bemoaning the state of the game in between perfect swings and laser-launched line drives.

Yes, .230. For the league. And it's hardly a surprise the Mariners were the victims since they are hitting .199 as a team.

Be it the shifts, the new love of the launch angle, the analytic fawning over taking pitches and swinging for the fences or whatever else, the game has grinder to an offensive halt that is less than fun to watch. (Especially if you're a Braves fan.)

Turnbull, too, is a classic example of the changing state of baseball's passion for power in all things — power bats, power swings, power pitchers, power arms.

Turnbull has John Smoltz-level stuff. Seriously. Granted, he's nowhere close to the pitcher Smoltzy was, but it seems like every right-hander who takes the mound fits into Crash's soliloquy about throwing ungodly breaking stuff in the show, exploding sliders.

Turnbull has an effortless 95 mph fastball that rates as his second-best pitch to a hard-breaking slider, which was downright filthy Tuesday night.

Yet, with Tuesday's no-hitter, Turnbull is now 10-25 in his career.

So there you have it. The power evolution has produced the year of the no-hitter because the game is now about slugging and no longer about hitting.

 

Beat it old guy

Speaking of things wrong with baseball, Tony LaRussa needs to hustle back to Alexian, crank up his AM radio and bemoan that devil music of Chuck Berry and Elvis the Pelvis Presley before he reads his afternoon paper as he heads to Shoney's for a 3:30 supper.

The 76-year-old manager of the White Sox, who has already admitted to not knowing the rules of extra innings earlier this year, has his latest stance on playing the game the 'Right Way.' Yawn.

Monday night the White Sox — who have a loaded lineup full of likable young stars who (Gasp) actually play the game with joy and enthusiasm — clubbed the Twins 16-4. In the ninth, Yermin Mercedes clubbed a solo homer.

LaRussa was ticked because the Yerminator — great nickname for a slugging DH — disrespected the game by swinging at a 3-0 pitch against Twins first baseman Willians Astudillo, who was throwing 45 mph puss in mop-up duty of the one-sided affair.

OK, Mercedes ignored a take sign, but LaRussa is airing out the team's dirty laundry, which also is a no-no in the unwritten rules. And who gives your DH a take sign against a lob throwing position player.

In fact, arguably the funnest moment of this young season was Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo striking out Freddie Freeman with a frisbee-like breaking ball.

But LaRussa is anti-fun apparently — heck, the MLB social media account Tweeted the highlight of the homer with all caps — and was adamant about his angst in his meeting Tuesday with reporters.

LaRussa said he apologized to the Twins and promised punishment to Mercedes, who was thrown at by the Twins on Tuesday night leading to an ejection of Minnesota reliever Tyler Duffey.

Yes, that's the traditional answer to the violation of an unwritten rule in the game's long-standing, hypocritical set of imaginary standards, and LaRussa was completely fine with the Twins throwing at his young slugger.

Way to have your slugger's back Skip. (And you too Snitker.)

That's right, LaRussa's player hits a homer and that makes him mad, but the opposing team throws a 94-mph fastball behind said slugger, and LaRussa's A-OK with that.

That's a perfect sentence for the lunacy of baseball's unwritten rules.

Oh, I get the unwritten rules, and I know them.

I just think they are growing more and more outdated and ludicrous, because if the Twins are bent out of shape that a professional hitter — a DH mind you — whose livelihood is solely based on the numbers he generates at the plate hit a homer off a position player, then maybe, duh, the Twins should have put a pitcher on the mound for the ninth.

In the end, Mercedes apparently committed the most egregious sin in the old-school ways of the game.

He had fun. For shame.

 

Appointment viewing?        

NBA numbers are down. A lot.

The reasons are myriad and to say it's all social justice backlash is just as nonsensical as saying it has nothing to do with social justice backlash.

It's part of it, but there are a lot of layers to it, in my view. Among them are the too-long season, the meaningless nature of so many games, a bevy of injuries to a majority of the games best and most popular players, and the growing use of 'load management' and resting protocols for the game's big-name stars. And yes, the social justice protests, too.

That said, tonight's play-in game will be a great litmus test for the TV eyes and the state of the NBA in terms of popularity growth or decline.

The Lakers — the game's most popular franchise — and LeBron — the most recognized and popular team-sport athlete in this country — face the Warriors and Steph Curry — arguably the most likable team-sport athlete in this country — in a game that matters.

It's not win-or-go-home per se, but there are great stakes. A win secures the 7 seed. A loss forces a win-or-go-home situation Friday night.

It's not Game 7, more like Game 6 with a 3-2 lead, so there are stakes.
And there are stars.

But will there be a variety of viewers?

The NBA better hope so.

 

This and that

— Speaking of the play-in game tonight, as Blue Duck told those outlaws in Lonesome Dove, 'Let's gamble.' OK, we're still at minus-1 units in our summer sizzlers. Tonight, give me the Lakers minus-5 for a unit, and for those so inclined, I would look for whatever odds you can get on Steph Curry overs — 3s, 35-plus points (or more), etc. — tonight. Giddy-up.

— Braves played. Braves lost. Rinse, lather, repeat.  

— Speaking of baseball's needs and scenarios. Here are two stories and neither are positive for the sport formerly known as the national pastime. Tim Kurkijan, a true baseball lover and one of the best reporters the sport's ever seen, writes that strikeouts are killing the game. And across the country, Mike Trout, the game's best player not named Ronald Acuña (yes, Scott, I said it, and I mean it) will miss up to two months with a calf strain.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the announced start times for a fun Labor Day slate of college football featuring some big games featuring Alabama and Georgia.

— Rest easy Charles Grodin, an actor and a comedian that was better than most will recall. Few ever have deadpanned as well as he did, and Midnight Run is wicked underrated.

— The youthful right-hander with long blonde hair who rents a room upstairs for a very affordable price avenged her lone loss on her little Scenic City softball team Tuesday night with arguably her best performance of the season. Three innings, no hits, two walks and eight Ks before turning it over to the 'pen in a 7-0 runaway that became a 7-3 win. That'll do. (Side note: We have a couple of regulars around these parts whose daughters Cora and Brooklyn are swinging scorching hot bats for the bunch. So there's that.)

— So Chattanooga proper has recognized Juneteenth as a holiday. So there's that, too.

— Golf is blessed to have a slew of likable young stars, exemplified in this fun exchange between Rory and Justin Thomas. I would have no problem putting a little wager on either of those cats this week either, considering the considerable length that will be needed to compete at Kiawah.

 

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way, which word/phrase best describes baseball's unwritten rule book?

Speaking of no-hitters, which story is your favorite, my no-hitter vs. Paulding County or my double-eagle at Black Creek? (Asking for a friend.)

Which sport — baseball, basketball or football — do you consider our national pastime?

On this day 30 years ago, Willy T. Ribbs became the first Black driver to qualify for the Indy 500. Yes, that's a bona fide all-time great name.

On this day in 1946, Andre the Giant was born. On this day in 1925, Malcolm X was born.

On Tuesday, a couple of folks mentioned Val Kilmer's turn as Jim Morrison and how great he was in the movie about the Doors. Denzel was aces as Malcolm X.

In fact, what is on the Rushmore of 'X' and be creative.

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