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Thor’sLinks: Moon Joe Maddon Day

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As the Nationals crush the Astros 12-3 and put Houston in a tank-sized hole, MLB celebrates the homecoming of Joe Maddon

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

PLAYOFFS

Wow. Soul crushing. Soul crushing and it was sweet to observe. The Nationals went up once again versus the Houston Astros in Houston, and this time facing down Justin Verlander. The first inning opened up with plenty of scoring (relative to expectations) on both sides. 2-2 going into the second inning. It stayed that way until the 7th inning, less because Verlander and Stephen Strasburg were shutting everything down, and more because they were working out of jams. But the tension was real. You can sense it on that game thread. Every little moment is magnified. So if the little moments get magnified, imagine a 6-run 7th inning to run the Nationals up to an 8-2 lead and foretell the doom of going back to Washington down 0 games to 2, needing to win 4 out of 5 to in a World Series against that Nationals starting rotation??? Deliciously, it didn’t end there. 3 more runs in the 8th, 1 last run of humiliation in the 9th, and then we close it out with a gift run to the ‘stros before Jake ‘The Human Plow’ Marisnick records the final out and the Nats win 12-3. It is just possible that Marinsick’s will be the final out recorded in Houston for the entire 2019 season. And this could be Justin Verlander’s season legacy...........

Son Rise: Washington’s wonderkind Juan Soto is playoff crushing it..........Son Set: Houston’s wunderkind Yordan Alvarez is playoff slumping...........

Ceremonial first pitch, from she who might currently be America’s premier athlete. And who still throws like a girl? Certainly not like a Nobel Prize Winner...........

I can’t get enough of these pitching overlays. They remind of my athletic hopelessness anymore............

Nationally, the Nats/Astros match up is not drawing huge TV viewing numbers. A 5-year low. And this is why it’s a mistake for MLB and the national sports broadcasters who carry baseball to constantly pander to the easy money of the Yankee/Red Sox/Dodgers/Cubs fan clubs. It’s hard work, but they need to do more to showcase the human stories on the other potential playoff clubs so that the general fan base has some familiarity with, and connection to, the personalities that a members of the contending teams...........


ANGELS - THE HAPPY STUFF (mostly)

It’s Moon Joe Maddon Day! His intro event starts at noon today from inside Angels Stadium. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast the soiree live. One thing to be said for Maddon, he has a way of deeply connecting to his players....And Troy Percival (some of you might remember him) speaks to this.........

Mike Trout was announced as the 2019 American League Hank Aaron Award Winner (Christina Yelich won it for the National League)..........Mike is, as always, both humbled and honored. And clearly not hanging out in Orange County right now. We have a Santa Ana wind driven heat wave happening and nobody is wearing long sleeved anything.............

Trout was also voted 2019 Sporting News MLB Player of the Year............

But winning the AL MVP? Some are hoping for an upset. That reaction came in response to Alex Bregman finally breaking out of his slump, at the tail end of the playoffs...........


MANAGERIAL MUSICAL CHAIRS

It appears to be all but formally announced that the Cubs are replacing Joe Maddon with ESPN analyst and former Cubs hero David Ross as their new manager....His winning move is said to be his Knute Rockne Spring Training kickoff speech............

Not a manager, but the Pittsburgh Pirates and Team President Frank Coonelly have both agreed that he sucks, and have agreed to separate............

The Giants want to hear more from the Astros’ Joe Espada, but don’t think it important enough to fly all the way over to Houston in order to interview him again. I mean, it’s so far! Espada, of course, can’t be leaving he team at this particular moment so he isn’t going to California. So a good old fashioned phone call seems to be sufficient. Maybe they asked Espada to send in some cereal box tops and a dime (you probably need to be >50-years of age to get that)..............


BASEBALL

As Mike’s awards up above demonstrate, the 2019 Award Season has begun. Christian Yelich was named Hank Aaron Award Winner for the NL......And The Sporting News released all of their awards: Erik Neander of the Tampa Bay Rays was voted Executive of the Year (one assumes that Brandon Taubman took himself out of the running)............The Rays’ manager Kevin Cash was voted AL Manager of the Year............Over in the National League, the Braves’ Brian Snitker was voted NL Manager of the Year..............Yordan Alvarez of the Astros was voted AL Rookie of the Year..............Pete Alonso of the Mets was voted NL Rookie of the Year..........Hunter Pence of the Rangers was voted AL Comeback Player of the Year..........Josh Donaldson of the Braves was voted NL Comeback Player of the Year..........

Budweiser has gotten into the Awards act, and launched their inaugural Budweiser Legendary Moments Award. Jose Altuve gets the nod for hitting a home run.............

Eugenio Suárez was named 2019 Luis Aparicio Award winner, for top Venezuelan player in MLB...........

Kris Bryant’ grievance hearing concerning service time manipulation is being heard. And if the ruling goes his way the MLB landscape will experience a tectonic plate shift.............

Rob Manfred and his crack investigative team are on the case of the Houston Taubman scandal. We all should feel so much better now.............Some pretty prominent writers are already coming to their conclusions.....($$) - Ken Rosenthal: It’s time for Rob Manfred and MLB to impose harsh discipline on Brandon Taubman and the Astros.....The Sporting News: MLB’s domestic violence platitudes ring hollow amid Astros debacle.....Ben Lindbergh: The Astros Don’t Deserve a World Series of Distraction. In case you are confused by that Lindbergh headline, “Crane, Luhnow, Taubman, and anyone else who sanctioned the Osuna trade and resents being badgered about it will bank on continued quiet on the World Series telecasts and another clubhouse celebration—perhaps one with fewer front-office executives—to send their fans home happy and ensure that the baseball world won’t hold them accountable. The worst part is, there’s a good chance it will work.”...........And one guy especially, Jon Heyman, seems to have an axe to grind with the Astros and now he has his sharpening stone: “Firing hard-working scouts to save pennies, employing arrogant number crunchers who aren’t fit to leave their room, acquiring domestic abuser - all bad.”..............Meanwhile, up in Boston where they have job openings, one writer is calling for a boycott of Joe Espada.............And the AP pulls out the claws because they are tired of being dissed by the Astros. This being the one episode where the writer feels dissed............

Let’s stick with Manfred for a second. Beyond contracting MiLB, for those teams remaining he wants upgraded facilities. He also wants to cut back on travel overhead. Hmmm. Cutting travel makes sense. Long bus rides are stupid for the players and all the less stupid modes of transportation cost money. One option would be to re-shuffle the leagues to tighten up geography. But rural is as rural is and that will only work so well. So what to do? Maybe find a new town more conveniently located and move a team to there, in a new facility that would be ‘upgraded’? Nah, that’s just me being cynical. There really must be a valid reason for tasking some other party, or group of taxpayers, to put up money for a new stadium instead of paying for stupid bus mileage. Otherwise they would just go and blame poor attendance. Which is, oh cynical me, what Manfred actually did............

One last Manfred Moment. Those unjuiced playoff baseballs? Nah. Now Manfred gets the religion of statistical science. Small numbers, he says. The baseball are just fine.............

MLB and the Players’ Union are just rolling right along with adding opioids testing to their regimen. I can’t decide whether this is due diligence long overdue (which was my earlier reaction) or legal ass-covering theater (which I am leaning towards now that I learn how quickly opioids wash out of the system)...........

Geez. As if we didn’t have enough controversy going on during this playoff season, now we have an MLB umpire threatening to grab an assault weapon and start a civil war...........

Aaron Hicks is poo-pooing the medical profession and shall be re-habbing his injured UCL on his own. No TJ surgery for Hicks, no sir. If he wasn’t already signed to the Yankees long term, I would have thought him to be a perfect Billy Eppler target. But, Hicks, really. I know how this story ends. I have seen enough of it played out in Anaheim...........


STUFF

For those who claim that stadium protective netting does not impact the viewing experience, well, here is a counter claim............Not a Verlander fan, but kids are awesome...........Angels Jobs!: Internships in both Anaheim and in Tempe...............The Blue Jays want some more interns, too..............Just Max Scherzer, up early in the morning and making a run for donuts.............Juan Soto’s fan club goes berserk.............