Lock your doors and hide your children, because the boogeyman is coming — and he does NOT like it when you swing at a 3-0 pitch. Yes, baseball’s unwritten rules have reared their ugly head once again, determined as always to eradicate any chance of players having fun while winning. The latest offenders are the streaking “Slam Diego” Padres, led by breakout sophomore Fernando Tatis, Jr., who committed the crime of… hitting too many home runs? Yeah, it’s a mess.
On this week’s MLB Roundup we’re talking about that, along with reactions to the Thom Brennaman fiasco, the latest COVID-19 update (Reds are out, Mets are in!), and much, much more. Stick around, but just remember, you’ve gotta respect the game.
Stay Classy, San Diego
As we all expected going into this season, the story of baseball right now is the San Diego Padres, winners of six straight this week. While the entire offense is rolling right now (see: five grand slams in six days), the driving force has been the raw swagger of one man: 21-year-old phenom Fernando Tatis, Jr. We knew he would be good, but did anyone peg him as being the best player in the game through the first month?
Take a look at his offensive statistics alone:
- Home Runs: 12 (No. 1 in MLB)
- RBIs: 29 (No. 1 in MLB)
- Slugging: .678 (No. 4 in MLB)
- Avg. Exit Velocity: 96.8 mph (No. 2 in MLB)
- Hard Hit %: 65.0 (No. 1 in MLB)
- Total Barrels: 16 (Tied for No. 1 in MLB)
Without a doubt, Tatis has established himself as the breakout star of the season so far and an early MVP favorite in the National League. He plays with boundless energy, and is already establishing himself as one of the most exciting young players in the game since Ken Griffey, Jr. Despite this, he managed to rub some people the wrong way on Monday with this 8th-inning slam against the Rangers.
— MLB (@MLB) August 18, 2020
At the time, the Padres already held a 7-run lead, thanks in part to another Tatis homer earlier in the game. But according to the Unwritten Rules Bible, swinging for the fences with a big lead is a big no-no. The Rangers voiced their displeasure by throwing behind Manny Machado in the next at bat, and after the game (San Diego won 14-4), manager Chris Woodward had a few words to say about the incident:
“I didn’t like it, personally. You’re up by seven in the eighth inning; it’s typically not a good time to swing 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis. So just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right. I don’t think we liked it as a group.”
As backwards as Woodward’s logic appears, it’s a thought that still persists for much of the league’s old guard. Even Padres Manager Jayce Tingler called it a “learning opportunity,” and veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer evidently took it upon himself to explain the situation to Tatis, who appeared unimpressed.
Tatis apologized after the game, which prompted a chorus of anti-unwritten rule criticism from defenders on Twitter including Amir Garrett, Tim Anderson and Johnny Bench. It was later announced that both Woodward and Rangers pitcher Ian Gibaut would receive suspensions for throwing at Machado. For his part, Tatis responded by recording five more hits in the series sweep, including another home run and this incredible celebration:
YO Tatis and Profar celebrating the HR with the cry baby faces ?? pic.twitter.com/aIoptAf3B0
— SLAM DIEGO Card Collector (@coastalcardcoll) August 20, 2020
In summary: Fernando Tatis is here to hit dingers and have fun, and no unwritten rule is going to stop him. Keep doing you, El Niño.
An Unexpected Exit
If you happened to be watching the Reds TV broadcast during Wednesday’s makeup double-header against the Royals, then you may have witnessed one of the most surreal on-air moments in MLB history. This happened when Thom Brennaman, Fox Sports Ohio play-by-play commentator and the son of legendary Reds radio commentator Marty Brennaman, “mistakenly” used a homophobic slur on a hot mic – then, after a whole five innings of unacknowledged awkwardness, issued one of the most spectacularly bad live apologies we’ve ever seen before being removed from the broadcast.
There’s just so much to break down here. First, we should make clear that what Brennaman said was completely unacceptable, and should never have any place in a work environment, on camera or otherwise. Moreover, the casual way in which he said it made it very clear it is exactly who he is, despite his claims to the contrary.
But goodness gracious. Can we talk about that home run call?
A longer video of the apology
One of the strangest couple of minutes of TV I think I have ever seen live pic.twitter.com/rGjmTogUXw
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) August 20, 2020
As you can see, just as Brennaman was telling the viewers about how ashamed he was from the bottom of his heart, he was rudely interrupted by a Nick Castellanos home run, which hilariously landed just to the left of a signing proclaiming a “judgement-free zone” in left field. Like the pure-bread professional that he is, Brennaman promptly paused his apology, made the call, then went right back to expressing his anguish that he may never put on the Reds headset again. It was, ahem, really something.
While this incident was certainly unprecedented, longtime viewers likely were not terribly surprised. As pointed out by Slate, it was far from his first apology.
Needless to say, the Reds suspended him indefinitely on Thursday from calling their games, and Fox Sports said it would be removing him from their NFL broadcasts this season as well. He is not expected to return to either role.
COVID-19 Cancellations: New Week, New City
The COVID-19 news this week is largely negative, which, of course, is positive (*cue Michael Scott meme*). As mentioned above, the Reds were able to get back in action this week after recording a single-player positive over the weekend, interrupting their series with the Pirates and delaying their mid-week set in Kansas City. The Pirates series will be made up in separate double-headers in September, MLB announced Friday.
For a short time, it looked like we were finally going to have a day with all 30 teams playing for the first time since July 26. But the Braves-Nats game on Wednesday was called due to rain, and then on Thursday it was announced one player and one coach had each tested positive for the New York Mets in Miami. SO CLOSE.
The Mets were forced to postpone their final game against the Marlins, as well as the “Subway Series” scheduled against the Yankees this weekend. However, with the offending parties quarantined, the team announced Saturday two full rounds of testing found no additional positives in their traveling party. Assuming this holds, they should be able to resume play early next week.
For the Marlins, still busy working through their own schedule of make-up games, the day off was much-needed. After their hot start, Miami has returned to form by losing six of their last eight. So much for the “Miracle Marlins.”
Reds Update: the Bauer Surge
For the most part, Cincinnati has been in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons. But on the field, in the words of Jamaal Magloire, they’re starting to show spurts of consistency. The Reds are 2-3 since returning from their COVID-19 hiatus, and if Trevor Bauer could just pitch every day they’d probably be a lot better.
The former all-star put on another clinic this week, tossing a 7-inning complete game shutout in game two of Wednesday’s double-header against the Royals. He now has an MLB-best 0.68 ERA in four starts, two of which have been complete games. His 0.57 WHIP and .093 Batting Average Against are also tops among qualified starters, and he’s on track to post the highest K% and lowest BB% of his career. In other words: he’s damn good.
After today’s series finale against the Cardinals (and no, we’re not going to talk about Thursday), the Redlegs will head to Milwaukee, then return home for four games against the Cubs next weekend. Their record currently sits at 11-14, just 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot.
*UPDATE: the Reds did not win today. 11-15.*
Highlight of the Week: Seager Bombs Away
You know I’m a sucker for a good family story.
This week, Dodgers SS Corey Seager faced off against his older brother, Mariners 3B Kyle Seager, for the first time in their respective careers. In Monday’s game, both players hit home runs, the first time such a feat has been accomplished since 2001. Naturally, each brother took the opportunity to gloat at the other as they passed each other on the basepaths, and today they earn highlight of the week for their reactions alone.
When you have to be fake-mad that your brother just hit a homer against your team.
Both Seager brothers go yard tonight pic.twitter.com/njDwMbaFZl
— Alyssa Charlston (@Alyssacharlston) August 18, 2020
- In what may be the most strangely specific hot streak by a team in recent history, the Padres’ fifth grand slam this week brought their season total to six in one month—no other team has more than three (their four consecutive games with a slam was also an MLB first).
- Angels IF David Fletcher made the highlight real on Friday by swinging at a pitch at eye level... and knocking it into right field for a double. Please watch the video.
- Six years ago, Yoenis Cespedes made one of the greatest throws we’ve ever seen from left field. On Friday, Lourdes Gurriel repeated it.
- Strange Headlines Division: “Nationals fire employee who allegedly threw hot coffee in woman’s face”
- COMING: Tigers SP Casey Mize — MLB’s No. 8 prospect and the 1st overall draft pick in 2018, debuted against the White Sox; Braves OF Christian Pache — MLB’s No. 14 prospect, debuted against the Phillies.
- GOING: Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg — Officially out for the year with carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery expected next week. Last year’s World Series MVP will not be returning this October.