Kevin Cash ruined the World Series for the Rays and the stats have finally gone too far

One of the pillars in the ages-old debate of stats vs. instincts in baseball is the argument over when it’s okay to take a starting pitcher out of a baseball games. In the old days, before the Oakland Athletics changed baseball by winning 103 games on a shoestring budget in 2002 and inspiring a best-selling book to be written about them, baseball managers used to allow their starting pitchers to stay on the mound as long as they kept the team in the game.

More recently, front offices and managers have put more and more stock into statistics that show how a pitcher’s usefulness decreases each time he passes through the lineup. Specifically, the third time through a batting order can be a danger area for many starting pitchers. Of course, baseball doesn’t always play out this way or we never would see a complete game, but there’s no denying that in general, a pitcher is more vulnerable on his third pass through a given lineup.

That’s the science that Kevin Cash was relying on when he pulled Blake Snell out of the sixth game of the World Series last night with one out in the sixth inning. The issue that I and most baseball fans had with that decision was that Snell looked very much like he was about to carry the Rays to a series-tying victory. His fastball was popping and his curveball was falling-off-the-table nasty. In his first five innings, Snell struck out nine Dodgers with zero walks and just one hit allowed on 69 pitches.

Either Cash didn’t think Snell was convincing enough to take a chance on him for a third trip through the order, or the skipper’s mind was changed when Austin Barnes hit a line-drive single with one out in the sixth. I’m not sure which explanation was worse. All we know is that Tampa Bay’s 1-0 lead disappeared as soon as Snell did. Mookie Betts hit a double off of new Rays pitcher Nick Anderson to put runners on second and third. Both runs scored during Corey Seager’s at-bat thanks to a wild pitch and Betts scoring from third on a ground ball to first base. Betts added a solo home run in the eighth and the Dodgers clinched their first World Series title since 1988.

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I’m in football pain because Penn State couldn’t run out the clock against Indiana

I’m looking back at a weekend that featured one of the most exciting NFL games of the season, only of the most thrilling World Series games ever, and the first Big Ten win for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights since 2017, yet I’m still hung up on a single moment that happened outside all of those incredible .

The Penix was short.

In case you had something better to do than watching college football at around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night (as if), that’s Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. fully extending himself while reaching for the pylon on an overtime two-point conversion attempt. My Penn State Nittany Lions had already scored a touchdown in the extra period, so after Indiana found the end zone, head coach Tom Allen’s decision to go for two became a do-or-die play to decide the game. Penix scrambled, stretched, and was ruled to have hit the pylon before landing out of bounds. The call stood upon replay review, giving IU a 36-35 upset victory and their first win over a top-10 team since 1987.

It looks to me like the ball hits the white paint before Penix slides it into the pylon, but I can’t be too mad at the officials, ever if there were some truly perplexing penalty calls during the game. Replay is meant to overturn obvious and egregious mistakes, not to make calls on game-deciding plays in which there’s no definitive screenshot. Penix LOOKS like he was short, and I believe he was short, but I can’t say there is conclusive evidence.

Besides, Penn State had a chance to wrap this game up in regulation time, only for James Franklin to be badly outsmarted by Allen and for the defense to improbably collapse at the worst possible time. Even before PSU took a 21-20 lead on Sean Clifford’s brilliant 60-yard pass to Jahan Dotson with 2:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lions had already missed two field goals and turned the ball over three times. They should have been ahead by way more than one point.

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Giants waste 11-point lead in Philadelphia, but are still very much alive in the NFC East

After the New York Giants lost their first five games of the season, I figured at least I wouldn’t have to experience the team completely blowing a game that they had wrapped up in the fourth quarter. Even if that happened, the Giants would probably be eliminated from playoff contention and the game wouldn’t matter. Well, football has a funny way of messing with fans and last night is a great example.

The miserable Giants were 4.5-point underdogs to a bad Philadelphia Eagles team on Thursday Night Football, but thanks to its surprisingly strong defense and the goofiest, dorkiest 80-yard run in the history of the game by Daniel Jones, New York led 21-10 with six minutes left.

Jones keeps the ball on that option about once a week, so I don’t know how Philadelphia was so unprepared, but the end of this play is the headline with Jones tripping over nothing but air and crashing on the eight-yard line. Thanks to a pass interference call in the end zone three plays later, the blooper of the year didn’t cost the Giants any points. Instead they lost the game because Evan Engram dropped a perfectly-thrown Jones pass that would have converted a 3rd-and-6 and allowed the Giants to run out the clock.

The drop forced the Giants to punt, and the Eagles scored touchdowns on their last two meaningful possession to pull off a 22-21 victory that could end up deciding the NFC East because everyone is awful.

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Penn State forces Pat Chambers out, resets program just when it was starting to build momentum

Penn State basketball fans received stunning news on Wednesday evening when head coach Pat Chambers suddenly resigned. Not only was Chambers coming off his most successful year at PSU in which he led the Nittany Lions to what would have been an NCAA Tournament berth if not for COVID-19, but we’re just one month away from the start of the new season. In a vacuum, the timing made no sense.

Little did I know that there was an ongoing investigation stemming from Chambers’s racially insensitive comments that he made to former player Rasir Bolton more than a year ago. The incident came to light publicly in July and I wrote back then that Chambers should retain his job.

And that should be the end of the matter. Chambers made a mistake and it cost him a talented basketball player. Bolton used his right to transfer and is in a place where he feels more welcome. But what if it’s not the end? It wouldn’t be beyond the media to pressure Penn State to make a change and reverse the progress that Chambers has made with this program over the years. All for a mistake that Chambers says he will learn from.

According to Penn State, an internal investigation yielded “new allegations of inappropriate conduct” that led to Chambers resigning.

I’d love to know what these new allegations are because Chambers had been the coach for 10 years and had the support of veteran players like Lamar Stevens and Jamari Wheeler. What happened with Bolton was a misstep, and it should have been handled better, but Chambers deserved the chance to learn from his mistake and continue forward with a program that he had slowly built into a tournament contender.

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Baseball needs change, but MLB is changing the wrong parts

Right before the World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers got started this evening from Arlington, Texas, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred met with the media and talked about possibly making permanent some of the changes he made for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Specifically, he mentioned the expanded postseason field and playing extra innings with a runner starting on second base.

“I like the idea of, and I’m choosing my words carefully here, an expanded playoff format,” Manfred said. “I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year. I think we do have to be cognizant of making sure that we preserve the importance of our regular season. But I think something beyond the 10 that we were at would be a good change.”

With the added runner rule, the longest of 68 games of 10 innings or longer were a pair of 13-inning contests, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I think the players like it,” Manfred said. “I think it’s really good from a safety and health perspective that keeps us from putting players in situations where they’re out there too long or in positions they’re not used to playing.”

I can’t imagine that changes like these would be tough to get approved by the Players Association because players like collecting postseason checks and also like not playing baseball until one o’clock in the morning. As far as what’s best for the game, though, I’m not so sure.

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Dodgers win National League pennant to set up rags vs. riches World Series

If you were busy being disappointing at Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams last night while they lost to the San Francisco 49ers despite being gifted many opportunities in the second half to get back into the game, you might have missed an exciting Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Don’t worry, I didn’t. I tuned in for the best parts of the baseball game, which was better than the football game that had zero good parts. The Atlanta Braves, who at one point led the series 3-1 before the Los Angeles Dodgers stormed back and forced a winner-take-all finale, got up early 2-0 thanks to an RBI single by Marcell Ozuna and a solo home run from Dansby Swanson.

The 2017 and 2018 NL pennant winners wouldn’t stay down for long, though. Los Angeles evened things up on on two-RBI single by Will Smith in the third, but Atlanta went back ahead when Austin Riley drove in Ozzie Albies in the fourth. The Braves were in control again, but baseball fans everywhere could feel the momentum shift when Mookie Betts made the catch of his life in the fifth.

Kike Hernandez made the score 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot, and the Dodgers came inches away from taking the lead in the same inning. However, Chris Taylor was cut down at the plate on a ground ball by Albies.

Great job by my guy Travis d’Arnaud to legally block the plate and leave no doubt that Taylor was meat. For a moment, it looked like the Braves were back in the driver’s seat, but we’re not in the 1990s anymore with Atlanta winning the pennant every other year. This is Los Angeles’s era and Cody Bellinger made sure everyone knew it.

I don’t think anyone minds Bellinger pimping a home run if it wins the freaking pennant, and that’s exactly what that blast did. The Dodgers’ bullpen held up with Julio Urias retiring the final nine Braves in a row to secure the team’s third trip to the World Series in the last four seasons.

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The Jets give up on Le’Veon Bell before he’s even halfway through his four-year deal

That sound you just heard was the shrugging of the shoulders from thousands of Jets fans across the country as their hapless team announced that it was releasing starting tailback Le’Veon Bell. This is the same Le’Veon Bell that the Jets signed to a four-year, $52.5 million contract before the 2019 season. In Bell’s one full season with New York, he averaged 3.2 yards per carry and the Jets won seven games.

Yeesh. They probably could have ended that statement after “both parties” because Douglas knows he will look like a fool if Bell goes on to rush for 1,200 yards for some other team.

This was the guy who was supposed to help out quarterback Sam Darnold and be a multi-faceted offensive weapon. We knew Bell’s days of averaging five yards per tote and catching 70 passes were behind him, but not THIS far behind him. It’s not as though other NFL teams are chomping at the bit waiting for him to officially hit free agency. In fact, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk thinks that the Jets are still trying to find a trade partner even though they already announced Bell’s release.

His release won’t become official until Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET. Before then, a team that hopes to secure dibs on Bell can try to work out a deal pursuant to which the Jets would get something/anything and the Jets would pay the difference between the amount the new team is willing to pay Bell and the balance of his 2020 compensation.

I don’t know if there’s a contending team that’s desperate enough at tailback to give the Jets a deal. Maybe the 2-3 Miami Dolphins fit into that category considering how little they’ve gotten out of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida, but they seen content enough with Myles Gaskin at the moment.

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Dak Prescott’s injury is worse than a cramp, but he can still get that contract he’s after

Something terrible happened on Sunday, and it may have even been worse than the Los Angeles Lakers winning their 17th NBA title while LeBron James got to be the hero again. Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome compound fracture of his right ankle during the Dallas Cowboys’ dramatic 37-34 win over my New York Football Giants.

Midway through the third quarter with Dallas ahead 24-23, Prescott took the ball on a quarterback draw and was dragged down by Logan Ryan after a nine-yard gain. We knew something was wrong with Prescott right away when he grabbed for his leg, but we didn’t know how wrong it was until the CBS broadcast showed the zoomed-in angle of his foot pointing in the wrong direction.

Tony Romo got roasted on Twitter for his “Gee, Jim, I hope it’s just a cramp” from the broadcast booth, but it really was hard to see how serious the situation was at first glance. Prescott grabbed at his calf like he had just tweaked something. It was until a moment later that everyone realized how badly he was injured.

It took some time for the official diagnosis to be released, but everyone already knew that Prescott’s season was over and that the Cowboys would have to go forward with Andy Dalton under center. Dalton, as experienced as he is, might not be much of an obstacle when it comes to Dallas making the playoffs. For one, he has plenty of experience leading teams to the playoffs (although none actually winning playoff games). More importantly, the NFC East is the worst division in football and Dalton is still good enough to lead the Cowboys to the top of the scrap heap.

The Red Rifle got off to a rough start following his unexpected appearance. His first two full series consisted of a three-and-out and a botched snap, but after the Giants took advantage of the fumble and went ahead 34-31, Dalton led Dallas on consecutive field goal drives to win the game. He was particularly impressive on the final possession, hitting Michael Gallup twice in a row down the field to set up the game-winning kick.

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The Lakers win the NBA Finals, LeBron James campaigns against love

The Miami Heat had a great run in the NBA bubble as a plucky underdog that made it all the way to the NBA Finals. Erik Spoelstra is clearly one of the top coaches in the world, and Jimmy Butler is having his superstar status reevaluated. However, on Sunday night, the Heat’s story came to an end with a thud as they were bopped on the head by the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the Finals. The win clinched the series as the championship for the Lakers, who now have 17 world titles in their glorious history.

I haven’t looked it up officially, but I can tell you that LeBron James won the Finals MVP award. He racked up a triple-double in the final game and got a lot of help from Rajon Rondo, who scored 19 points with four assists off the bench. Los Angeles won 106-93, but the game wasn’t even that close. This one was settled by the second quarter.

James now has four NBA titles to go with 10 Finals appearances and somehow only four MVP awards. It’s hard to argue that he’s not one of the two finest basketball players of all time. Off the court, he’s more than a little obnoxious, but he can do what he wants; he’s the champ. My issue with the James discussion is that sometimes people let James’s actions off the court influence their opinion of him as a player on the court. That’s only going to get more convoluted after his controversial comments on Sunday night.

Push FOR social injustice? For police brutality? For voter suppression? Against love and all that is good in this world? What happened to the LeBron James that I used to know. He used to love kindness, virtue and being a beacon of hope for all mankind (and womankind). Now he’s just another puppet on China’s strings. Very sad!

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The ALCS will begin without the New York Yankees on Sunday

The ALCS will begin on Sunday night in San Diego, but the preseason American League favorite will not be taking part. That’s right, the New York Yankees were eliminated from World Series contention on Friday night in Game 5 of the ALDS. The Tampa Bay Rays play a perfect foil for the Yankees because they’re a small-market team with a limited budget and few die-hard fans. Yet, thanks to their brilliant management, they compete, and in this case defeat, the super popular and star-studded pinstripe brigade.

The deciding game figured to be tight with aces Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow going head to head. However, Glasnow gave way to Nick Anderson with one out in the third inning as part of Tampa Bay’s unorthodox pitching strategy. The Rays split nine innings between their top four pitchers with Glasnow and Anderson covering the first five before Peter Fairbanks and Diego Castillo took over for the final four. The idea was to make sure no Yankees hitter saw a Rays pitcher more than once, and it worked with New York scoring just one run on an Aaron Judge home run off of Anderson in the fourth.

Tampa Bay threatened in the first inning when Cole walked two batters and hit another, but they didn’t score until the fifth when Austin Meadows came through with a solo home run to tie the game. There weren’t many opportunities for either side after that. In fact, the entire game featured a total of just six hits and seven walks with all the runs coming on three solo shots.

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