Insane Bolt

Usain Bolt. He continues to amaze, but to me – the fact that he outright dominates his competition is what sets him apart. Check out the 4×100 final in the 2016 Rio Olumpics.
Literal neck and neck and neck and neck and neck until Bolt gets the baton and. . .well, g’night to everybody else
In a seven-second span he creates daylight where there previously was none. Screencap at the 28.2 mark (top pic) showing everybody getting their final leg batons at basically the same time:
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Then, 7 seconds later, against the fastest competition in the WORLD:

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Amazing. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this guy. One of the greatest athletes ever, certainly. Wow.

The Arm, Jeff Passan

I just finished that book The Arm. If you enjoy baseball, get it.

Jeff Passan takes an excellent approach in focusing individual chapters on the disparate elements of approaches toward pitching; Japan, travel ball/Perfect Game USA, the Trevor Bauer/Driveline method. Additionally, he follows Todd Coffey and Daniel Hudson on the journey back from Tommy John surgery, with intimate access to each on the progression of the injury & its recovery.

Frank Jobe, Neal ElAttrache and even Tommy John Jr, who interestingly enough practices arm medicine with nonsurgical approach, are all frequent subjects. In short, MLB in 2014 finally made a real investment into a database of tracking pitcher activity both subjective and object of including injuries performance and biomechanics, and is building a tremendous database with the help of several esteemed medical institutes, that will hopefully arrive at some sort of conclusions for what type of habits are beneficial and which are detrimental to the state of starting pitching.

For now, Passan leaves us with just the facts and philosophies and some jaw-dropping stats about both the increase in velocity and the frequency and Tommy John surgery at all levels of baseball. Get the book. Read it. Awesome. Baseball (James Earl Jones voice).

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Trade Deadline, Puig’d

My takeaways from this trade deadline:

1) Dodgers. Boring moves. I’d like to think they’re not done; I’d love to see them acquire Archer, whom I really believe has Ace ‘stuff’ without much mileage on his arm. Not to mention his contract; $6mm, then $9mm/year through 2021. Might be the most club-friendly deal in baseball. Reddick is solid, but I really do think Puig will be a star player –  I really do. Maybe it’s just not meant to be in L.A. Rich Hill is a total yawn and totally in the Alex Wood/Brett Anderson/hey-let’s-get-a-solid-but-not-spectacular-fourth-starter-type mold of this front office. Not inspirational. Then again, I’m not in favor of a ‘balls out’ approach if (maybe they know) Kershaw isn’t coming back. Unless you get Archer and Sale, it’s not happening without Kersh.

2) Yankees. Great work. Absolutely awesome hall. The kid Dillon Tate is a legit Ace, I’m hearing good things about their other players – I believe I read five guys in the top 100 in BA’s latest. That’s a haul. Good work Cashman.
3) Giants. I like Matt Moore. Shocked they’d get rid of Duffy, though. Wasn’t he a local kid/fan favorite? Biz is biz, though, and that front office makes quality moves. Nunez was such a great pickup. Dude plays like seven positions and can hit a little bit. Not a ton, but that park is going to play to his game, triples, doubles, etc.
4) Jay Bruce, Meh. He’s good, but he’s not 2015 Cespedes. And now they have like six OF’s, none of whom can play CF? Hmm. . .
5) Rangers. Wow. Lucroy is an a-hole for spurning Cleveland but it worked out. Man that was sneaky good.
6) Adios to Hector Santiago. Not many better dudes in baseball, and he’s a HUGE card collector so he always has my vote. I guess i won’t get to witness his bewildering inconsistency from aclose anymore. . .
7) Don’t sleep on Francisco Liriano to the Jays. I know this one went under the radar, but ‘if’ Liriano recovers what he has last year, maybe by pitching behind his former Pirate buddy J.A. Happ, the Jays might have pulled a coup.
8) Love Cashner to the Marlins.
9) Kemp for Olivera, what a deal. Blech for everybody.
10) Aroldis to the Cubs. Man.
Lastly, Yasiel Puig was sent down to Oklahoma City, perhaps ending an era for the Dodgers. Dylan Hernandez, on Puig, in today’s L.A. Times, explains the factors that led to his sendoff.

This really kind of ‘breaks my heart’ from a sports perspective. I’ve never been down on Puig’s long-term outlook because the talent – and enthusiasm – are so palpable that he really is, for me, the best singular player to watch in baseball “when things are going well.” We all know what led to this, and some say this was inevitable, but I really, REALLY hope he catches on somewhere and turns into the dominating force I think he can be.

Midseason MVP

National League

I have one large and personal stipulation for the MVP award in the NL:

I have higher standards for Clayton Kershaw MVP than any other candidate. It’s patently unfair, but this is my ‘that’s baseball.’ Until the guy wins, and wins consistently, on a nationally televised basis, I can’t fully endorse his success. Don’t get me wrong – this run he’s been on for a half-decade? It’s likely unparalleled.
And my pops texts me about once per month to reiterate something like this:
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So I love and appreciate what he’s doing; I just think he needs to overshadow the rest of the league to get my MVP ‘vote.’ So what he’s doing this year is amazing, but it’s typical Kershaw – and unless they win the division, I can’t support the candidacy. Yet. Even with a 11-2 record on a mediocre team and a 1.79 ERA, 145 K in 121 innings.
Regarding Kris Bryant – those are some numbers for sure(.278, 21 bombs, 57 RBI). But that entire offense is solid – Rizzo, Zobrist, Fowler are having good years – and the pitching is what’s really carrying the team. He’s a great candidate, and that game last night didn’t hurt, so let’s see this one flesh out while we review the other candidates.
Daniel Murphy is one step away from being a Curt Schilling-caliber PoS, but he’s finally manifesting those early career Don Mattingly comps, and .350 is a gaudy number, especially for a team that is disappointing overall offensively despite high expectations.
Marcell Ozuna (.320, 16 dingers) deserves outside consideration as well for leading the Marlins offense in the wake of Stanton’s (Sherman Oaks, Notre Dame HS) first half slump, but unless they overtake the Nats he’s not going to merit a top three finish. Kudos to Mattingly though on that managing job. Wow.
Jose Fernandez (10 wins, 2.28, 0.99 WHIP, 138 K’s in 94 innings) and Jake Arrieta (12 wins, 2.10, 1.02 WHIP) are both second-tier candidates, but I can’t vote for either in good faith if I won’t vote for Kershaw.
Matt “this guy really, really irks me” Carpenter is leading the league in OPS (.989) and if that club does some special things, he’ll nab a few votes.
Brandon Belt (.301, 10 jacks, 38 RBI) and Madison Bumgarner (1.02 WHIP) will both receive some votes. And here we go again how damn good is Bruce Bochy, wow.
American League
Jose Altuve pops out for me. I love the way he plays the game, I love his spirit and what that does to his ballclub. And his numbers are sensational – we’re looking at a Hall of Fame career here, and at .348 with 13 bombs in the first half of his age 26 season, he’s only getting better. The Astros will likely win this division, and I’ll likely ‘vote’ for the sparkplug.
Big Papi is playing phenomenally, OPS 1.108. Definitely gets a look, but in that lineup I’m hard-pressed to single out one major bat.
Manny Machado could take the award if the Orioles hold on – .328 with 18 bombs and a .993 OPS. But they won’t win the division; that pitching is too thin and Manny will have to wait; he’ll have plenty of chances.
Ian Desmond, who has a great story with the offseason shunning forcing a position change just to essentially stay on a big league roster, is putting up great numbers in Texas – and playing a mean outfield. Great story of redemption and I hope somebody gives him a long-termer after the season. .321 14 bombs and 13 steals.

Francisco Lindor is turning all kinds of heads in Cleveland, and as a Gold Glove caliber shortstop with .314 avg and 10 dingers & 12 steals, he deserves consideration for another Francona-led division leader.
Chris Sale and his 13 wins are eye-popping, but his ERA is half a run higher than Steven Wright (!!!) and Marco Estrada (!!!, Sylmar HS) has the same WHIP. He’s doing nice things, but not MVP nice. Not with this team in a freefall.

TLOP, and the Underrated Mastery of Mr. West

I’ve been thinking about the polarizing ‘Kanye Issue’ intensely since The Life of Pablo. This album is a great listen. It’s uplifting, it’s energetic, it’s interesting. His lyrics are completely scattershot – in one realm, he’s talking about bleached assholes. In another, he’s lamenting not knowing the names of his friend’s children and calling himself selfish. One thing he is, throughout, is completely selfaware – of his vulnerability & weakness as well as his monstrous ego: “I’m a 38-year old eight-year old.”

People may not like Kanye, but he’s honest. And sometimes that jolts the listener, which is exactly his intention. Musically, this album is curated beautifully by mood & phase. Spiritual, nasty, introspective, chaotic, and moody. It’s a aural journey, and it’s a really fun experience. It’s not entirely polished, but it’s a good manifestation of his life at this point, and it sounds genuine. And that is something that people always underestimate about Kanye – love him or hate him, he speaks from the heart. I also feel that the album is composed of four distinct chapters: the soulistic, gospel-inspired opening chapter encompassing tracks 1 – 4; the more rugged, grimey stretch from tracks 5 – 9; the haunting & introspective 10 – 14 (perhaps the most ‘beautiful’ portion of his work); the concluding, musical and ‘fun’ closure of the album from 15 – 18. Really interesting to hear the album in this context.
Also regarding Kanye‘s previous work. I’m a bit more vested than most because he literally came from the Chicago underground scene in the late 90’s, and his affiliations with Common (Sense) when he was at his dopest, and influences of the post-Panther/educated african-american second city sound was clear through his sampling, soul undertones and ability to intertwine ‘song’ with real hip hop. Some of his early work with Little Brother remains on my radar, simply because he was one of the first Chicago producers to gain universal acceptance underground. Through the Wire remains inspirational, and actually foreshadowed his career – always fighting through self-inflicted wounds, yet ultimately succeeding through the might of his own will.
The early albums were laden with pop hits, but these hits – think Gold iIgger, Jesus Walks – have a brooding, layered complexity that enables them to have staying power. They’re real music, they’re not just pop formulas. When 808s and Heartbreak was released, it was truly a revelation. Again, the sound was melodic, melancholy & visceral. Yet it still maintained commercial appeal. For a hip hop album, this is nearly unprecedented. To this day, it contains some of his best work. The maligned My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is probably my ‘favorite’ album of his, incorporating his early ‘true hip hop’ sound with the modern Kanye braggadocio and immaturity. His life was just beginning to spiral into the 000.1% of American royalty, and he chronicles every step with a huge middle finger, yet knowing his limitations enough to not try to do more than he can on the mic. He lets his guests shine, and if that’s not ego suppression. . .With Game of Thrones Yeezus, Kanye could have easily sleepwalked through the sessions and produced mediocre material, but he didn’t. Both are laden with unique sounds, interesting composition and deceptive insight.
Again, Kanye talks about pussy as much as he talks about anti-depressants, but they’re both equally relevant to his life, and you can’t fault him for that. Because that’s his Life. The Life of Kanye.
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Corey “The Kid” Seager

Corey Seager reminds me SO much of Clayton Kershaw in his approach, composure, poise, maturity, overall grasp of the game and awareness of his role & importance on the team. I’ve been reserving my enthusiasm for what seems like such an obvious superstar (and thus potential bust) but he really seems to understand the game and his role. And his approach is beautiful. Relaxed swing – he chokes up! – and literally goes oppo with ease, and power. His glove has surprised me as well, and damn – I’m genuinely excited for his future. Clayton has anywhere from three to fifteen (Randy, Nolan) years of dominance remaining, and Corey has about four years until he hits his prime – but he’ll be a superstar by next year. Could be really fun times at the Ravine for years to come.