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Jacob deGrom’s scratched start is reminder to savor each masterful performance

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Jacob deGrom's scratched start is reminder to savor each masterful performance

ST. LOUIS — I am a bit disappointed. 

Jacob deGrom, the best pitcher in baseball, was supposed to start for the Mets on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, but he was scratched a few hours before the scheduled first pitch. He felt tightness on his side, and there are no chances taken with the best pitcher in baseball. An MRI revealed inflammation on his right lat, and as MRI news goes, that’s definitely on the good side. The plan for now is for the right-hander to rest for a few days without throwing. 

Selfishly, though? I was at the ballpark covering the game and had grand plans to watch deGrom from several different vantage points around the stadium. I had to shelve that idea. I didn’t even get to watch a game, either, as the threat of light rain postponed the contest.  

MORE: Why is the NL East so blah? A look at each team’s struggles

As writers, of course, we are not pulling for any player or team. We are, though, rooting for memorable stories. We are hopeful for a glimpse of greatness, a call back to growing up as baseball fans reading stories and legends of baseball immortality. 

The books I checked out from the local library were about Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays, about Bob Gibson and Babe Ruth. These were the baseball heroes who captured my attention and fed a lifelong obsession with the sport. These were the legends I wished I could have watched in person. 

I can’t help but think of that quote from Andy Bernard in the series finale of “The Office”: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in ‘the good old days’ before you’ve actually left them.” And, sure, maybe it only loosely applies, but it was a good reminder to savor our opportunities to watch the great players perform at the peak of their abilities. 

Will deGrom — did we mention he’s the best pitcher in baseball? — wind up in the Hall of Fame? He’s on a Cooperstown pace, for sure, but we are not speculating on the future right now. We are appreciating today. 

And since the start of the 2018 season, deGrom has made 81 regular-season starts and posted a 1.99 ERA, with a 2.21 FIP and 22.2 bWAR. These numbers are easily the best in baseball in that span, and they put deGrom in historic company. 

Using Baseball-Reference’s essential Stathead service, I tried to find how many pitchers since 1920 had spans of at least 81 starts with an ERA under 2.00. It’s a short list.

— Greg Maddux: 1.74 ERA from June 16, 1993 to April 27, 1996
— Bob Gibson: 1.75 ERA from July 3, 1967 to April 26, 1970
— Sandy Koufax: 1.76 ERA from May 27, 1964 to July 5, 1966
— Clayton Kershaw: 1.82 ERA from June 18, 2014 to May 17, 2017
— Hal Newhouser: 1.91 ERA from August 27, 1944 to April 21, 1947
— Pedro Martinez: 1.93 ERA from August 3, 1999 to August 10, 2002
— Jacob deGrom: 1.99 ERA from March 31, 2018 to April 28, 2021

That’s one hell of a list, folks. Five Hall of Famers, one future Hall of Famer (Kershaw) and deGrom. I was hoping to do an 82-game search after watching him Tuesday night. Oh well. 

Because here’s the thing: As good as he was in 2018-20 — when he won two NL Cy Young awards and finished third the other year — he’s been even better so far in 2021. Sure, it’s only five starts, but he’s been incredible, even by his lofty standards. 

His 59 strikeouts ties the MLB record for most strikeouts through a pitcher’s first five starts to the season. The guy he tied? Nolan Ryan. Only six players since 1950 have a better ERA through five starts than deGrom’s 0.51. That list includes Pedro Martinez (the Montreal years), peak Fernando Valenzuela and Don Sutton.  

Watching deGrom in person right now is watching greatness, an artist at the peak of his craft. It’s watching Dave Chappelle on the mic at a small comedy club. It’s watching a Phish concert live during the 1.0 era. It’s watching Simone Biles dominate the 2016 Olympics from inside the arena.

Watch the broadcasts when deGrom pitches, of course, but if you can get to the ballpark when he’s on the mound, make it happen. If we’re lucky and this skipped start is just a hiccup cured with a little rest, he’ll make 27 or 28 more starts this season. 

Every single one of those is appointment viewing, a chance to watch the best pitcher in baseball be the best pitcher in baseball. 

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Why did Rick Carlisle return to Pacers? Roster, familiarity — and the money helps, too

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Why did Rick Carlisle return to Pacers? Roster, familiarity — and the money helps, too

Rick Carlisle is the head coach of the Pacers … again.

The championship-winning coach who recently parted ways with the Dallas Mavericks has reportedly signed a four-year, $29 million pact to return to Indiana’s bench, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Carlisle signing this quickly with a team was a mild surprise, signing with the Pacers even moreso. While the Pacers parted ways with head coach Nate Bjorkgren soon after the final whistle blew on Indiana’s season, no real reports suggested Carlisle’s candidacy before news of his hiring broke on Thursday.

Here’s what we know about the hiring:

Why did the Pacers hire Rick Carlisle?

While the money certainly helps — the deal keeps Carlisle in the top 10 highest paid coaches in the Association — familiarity helped play into the decision, as well. Carlisle has two prior tenures in Indiana; First, between 1997 and 2000, when he was an assistant coach under Larry Bird. The second stint was as the team’s head coach between 2003 and 2007.

During his tenure, Carlisle helped guide Indiana to a central-division crown in 2003, and in four total seasons, the Pacers made the playoffs three times and the Eastern Conference finals once (2003).

Carlisle figured to be the hottest coaching commodity on the market for any number of teams looking for a new head coach, but the Pacers acted “quietly and quickly” to get Carlisle in their building, per Adrian Wojnarowski, putting off several other interviews to bring him and ink him to a deal.

The landing spot was attractive to Carlisle, as well: Speaking with ESPN’s MacMahon, Carlisle liked the roster built by GM Kevin Pritchard and what they could be moving forward.

“It’s a team of skilled, unselfish guys that play hard,” Carlisle said to MacMahon. “It’s always possible that moves could be made before the season, but I think [GM Kevin Pritchard] and I are both very excited about getting the roster healthy and seeing what this team can be.”

Carlisle and the Mavericks agreed to part ways on June 17 after another early-playoff exit, losing in seven games to the Clippers. Carlisle spent 13 years patrolling the bench for Dallas, winning an NBA championship in 2011. In all, Dallas made it to the playoffs nine times under Carlisle, losing in the first round in seven of those trips.

Multiple reports indicated organizational turmoil within Dallas’ front office, though owner Mark Cuban vehemently denied the rumors. The Athletic detailed the dysfunction in June. 

 

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Lionel Messi gets surprise birthday wake-up call from Argentina teammates at Copa America

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Lionel Messi gets surprise birthday wake-up call from Argentina teammates at Copa America

Let’s be real: No one likes to be woken up on their birthday. Except for world soccer star Lionel Messi, who even posted the video to his 221 million Instagram followers.

His teammates did him the honors on his 34th, walking into his bedroom with a surprisingly on-tune birthday song and adidas bags full of gifts that garnered a few laughs. There was something that looked like a cologne bottle, a pack of cornmeal, some wine and a bottle of holy water, which must be an inside joke.  

“Starting off my birthday with the boys, and receiving a few gifts,” he wrote. “Thanks a lot for making this day special, although I can’t be with my family, who I miss so much in these moments.” 

When you’re the greatest soccer player on the planet, you probably don’t mind that the world sees what you look like when you get out of bed, or the fact that you sleep with giant player cutouts above your bed. Granted, it’s not his personal bedroom — he’s in camp with Argentina for the Copa America in Brazil, where they apparently require the players to sleep in Argentina gear. 

Messi’s hoping his stay in Brazil will be remembered for things other than his birthday wake-up call. He’s trying to win his first Copa America with Argentina (it would be the country’s first since 1993) and in the process, he’ll be setting a record for most all-time appearances in an Argentina shirt. 

It’s a big year for the 34-year-old. His contract with FC Barcelona also expires on June 30 and the world will be watching to see what decision he makes on his club future. Many expect him to stay with the only team he’s ever known as a pro, but it’s unclear how the financial troubles plaguing the organization could affect his thought process. If Barcelona can’t pay the salary he’s seeking, or the team can’t pay for a high-level supporting cast around him, he could decide it’s best for him and the club to move on. 

For now he has some cornmeal to cook up. 

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MLB world unites to slam hideous All-Star Game jerseys: ‘Worst baseball uniforms I’ve ever seen’

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MLB to move 2021 All-Star Game to Coors Field, reports say

A swing and a miss.

MLB All-Star Game uniforms oftentimes have some kind of tie-in to the town in which its played. Or, at least, it used to be that way.

This year, MLB and Nike paired up for new All-Star Game unis and they look like they were ripped from a late 1800s game of polo, with a middle-school student slapping some generic clipart font on the front with team abbreviation.

MORE: 7 players we want to see in the Home Run Derby

According to Chris Creamer of SportsLogos.Net, the uniforms will be worn during the All-Star Game, while players uniforms of their natural team will be worn during the Home Run Derby.

The hats, on the other hand, are fine, utilizing the purple (Purple Mountain’s Majesty, and all) on the star highlighting the team logo on the front.

This year’s All-Star Game shifts from Atlanta, Ga. to Colorado after MLB pulled out amid the introduction of Georgia’s controversial new voter laws, which many see as a clear attempt at voter supression.

MLB fans and analysts alike took to the Tweet machine on Thursday to crack jokes and voice their displeasure with the uniforms:

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