The Sunday Brief: Top Storylines to Follow This Week

All the stories you need to follow this week in the MLB.

What is up everybody! It’s your second favorite Friday blogger (after Carlos, of course) moving into the limelight for a Sunday publication. I’m like Lawrence Welk! If only I could make you polka. Thanks to Liam Casey for his hard work on this weekly publication, and starting now, I’m the captain. [raises pirate flag onto the Pitcher List banner] Rum for everybody! (Please note all rum sales stop after the bottom of the 7th inning)

I’ll be covering all the storylines the media wants you to know about and giving you some extra stats at the bottom. Usually, I like a brownie at the bottom of my sundae but you’re getting stats on the bottom of your Sunday. Onward! [loads eponymous Pixar movie]


Yes! Means, No!


On Wednesday, John Means led the league in memes created when he threw a no-hitter that was almost a perfect game, save for a passed ball. Means becomes the third official no-hitter of 2021, and because MLB can’t figure out how to score its own game, the fourth no-hitter as far as every fan is concerned when including Madison Bumgarner’s gem. Means’ near-perfecto came with 12 strike-outs, and went in opposition to Yusei Kikuchi’s 7IP and 7K. A Seattle/Baltimore slate wasn’t destined to be a high-scoring affair, but with two beautiful pitching performances, we saw more punch-outs than an NES collector fighting his way to Mike Tyson. With Means’ no-no, MLB is on pace for something like 30 no-hitters in 2021, which I imagine would be a world record unless we count the times I threw no-hitters in RBI Baseball.


Miley Cy-ROS


On Friday night, Wade Miley of the Cincinnati Reds also threw a no-hitter. As the TV announcers remarked that Miley joined the annals of baseball history, Twitter pundits began contemplating about how nearly meaningless (and I didn’t make a John Means pun there) the no-hitter has become. On the same night that Miley threw a no-hitter, Sean Manaea of the Athletics went 8 innings of no-hit ball and nearly had a same-night no-no. With Miley throwing the fourth official no-hitter of 2021 (and fifth if we count Madison Bumgarner) — and we’re only 5 weeks into the season — we’re on pace to break the all-time record for MLB no-hitters by the end of May. What’s the difference between the previous years and 2021? Could it be the deadened ball and the humidors? Anyway. Wade Miley has a long resume of adequate MLB starting skills, and this being his 10th year in the league, he’s showing more or less the same skills he’s had for the past decade. Miley definitely isn’t on track for the Cy Young over the Rest of Season, but he’s secured his spot in the Reds starting rotation for a while.




Ageism is a serious part of discrimination and nobody should be judged on their job duty based on their age. However, the 76-year old Tony LaRussa, who has been away from baseball for the past decade, admitted that he didn’t know the extra innings rules in the game on Wednesday, May 5, when he muffed a double switch and ended up starting the 10th inning with closer Liam Hendricks as the runner on second base. Sure, mistakes happen, and sometimes I fall asleep at stop signs too. It’s the ever-continuing saga of Tony LaRussa on the White Sox: so far he’s been leaving in his pitchers too long, most notably allowing staff ace Lucas Giolito to go nearly 120 pitches as he was clearly tired. Additionally, LaRussa has opted to use veteran backups as starters while letting vaunted prospect Andrew Vaughn languish on the bench. LaRussa’s management saga has been covered by Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic, and South Side Sox. But wait! [insert montage from VH1’s “Worst Week Ever]. This week another scandal broke when employees from LaRussa’s pet shelter, ARF (Animal Rescue Foundation), accused the MLB manager of a long-standing toxic work environment, culminating when LaRussa fired 1/3 of the staff in March 2020. So, Tony LaRussa — who’s already in the Hall of Fame, already has his World Series rings, and could be lounging near the beach with a rescue pup at his feet — is instead drawing the ire of baseball fans and pet fans alike. Methinks it’s time LaRussa stopped juggling so many balls and instead focused on managing the many crises right in front of his face.


Adios Albert


Baseball fans witnessed the sudden release of Albert Pujols from the Los Angeles Angels of Stingy Town. Pujols will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, yet his dismissal from the Angels came without warning or fanfare or a goodbye tour. Despite playing with the Angels for nearly 10 years — and indeed he was on the last year of his contract — the front office decided that they would rather have Jared Walsh getting time at first base and unceremoniously designated Pujols for assignment without giving fans notice or allowing Pujols so much as a final game to say goodbye. In an MLB landscape that seeks to expand the game as broadly as possible, the Angels front office missed out on a great opportunity to allow fans to remember and memorialize Pujols in his last games with the team. Fans await word from Pujols as to whether he’ll pursue playing with another team, and pundits speculate that Pujols’ planned post-playing career job in the Angels front office might need a miracle to come to fruition.


Crank Yankers


A young man approached Yankee Stadium wearing his finest can and green shaggy shirt, ready to bang against the Astros.

The Astros — who have a pile of evidence against them for using signaling devices and banging trashcans to announce stolen pitch signs — were never really punished by MLB Baseball’s front offices, and that irks a lot of fans. Now that those fans are coming back to stadiums, they’re sending the current Astros players some signals of their own. As Lindsey Adler reported, much of the dissent was direct at Jose Altuve, who in 2017 hit a home run off of Aroldis Chapman and clutched his jersey as he crossed home plate, with many people believing he said, “Don’t rip my jersey” to his teammates to remind them of his electronic buzzer. Now in 2021 with a chance to jeer the Astros, Yankees fans shouted “F— Altuve!” With fans back in the stands in force across the league in 2021, you can expect more Oscar the Grouch costumes to appear at games across the country.


Mayday for Dustin May


Dustin May broke through last year as one of the youngest starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. Despite a logjam of starters for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021, May arrived at his roster spot last year through a combination of David Price opting out, Walker Buehler failing to do his training and conditioning during the COVID delay, and Alex Wood getting injured. May took the opportunity in stride and went from bullpen arm to piggyback starter to full-fledged starter making the highlight reels of all the pitching gif media sites. He finished 2020 with 56 IP, a 3-1 record, and a sparkling 2.57 ERA. In 2021, May again held down a full-time starting gig at the young age of 23, cranking up his K/9 by nearly 40%.  Then on May 1, May threw a 94 MPH pitch out of the zone and immediately grimaced in pain. He was removed from the game, and an MRI on Monday showed a damaged UCL, and he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery next week. With one of MLB’s most promising young pitchers sidelined until the end of 2022 most likely, the Dodgers turn toward Tony Gonsolin — himself returning soon from an IL stint with shoulder inflammation — to step into the rotation.


Blue Jays Migrating to Buffalo


On Wednesday, MLB announced that the Toronto Blue Jays would again become the Buffalo Blue Jays for 2021. Canadian authorities have denied the Toronto-based team to play internationally since the beginning of the pandemic, and in 2020, the Blue Jays opted to play their “home” games at the site of their AAA affiliate in Buffalo, NY. This year, the Blue Jays will again migrate their home games to Sahlen Field, which will receive MLB-levels of upgrades to its field. Fans will again be allowed into the stadium, although capacity will be capped at 24% of standard seating. This means that the Toronto Blue Jays likely won’t play in Toronto until 2022 at the earliest.


He Speaks to Angels


Umpire Angel Hernandez is known by memers for struggling to be consistent in his calls, and most fans and analysts agree that he’s set a bar for low-effort job performance. On Tuesday night, Angel Hernandez erroneously allowed Andrew Benintendi of the Kansas City Royals to advance a base even though he was out. Hernandez later admitted that he “guessed” at the outcome of the play, despite multiple other umpires being present to assist and most of the players pretty certain about the outcome of the play. Then on Wednesday night, Hernandez’ perception of a balk angered Royals pitcher Brady Singer, who was ejected from the game and raged at Hernandez. With MLB in discussions about ways to improve the game, it seems like one way to improve player/fanbase engagement is to, you know, let the players play the game.

First, here’s Hernandez missing the call on Benintendi:

And although the balk call on Singer could be argued to be accurate, the storyline to follow is, of course, not the balk, but the outburst of player anger towards an umpire that’s known for mistakes. Here, Singer gets just as angry at Hernandez as he does when it rains:



Uncle Chili 


The New York Mets — tired of letting Jacob deGrom be their all-star hitter — fired hitting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater, and the move angered some of the players. Although the Mets have been batting more or less league average with a 96 wRC+ as a team, it’s apparent that big-ticket players like Francisco Lindor (.173 AVG and 47 wRC+ at time of writing) are struggling. The new regime under Steve Cohen would undoubtedly like to see their prize acquisitions hitting above the Mendoza Line, so the place to fire a warning shot undoubtedly begins with the coaches. Mets slugger Pete Alonso didn’t approve of the coaching change, saying he cried when he read the news over Twitter, and called referred to the coaches as being like uncles to him. When prompted for his opinion on the firing, Francisco Lindor said, “It broke my heart.”  The Mets have played about 80% the number of games as the rest of the league due to multiple weather and health setbacks in the early season, so there are external factors at play as well.


Stats and Slates


I’m calling the batter of the week Ramon Laureano, who knocked 4 homers, had 7 runs and RBI, walked 5 times, and batted .379. I think we can all agree John Means takes the honors as the pitcher of the week. He threw 16 total innings, had 21 strikeouts to 1 walk, and posted a 1.13 ERA on his way to 2 wins, one of which was a passed ball away from a perfect game.

There are a lot of rivalry matchups coming this week, including New York Mets vs the New York Yankees, the San Francisco Giants against the San Diego Padres, and the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Los Angeles Angels. Notable matchups include Shane Bieber facing the Cubs and the Mariners, John Means facing off against the new hitting coaches on the New York Mets, and the league-best hitting Red Sox facing off against the rest of the Orioles’ lackluster starters.

Have an awesome week everybody, and see you down in the comments!


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Blair Williams

Blair holds a PhD in Japanese history and is the author of "Making Japan's National Game: A Cultural History of Baseball." He's a fan of sci-fi, prog metal, and sipping rums.

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