The Sunday Brief: Top Storylines to Follow This Week

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

The no-hitter drought is over! Whew, that was a tough week without a no-no, so I did the next best thing and listened to a lot of Bono and looked at some Bo Jackson memorabilia. And here we are, with two no-hitters in the same week, and they’re not even going to make the top news item of the past seven days.

What’s that, you’re concerned about the arbitrary timeframe? Time is a human construct!

In addition to the news, I’ve got some new features in the article this week, including articles you might have missed from here and around the web. It’s like VH1 in here: a little bit of everything old for everybody!

Tony LaRussa’s Got to Go


Tony LaRussa — the Hall of Fame-dwelling manager of the Chicago White Sox — sparked a massive controversy this week when he first criticized Yermin Mercedes for hitting a home run off of a Twins’ catcher-turned-relief ace in garbage time of a 15-4 game, and then subsequently indicating that it was acceptable for Twins’ low-leverage reliever Tyler Duffey to throw at Mercedes in the next game.

I mean, how much of a run-on sentence do I have to write to summarize this drama? Maybe some embedded tweets will help.

First off, the White Sox were up a bajillion to some number less than a bajillion, and the run differential was such that noted chubby hustler Willians Astudillo came in to pitch. Astudillo, who is normally a catcher or some type of utility player on a Twins team that can’t figure out where to play people, has a career xFIP nearly 1/3 of his ERA and a career hard-hit rate of a mere 33%.

I could say the same thing about Shane Bieber! But Bieber lacks the power eephus pitch that Astudillo hurls so well, as demonstrated in this monster 47 MPH heater that juuuuust got a bit too over the plate:

Mercedes crushed that pitch the same way I would crush a Yerminator burger (Dominican spices FTW!) and — because it was on a 3-0 pitch with some sort of “take” sign issued from the coaches — Mercedes was greeted with derision by manager Tony LaRussa. The story was all over the internet like Gwenyth Paltrow trying to sell you goop for your nose bumps.

You can read about it here and here and here and…you get the idea.

Of course, LaRussa knows what’s coming, and puts Yermin in the lineup the next night, when the inevitable happens: Tyler Duffey threw at/near/behind/sort of in the vicinity of Yermin Mercedes. Duffey — known for his High-T approach to baseball and his career 4.80 ERA and his current swinging-strike rate of 8.2% — blazed his criticism at 93 MPH.

Duffey and Rocco Baldelli going to the showers together and TMZ wasn’t all over that one? My lawd!

But LaRussa took control of the mainstream media narrative by ensuring that, indeed, Tyler Duffey was in the right to retaliate, at least according to his personal copy of the Unwritten Rules of Baseball (sponsored by Manscaped). Yet, Duffey was the one ejected from the game and slapped with a two-game suspension.

As LaRussa sought refuge in the clubhouse to read his Expanded and Revised Rules of Baseball (Updated for the extra-inning rules that LaRussa admitted he didn’t know two weeks ago), White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson emerged as the interim manager of the White Sox:


As the White Sox prepared to travel to their next battle — where they would certainly avoid swinging at pitches and just stand in the box — they opted for a festive “Yoan Moncada”-themed journey. In their press photo, they placed Yermin Mercedes front and center. LaRussa, meanwhile, remained in the clubhouse, where he slept at his desk after listening to Leonard Cohen on vinyl.



There are no Mets Left


Last week I updated you on Jacob deGrom’s journey to the IL, which — much like Odysseus — wound up in him visiting A ball to play against 18-year-olds. Well, the troops kept falling and the Mets are now at the point where they have 16 players on IL. In other words, an entire starting lineup, a starting rotation, a setup guy and a reliever. Yeah, I put a DH in there too.

The good news is that players like deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are on their way back. The bad news is that Carlos Carrasco won’t be back until mid-June. Still, that’s better than any estimated return predicted by Wyclef Jean.


No-no No-no


Major League Pitchers are on pace to break the all-time record for number of no-hitters in a year by next week. Something, something, deflated balls.

What started as a thrilling trend of no-nos for fans in 2021 has somewhat diminished, as we’re at the point that a no-hitter is being thrown almost every week. Actually, this week we had no-hitters on consecutive days, first by Spencer Turnbull of the Detroit Tigers, and second by Corey Kluber of the New York Yankees. This prompted Dodgers hurler Clayton Kershaw to comment to the media,

No-hitters are cool. I have all the respect in the world for Corey Kluber and Bum and all those guys that have thrown no-hitters. But to have one happen every night, it seems like it’s probably not good for the game. Fans want to see some hits, I get that and some action, and not many people striking out. I appreciate the attempt that MLB has tried to do but I think it seems like they missed the mark so far.

We wanted change in 2021 and we’ve got pitchers talking about not wanting to throw a no-hitter! On the plus side, Betty White is still alive. When the record-breaking no-hitter is thrown sometime this month by somebody like Justin Dunn, I’ll be celebrating with y’all.


You’ll Never Walk Alone


Speaking of records being broken, a week after Corbin Burnes set the MLB record for most strikeouts in-between walks at 58, Gerrit Cole broke it and reset it to 61 strikeouts. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: something, something, deflated balls. I mean, the year that we’re looking at a no-hitter record being crushed, we’re also seeing strikeout records being crushed.

Of course, internet pundits are agog at the reasons: it could be the new balls, it could be some combination of sticky substances, it could be the larger number of poor hitters in MLB in April and May to assist service time manipulation, or simply the fact that pitchers have ridiculous amounts of technology and data to assist them now. Regardless, congrats to Gerrit Cole on his new record.


From May to 20K


MLB welcomed its 20,000th player in its illustrious history on Friday night: José Godoy. Godoy was the third catcher on the Seattle Mariners, who got blown out 16-1 the same night. Of course, might as well make lemonade out of those lemons, right?

So the Mariners tossed Godoy into the game, giving him the honor of making history, and possibly even sticking with the team. Despite being in the minors for eight years, Godoy is only 26, and he’s got a pretty good hit tool.

We all kind of knew the Mariners would end up being a Quad-A team this year with Kelenic, Rodriguez, and Gilbert due up to pair with other near-rookies (nookies? hmmm) Kyle Lewis and Dylan Moore, so let’s embrace Godoy and hope he sticks with the team and makes a bit of a career out of his moment in the spotlight. Lookout Landing has a bit broader writeup on Godoy and his situation.


No Doubt: Trout’s Out


Michael “Rainbow” Trout — known to us mortals as the center fielder for the Angels — fell victim to the post-Pujols curse and strained his calf. He lands on the IL, which is slightly more comfortable than landing on the outfield grass from what I hear. The injury is expected to sideline him for nearly two months, which puts a damper on all of our dreams of an Angels playoff run.

Trout was actually in the middle of the best start of his career, which saw him posting a wRC+ near 200, a batting average of .333, and a pace for nearly 35 homers. Trout’s replacement in center will be Taylor Ward, who has a wRC+ of 82 over the past three years in utility work on the big league club to support his 30% K rate. Blerg.


Required Reading

The professor has some homework for you! As a new part of this weekly series, I’ll be offering a reading list to help catch you up on the best reading over the past week, both from Pitcher List and elsewhere in the interwebs.

I’ll see you down in the comments! Let me know what articles you’re reading so we can share more knowledge among the community.


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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