The Sunday Brief: Top Storylines to Follow This Week

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

What’s up, everybody!? It’s been another busy and scandalous week over here in MLB fandom land, and I’ve got another couple of tales about the White Sox and Joe West to sate your appetite for drama. At the end, I’ve got your list of required reading to help get you through the Memorial Day weekend. Stay safe, stay happy, and I’ll see you on the other side of the holiday!

 

Scandalous Sox

Tony LaRussa’s been featured in almost all of my weekly updates because the world revolves around him and we’re just media satellites basking in the shiny lights of his BMW stuck at a stop sign.

This week, TLR is in the news after a lounge in Guaranteed Rate Field — home of the White Sox — was renamed from “Loretta’s Lounge” to “LaRussa’s Lounge.” Fans pointed out that Loretta referred to a woman named Loretta Micele, who worked concessions there for 60 years and continued to show up to work well into her 80s. Woke-eyed observers also pointed out the optics of naming a lounge known for its restful ambience and aroma of hops and barley after a man who has struggled with DUIs — that’s LaRussa — are tone-deaf.

The original tweet raising the issue was liked over 30,000 times.  A family member of Loretta’s reached out to the Twittersphere to indicate that their family was disappointed, especially since the previous sign was tossed without any consultation with their family.

Given that MLB has struggled to build new audiences, it seems sensible that teams would encourage these kinds of invented traditions that include fans in the canon of a team rather than cast them aside as mere marketing gimmicks.

 

Hats Off

MLB fans know that 2021 is the year of “policing” sticky substances on clothing. MLB announced that they would use those expensive cameras that track spin rates — and which impress Nick Pollack so much — to also detect the use of sticky substances to increase spin. This led one agent, Rachel Luba, to wonder whether her client, Trevor Bauer, would be harassed.

And indeed, TB27 was quickly checked out by the ball snatchers in 2021. Bauer’s spin rate has increased even more in 2021 than it did in 2020, yet the Hawkeye hawks continue to look the other way with baseball’s most expensive player.

But this week, Giovanny Gallegos — a reliever for the Cardinals who will have his first arbitration hearing this winter — was forced to switch hats after umpire Joe West decided of his own accord that Gallegos was using a sticky substance on his hat.

Of course, this happens when the Cardinals are playing against the White Sox, thus adding yet another layer of controversy to the Sox’ 2021 season.

Gallegos’ spin rates in 2021 are entirely consistent with those of his earlier years in his career. So, as this writer opines, it’s not my worry whether one is using pine tar or not — just as the umpires are technically supposed to leave it to the cameras to determine that sort of thing — but my concern is the uneven application of pine tar hunting.

On Friday night, Joe West approached Craig Kimbrel of the Cubs — preemptively — and asked him to change his hat. Seems that West fancies himself the Sheriff of Stick.

 

Callaway Canned

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

Mickey Callaway — who had been working as the Angels’ pitching coach until last week — was finally terminated from his job after months of investigation into sexual assault allegations made by five women. As the report in The Athletic noted, Callaway’s behavior was one of “the worst kept secrets in sports.”

Despite many people in MLB immediately condemning Callaway and confirming the behavior, Callaway continued to work as the Angels’ pitching coach until MLB finally put him on the ineligible list. As Alex Chamberlain noted, the Angels terminated Callaway only because the organization was no longer able to employ Callaway as a pitching coach.

Callaway’s firing comes weeks after Roberto Alomar’s roles with MLB and the Hall of Fame were terminated as a result of his sexual misconduct.

The Shohei Train Incident

Shohei Ohtani missed his start as a pitcher this week due to some traffic. Maybe. We don’t quite know.

After Callaway was canned by the Angels, the team was struck by another dramatic incident that distracted the public away from their employment debacle when they blamed the BART public transit system for Shohei Ohtani being late to practice and therefore unable to prepare for the game.

In a stellar rebuttal, BART social media retorted that there was no delay on any of their tracks that day. Although not confirmed, a more likely excuse was that Shohei Ohtani‘s fastball velocity dipped nearly 6 MPH in his last start and he threw fewer breaking balls than he had all year.

Of course, Ohtani is one of the top hitters in the league right now, so they put him in at DH and said, “we’ll skip his start for now.” But, given that Ohtani has had severe arm troubles over the course of his career, we could be looking at the Angels buying time to find a new pitching coach to evaluate Ohtani’s overall health.

Ohtani pitched Friday night and, although his fastball velocity was down, he was reticent to use his breaking pitches, and he walked 4 batters in six innings. Time will tell whether the train incident was a true delay or just a delay tactic.

 

Joe West: Ironman

I could make a lot of Joe West jokes here, but none of them are better than the summary of how umpire Joe decided to celebrate his setting the record of the most games, well, umpired. He invited another team’s mascot to the Cardinals – White Sox game to give him flowers:

 

Hats Off, Part 2

New Era Apparel designed and released a line of “local market” hats for every MLB team, but the lids quickly became canned for their odd listing of area codes on the front (who identifies with area codes now?), questionable “local” highlights, and ’90s era clipart design. The hats were pulled from sale within a few hours, but don’t worry: journalists got screenshots and will share with you.

The Worst Play Ever 

You’ve probably watched it by now, but just in case you were under a rock, MLB witnessed what was probably the most boneheaded move in at least the last decade if not, well, ever. All Allen Craig had to do was touch first base. Instead, this happened:

 

Required Reading

The professor has some homework for you! As 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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