There isn’t anyone young on that pace right now

Consider that while Cabrera is at 451 home runs at age 34, Bill James’ Favorite Toy gives him just a 34-percent chance at reaching 600. In two out of every three futures, something drags him down before he hits another 149 home runs. That’s a good start on your way to being impressed with just how unlikely 600 homers is; it’s hard even if you’re spotted the first 450. The final 25 percent will mess you up.

Think of a great 34-year-old player. Like Cabrera! Think of the sentence eh, if he averages 30 home runs for another five seasons, he’ll get that extra 150 he needs. Then look at the players with five of those seasons after turning 34. There are five of them in baseball history. If you want to change the parameters, and see how many hitters have the quintet of 25-homer seasons that Cabrera needs, the answer is seven.

And if you want to change parameters to include a 30-homer season here, a 25-homer season, a 20-homer season, followed by five 15-homer seasons … I mean, maybe? But you’re digging a pretty deep hole.

There isn’t anyone young on that pace right now, which means there simply aren’t going to be a lot of contenders for the 600-dinger throne. There are just nine active players with even 300 homers, and Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion are the youngest, at 34.

Trumbo was drafted in the 18th round of the 2004 draft as a pitcher, but he appeared in his first pro game in 2005, as a first baseman. I’m guessing either instructional league wasn’t very kind to his pitching, or the Angels knew where he was playing all along.

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Where Scooter Gennett’s 4-homer game ranks in the Weird Baseball Hall of Fame

Scooter Gennett had three homers in 2017. Then he hit four in one game. It’s funny because he’s a typically light-hitting second baseman. It’s also funny because his name is Scooter. If his name were Boom Jackson or Large Arms Von Trapp, it would be less funny. The randomness is my favorite part, though. Scooter Gennett? Scooter Gennett?

Yes, Scooter Gennett. And now it’s a name that baseball fans will drop in casual conversation in 2057.

What we have here, then, is a baseball twofer. These are my very favorite baseball occurrences, as they seem to cut to the soul of the sport. The requirements for a baseball twofer are simple:

That’s why Brian Wilson, who used to be one of the game’s best closers but pitched his way out of MLB, is trying to make it back as one. Tebow didn’t stick in the NFL. He’s got a job talking about college football, sure, but he clearly wants to keep playing professional sports, and he got a shot to make his way to MLB courtesy of the Mets

And I’ll bet that, even if they would never admit it, very few of the collision proponents actually think about the old rules when a run scores on a close play at the plate now. The run scores in a baseball context. You’re happy/sad in a baseball context. As in, ugh, that pitcher missed his pitch. Or, wow, that right fielder has a cannon.

Regardless of stage, all of the young Cubs are already playing important roles, as seen by Chicago fielding the youngest lineup in the majors Monday night against the Nationals.

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The Yankees got the three MVP-caliber seasons from Cano

It is a political statement, though: Trump is deeply unpopular as POTUS, and Maddon even admitted that not going to the White House is a political statement. So, when you do the opposite and go to the White House, why isn’t that a political statement, too? Well, because it’s Maddon, like he always does as a manager, will say whatever he has to in order to shield his players and bosses from criticism. That’s an annoying but understandable trait for a manager, but when Maddon is using the same tactics for something more meaningful than adults playing sports in their pajamas, when he’s shielding the decision to visit the White House behind his privilege as a well-off white man, well, annoying doesn’t quite cover it.

Maddon says he’s going out of respect for the office and the building itself, a line that prioritizes the figurative symbolism of the office over real people. Real people like any Cubs fans who have been targeted by the president and cabinet working inside of it, whether because they’re a minority or an immigrant or LGBT or on Medicaid. And at a time when the voicemail inboxes of senators are overflowing with messages from constituents especially concerned about that last part.

The Yankees got the three MVP-caliber seasons from Cano, and they also got four starting-caliber seasons and five All-Star seasons. If there’s a tiebreaker between these two teams, it’s that the Yankees haven’t had a second baseman worth two wins since Brian Roberts in 2014. Starlin Castro appears ready to break that drought, though.

As for the other guy on the East Coast? Dustin Pedroia got close, and the Red Sox have enjoyed five starting-caliber seasons, six All-Star seasons, and one MVP-level season, which is outstanding compared to the rest of baseball. But they couldn’t quite get where the Phillies and Yankees were.

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Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the 600-homer club is the new 500-homer club.

It looks like an upward trend. And maybe it is. But there’s a chance that no one will do it again for the next 30 years. Or 40. Because after this one, if Cabrera doesn’t get there, there are no guarantees the 2020s will have a representative.

If it does happen, it doesn’t have to be Trout, Stanton, or Harper. It could be someone we don’t know a lot about just yet. Joey Gallo. Cody Bellinger. Jake Burger, y’all.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the 600-homer club is the new 500-homer club. It’s absurdly difficult to hit that many home runs, and those extra 100 homers have to come from somewhere. Only 852 of the 15,000 players to have recorded a plate appearance have hit 100 homers in their career. Which means the next 600-homer hitter will need to claw their way to 500 something that’s been done only 27 times before and then have a better post-500-dinger career than the about 14,000 players ever had.

It’ll happen again. Cabrera might do it in the next few years. But it doesn’t have to happen a lot just because of the last couple decades, and it doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the heck out of Pujols and what he’s accomplished. His mid-30s slide and the Angels’ descent into irrelevance have conspired to help the world forget just how good he used to be. Note that he was incredible, though. And while it doesn’t take 600 homers to make us appreciate that, it certainly helps.

If you like baseball for the deft strategy and the subtle notes and the white noise between the action, these trends are alarming.

Except, Stage 3 was born, in which Colon became a fluffy, jovial projection of baseball hopes and dreams. He reinvented himself as a control maven who used 34 different words for the word fastball.

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There are (at least) two things wrong with Maddon’s opinion.

It was all precipitated by one play that happened several years ago that to me was just bad technique on the part of the catcher, so that’s where I get really flustered by this conversation, because to me it should not even exist.

These quotes were designed in a lab to make me itch. There are (at least) two things wrong with Maddon’s opinion.

First, it isn’t the damned Buster Posey Rule. That is not how it happened. That’s not how the rule changed.

I didn’t know a lot before. Now I’m really screwed.

One of you messed with the settings in the menu screen, and I’m begging you to change it back.

The best way to explain what I mean is that I’m writing about surprising hitters, but I’m not going to include Aaron Altherr. The Phillies outfielder is hitting .294/.379/.538 with nine homers this season, a year after hitting under the Mendoza Line with a 60 OPS+. He’s not being included because I can explain his success in terms that I’m used to. He’s 26. He developed. He made strides. He’s coming into his own. Happens every year to a few young players. Good for him.

Southern Miss might have reason for worry moving forward, however, as skipper, Scott Berry, burned through five arms on his pitching staff just to stop the bleeding. Starter Kirk McCarty lasted only 4 1/3, and the next four patched together a solid performance in the win.

He walked the next batter to load the bases, then yielded a groundout at second on his 101st pitch. He was done for the night then, with seven innings of work and nine strikeouts.

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What’s going on with all the veteran surges around baseball?

This is an article about surprising hitters, oodles of them, all over the place, like that video where the guy pokes the pile of black fuzz and thousands of baby spiders emerge DON’T GOOGLE THAT. These aren’t your typical April and May surprises, the kind you can chalk up to sample size, the kind that will go away by July. These are bizarre stories that make me reevaluate just how much I know about baseball.

It’s hard to remember Jim Thome as a third baseman because we’re so used to his years as a first baseman. But he played third for six years, and he was generally OK. Just not as good as Matt Williams.

Imagine an 18-year-old Thome, hitting .237/.314/.296 while making 15 errors at shortstop for the Gulf Coast League Indians. He must have been so skinny, so spindly. There’s no way he could have been America’s Baseball Dad back then, even if he was clearly America’s Baseball Dad before he turned 30. He was moved to third base the next year.

There were a lot of contenders for this spot, and I was tempted to go with Tim Raines. Heck, I wonder if Chet Lemon becomes a Hall of Fame candidate if he sticks at short, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Mike Schmidt could have handed the position, too. But I think we’ll all agree that Thome is the funniest choice.

The ’60s saw the mound get lowered because pitchers were too dominant, and the ’70s saw the rise of fake grass, roofs, and concrete. The ’80s were filled with stolen bases, and the ’90s were filled with hideous logos.

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Joe Maddon is wrong about home-plate collisions

Joe Maddon is supposed to be baseball’s cool dad, the one who shows up at the frat house barbecue and tosses beers around. He’s just like one of the guys, ha ha, there goes ol’ Joe. He’s going to shift his players over here! He’s going to shift them over there! He’s going to make his players wear onesies! Wacky ol’ Joe even showed up to his introductory press conference looking like the CEO of a company that sells organic chickpea snacks.

And, to be fair, it is nice to have a little variety in the managerial ranks. While it’s not unusual to have a cerebral manager really, it might be the default Maddon most definitely does stand out. It’s easy to dive into the backlash to the fawning praise, maybe even somewhat nourishing, but the sport is just a little more colorful with him in it.

There’s a dark underbelly to this image, however. While Maddon would love to rank IPAs with you at a Foo Fighters concert, he can also be a classic, old-timey, baseball dingus who believes in The Way Things Used To Be. If you’re not caught up on recent events, here’s a primer:

As a single tear rolls down my cheek, I proclaim this to be the most beautiful vision I have ever seen. Imagine the 1995 Indians, scoring 1,000 runs and allowing 1,000 unearned runs in the same season, with Thome at short and Manny at third. We deserve this alternate reality.

Alas, while he was drafted as a third baseman out of a New York high school, he never played an inning of infield in the minor leagues. We’ll just have to close our eyes and imagine what it would have been like.

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College World Series 2017: Schedule, game times & TV info for Saturday

The 2017 College World Series starts on Saturday, with a pair of games from TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

Both games will be televised by ESPN, with online streaming available through WatchESPN.

No. 1 Oregon State starts things off on Saturday, battling Cal State Fullerton in the first game. The Beavers send to the mound Jake Thompson, who brings a 14-0 record and 1.52 ERA into the game. He was drafted in the fourth round on Tuesday by the Boston Red Sox.

Then, the worst possible outcome on a routine infield popup happened.

By rights, Davidson shortstop Max Bazin should probably have caught this ball. Third baseman Eric Jones has no business charging in like this, and second baseman Alex Acosta has second claiming rights to it. Pitcher Barry should just get out of the way.

But none of that happened. Jones and Acosta collide hard, with Acosta taking Jones’ left elbow directly in the face. It’s impossible to know whether Acosta thought he had actually caught the thing before dropping it, or whether he was so stunned that he just went and dropped the ball. Either way, this is the low point of what was already an atrocious eighth inning of defense for the Wildcats.

The play ended with two more Aggies crossing, and they took a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the eighth. A&M leads the best of three series, 1-0, so this is a win or go home scenario for Davidson.

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The Blue Jays have played themselves back into the race

Toronto is playing well, of course. The Rays are surprisingly a legitimately good team. The Orioles always stick around. The Red Sox have arguably the most talent of the group. Finally, the Yankees have been hot all season, and Aaron Judge doesn’t look like he’ll slow down. The AL East is going to be fun to watch this summer, and the Blue Jays are making sure they’ll be a part of it.

MLB has juiced baseballs before. The steroid era sure seems like it was the era of steroids, but it’s still probably improperly named, since there were plenty of other aspects at play that caused offense to rise: smaller ballparks, multiple expansions in the decade that (temporarily) diluted the talent pool in MLB, and juiced baseballs as proven by studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and written about by Jay Jaffe.

Now, we might be back to an era where the ball is livelier, and it’s because of a change in the design. That’s what Ben Lindbergh and a guy who blocked me on Twitter after I told him to log off are saying, anyway. A change to the seams has reduced air resistance on baseballs, and between that and the sudden desire of so many players to hit fly balls, we’ve got ourselves a whole bunch of dingers we didn’t have even just a few years ago.

There are some issues here, though. The pair even admit that this is a central question we can’t quite figure out, and also that some of this could just be inconsistency in the batches of balls themselves the fact they haven’t been able to test any balls from this year limits the scope, too. And if there was a change, was it intentional, or just one of those things that happens when the manufacturing process changes?

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It’s not like there’s a player on an 80-homer pace.

The rest of them? Jose Altuve is incredible. Carlos Correa is incredible. George Springer is incredible. Brian McCann and Evan Gattis complement each other extraordinarily well. Josh Reddick is just OK, but that’s been his thing for a while.

It’s not like there’s a player on an 80-homer pace. It’s not like Altuve is hitting .440, which would be absurd, even for him. These are quality players providing quality production.

And with all that written, it’s time to get to the part where the Astros can get better. Not in a .800 winning percentage sense, but in terms of building a quality team with less of the postseason left to chance.

The trade deadline. All of those problems will either be fixed or the Astros will be open to fixing them. Have problems with the back of the rotation, still? Here’s Jose Quintana. Or Johnny Cueto. Or Quintana and Cueto. Is Beltran still disappointing? Here’s Yonder Alonso, who is like the Marwin Gonzalez of first base. There are so many different ways the Astros can go.

Previously, Chicago was behind the Mets on our scale, and ahead of the group of 23 other non-villainous teams that the Padres, Pirates, and Brewers were meant to represent on this wheel. The whole explanation for all that can be found here.

All the above isn’t quite enough to move them past the Mets, given the Mets are still owned by the Wilpons and they’re still causing us to all write about Tim Tebow. (Would you people please lose interest in him? Man.) On the other hand, the Mets are basically the most pathetic team in baseball right now. Everyone is hurt and the manager was, at one point, barred from discussing any injuries, and instead had to say things like a start was being skipped because of the weather.

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