Craig Calcaterra

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The Nationals have a new, bad racing president

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The Brewers introduction of the Racing Sausages was pretty fantastic when it started all of those years ago because nothing like it had really been seen before. And it was aesthetically wonderful, as the tall, skinny sausages bobbed up and down awkwardly and hilariously. More so than they do now, actually, likely because of the improved nature of the costumes and the fact that the people racing have a bit more of a clue. Originally, though, it was an odd bit of almost, I dunno, David Lynchian weirdness entering baseball.

Many teams now have derivative versions of the Sausages. Large mascots involved in a foot races and the like, corporately sponsored or otherwise. The Washington Nationals version — the Presidents Race — is one of the better ones, I think. The costumes are fun. They’ve even built in some comedy and character notes to it all (the “Let Teddy Win” thing from a couple of years ago, etc.).

The originals were the Mount Rushmore presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. In recent years we’ve gotten William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge, though not always. Those newer additions aren’t Rushmore-worthy but they’re not objectionable I don’t suppose. Taft’s better legacy was as a Supreme Court justice and Coolidge was more of a competent steward than an truly inspiring leader, but no one, I hope, gets too worked up about them these days.

Yesterday, however, a new president showed up. Herbert Hoover. Interesting choice. I get that the Nats probably don’t want recent presidents as part of the race as they may be polarizing, but I think Hoover is one of older presidents who probably still inspires a bit opinion. He was really bad. The Great Depression wasn’t exactly his fault — even if he was in two administrations which preceded his own —  but he addressed it remarkably poorly, either unable or refusing to recognize the scope of the crisis while steadfastly and stubbornly adhering to conservative, hands-off principles when hands definitely needed to be on. An engineer and technocrat by nature, he likewise had almost no ability to communicate with the American people and came off as profoundly distant and uncaring as a result. And it wasn’t all just bad image and deportment. After the Depression hit he signed into law a a tariff that fueled trade wars and made the Depression even worse.

Maybe after the Rushmore guys we just don’t have any truly inspiring presidents to turn into racing mascots. FDR, I guess, but having a man who was confined to a wheelchair in a footrace is a bit of an issue. Maybe the could go full comedy with it and get a series of those now rather anonymous 19th century presidents involved. Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce don’t exactly have a current legacy of, well, anything, but you could probably make ’em funny.

Oh well. I’m just stuck on the idea that it’s hard to find a less-inspiring guy than Herbert Hoover.

UPDATE: I learn that this is a historical society thing. So, OK. Still Hoover sucked:

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado celebrates his two-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second inning of an baseball game, Sunday, April 10, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The Braves and Twins are a combined 0-11. I feel like we’re not going to have a reenactment of 1991 this year. At least outside of my 25th high school reunion. That’s probably for the best. There’s enough right now reminding me how old I am.

The scores. The highlights:

Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 0: Marco Estrada pitched seven shutout innings and Josh Donadlson hit a homer so, after four straight losses and some concerns about injuries and things, all is right with the word in Toronto. Except for that thing about how they sell milk in bags up there. I’ll never get that.

Reds 2, Pirates 1: Triples are the best thing in baseball. I will go to my grave believing that triples are the best thing in baseball. Of all the things. Here Jay Bruce hit a walkoff triple. Walkoff homers get all the press, but a walkoff triple is pretty much the peak way to end a game.

Phillies 5, Mets 2: On Friday the Phillies botched the infield fly rule of all things and some reporters were tweeting that they were the worst baseball team they’ve seen in a while. Saturday and Sunday were better because, you know, they actually won their first two games of the year. Odubel Herrera hit a two-run homer. In other news, “Odubel Herrera” is the name a baseball video game would use for “Asdrubal Cabrera” if it was too cheap to get proper licensing rights.

Cardinals 12, Braves 7: Here are the real candidates for worst team in baseball. Your Atlanta Braves. They fall to 0-5 as Brandon Moss and Matt Carpenter each hit three-run homers. The Twins are 0-6 so I guess that should make Atlanta feel better but the Twins have a lot more talent and stuff so there’s hope for them.

Orioles 5, Rays 3: On the other end of the scale are the unbeaten Orioles. Manny Machado went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer. This win came despite starting Vance Worley — who, if you held a gun to my head, I couldn’t have told you what team he was pitching for this season before today — and despite him pitching poorly. When you’re going well you’re going well.

Nationals 4, Marlins 2: Jayson Werth started the season 0-for-13 but hit a go-ahead, RBI single in the seventh to help key the Nats’ win. Bryce Harper did Bryce Harper things. Joe Ross allowed a run and five hits in seven innings. All the postgame quotes are about how everyone knew Werth would come around eventually, but he’s gonna be 37 next month so it’s not like that was — or is — a guarantee. Not hating or anything. Just very fascinated with aging patterns these days. Guys get older faster in the post-PED era. I wonder when our talk about older guys and the assumptions that they’re just fine, they just need to heat up will adjust to it.

Brewers 3, Astros 2:Dallas Keuchel walked four in the first inning and six overall. Those first inning walks contributed to two runs and in a low-scoring game that was pretty critical. Keuchel walked four in seven innings in the opener against the Yankees too. The Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson, meanwhile, walked four of his own but he struck out nine and didn’t bunch his walks.

Royals 4, Twins 3: I guess a walkoff wild pitch is kind of exciting too. Not triple exciting, but still pretty cool. Like a little jolt of “what the HELL happened?!” That had to hurt Twins fans, though not as much as their boys blowing a two-run lead in the ninth. This is the Twins’ worst start since they became the Twins in 1961.

Angels 3, Rangers 1: People spent all spring talking about how Jered Weaver was throwing slower than an old dad a the guess-the-speed booth at the state fair but all he did in his season debut was allow one run over six innings to the defending AL West champs. Take your radar gun and dip it in the elephant ear batter. Mike Trout went 0-for-1 but still drove in two runs. Box scores are fun.

Rockies 6, Padres 3: Trevor Story is getting a little ridiculous. He hit his seventh homer, setting the Major League record for home runs in a team’s first six games of a season. Oftentimes arbitrary endpoint “records” like that are silly, but given the guys he passed — Larry Walker (6, 1997), Mike Schmidt (6, 1976), and Willie Mays (6, 1964) — I think we’ll count this one.

Giants 9, Dodgers 6: The Giants take three of four from their rivals. This win came after finding themselves down 5-0 after the top of the first. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan all homered and Joe Panik hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the sixth. Despite that five-run first inning, Johnny Cueto only gave up one run in the next six innings and got the win. There’s something to be said for having a freakin’ horse like him. He could’ve just worn it for a few more innings but he just shook it the heck off and forgot about that first inning. Pretty sweet.

Athletics 2, Mariners 1: Felix Hernandez pitched seven shutout innings and struck out ten but still got the no-decision and the Mariners lost. This feels like 2010 or something. Coco Crisp hit a two-out homer in the 10th inning which eventually won the game.

Cubs 7, Diamondbacks 3: Jake Arrieta allowed three runs and eight hits and struck out six in seven innings, but the highlight for him on the day was  his 442-foot homer. There’s helping your own cause, but that was ridiculous.

Yankees vs. Tigers; Indians vs. White Sox: POSTPONED — And I was down at the banquet hall when two guys came up, pretty angry and drunk.And I’m still here at the banquet hall, at the banquet hall. Where the gun went off, in the Carolina Rain. In the Carolina Rain, in the Carolina Rain, Oh, Caroline.

Astros’ rally ends on ‘Utley rule’ call, Brewers win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) The Houston Astros huddled around video monitors in the clubhouse for extra views. Manager A.J Hinch fumed in his office. Ace Dallas Keuchel made his frustration known on Twitter.

The Astros became the latest team in the majors to get a firsthand look at the “Chase Utley rule.”

Colby Rasmus was called for interference because of the new rule, resulting in a game-ending double play and blunting Houston’s ninth-inning rally in a 6-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

“My interpretation is that it’s a shame. The game ends on a play that the rule isn’t intended to protect,” said Hinch after the game, his voice cracking.

Down 6-0, the Astros scored four times in the ninth and put runners on first and second with one out.

Jose Altuve hit a bouncer to second baseman Scooter Gennett, who threw to shortstop Jonathan Villar for the forceout. Rasmus slid past the base, and Villar didn’t make a relay to first.

Second base umpire Dan Bellino called Rasmus for not trying to stay on the bag, part of the requirement under baseball’s new rule governing slides on potential double plays. The call was upheld after the Astros challenged the play.

“My second base umpire determined that it was not a bona fide slide because Rasmus did not attempt to stay on the base. He could not stay on the base,” crew chief Tom Hallion said. “With that, that is the rule of interference.”

Keuchel had a different opinion.

“Are we even playing baseball anymore??? Unbelievable,” the opinionated Cy Young Award winner said on Twitter.

It was the second time this week that “Utley rule” call ended a game. Toronto lost two runs and a potential win when Jose Bautista was called for interference at Tampa Bay.

Jeremy Jeffress was credited with his second save after getting the double play, in spite of allowing a hit and walk in the ninth.

“It’s a different way to end a game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, “but we’ll take it.”

Counsell said the “Utley rule” was talked about at length during spring training, but players are still learning to adjust. Managers are still learning how to interpret it.

“The rule is the rule and we’re going to have to learn how to play with it,” Counsell said.

Hinch said there needed to be more clarification.

“He slid through the base and didn’t hang onto the base. When a play happens late, you’re asking major league athletes to essentially shut it down and slide at a pace that isn’t competitive,” Hinch said.