The Braves thump the Phillies to take over first place

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Tommy Hanson pitches.jpgI said at the beginning of the season that the NL East was going to be a tight one this year. I also said that the Braves would win it. Neither of those calls looked particularly prescient for the first several weeks of the season as the Phillies started off as one of the hottest teams in baseball — scoring runs in bunches — and the Braves treated April like it was extended spring training.

But it’s a brand new season now, as the Braves took advantage of a struggling Phillies team in the past week or so and beat them soundly today — 9-3 — in order to take over first place.

Most of the damage was done against Joe Blanton, who obviously didn’t have it at the start of the day’s game. Many balls were hit hard, including a homer by Chipper Jones. Blanton had some help, though, by some indifferent Phillies defense that allowed Braves’ runners to take extra bases and a Phillies offense that continued to squander opportunities early.

Braves’ starter Tommy Hanson wasn’t too sharp himself in the early going, but he settled down in the third inning and cruised through the remainder of his day, finishing with only one run in 6.2 IP, and that run was an inherited thing allowed by reliever Peter Moylan.  The Phillies went on to score two more off the Braves’ bullpen in the seventh, but all of that headway was lost when Troy Glaus hit a three-run homer off Chad Durbin in the bottom half of the inning.

The Braves won 20 games in May. They’re obviously on fire and will fall back to Earth soon. The Phillies have looked awful lately. They’re obviously a supremely talented team and they will bounce back.

But for now the Braves are in first place and, at the very least, I’m feeling very confident about my prediction of a close race.

MLB suspends Tim Anderson for using the n-word

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This is weird.

As you no doubt recall, on Wednesday White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson hit a two-run home run off of Royals starter Brad Keller. Anderson celebrated by throwing his bat back towards his dugout. The next time Anderson stepped to the plate Keller threw a fastball at him. The benches emptied. Keller and Anderson were ejected, as was White Sox manager Rick Renteria.

Why Anderson was ejected was something of a mystery. He did not charge the mound. He did not throw a punch and he did not shove anyone or anything. At most you figure he said something intemperate and, sure, saying intemperate things can sometimes get you ejected. Only sometimes, of course, as many a blue streak-swearing manager has gotten a pass as long as he doesn’t say some magic words “Bull Durham” taught us about. But that’s usually the end of that.

MLB just announced via press release that Keller has been suspended for five games for throwing at Anderson. We’ve argued that that’s too light a sentence for pitchers in the past, but let’s leave that aside for now. What’s interesting is that Anderson has been suspended too. For one game.

Why? Major League Baseball’s press release merely says “for his conduct after the benches cleared.” Which isn’t very helpful as, again, there was nothing apparent in his conduct that seemed to warrant a suspension. Before the release came out, however, Jeff Passan reported that it was “language”:

I can’t recall a player ever being suspended merely for “language” before. Guys drop F-bombs and say aggressive things to one another fairly often when tempers flare, but that’s not the stuff of suspensions. What has been the stuff of suspensions — two games, specifically — are homophobic slurs, with players such as Kevin Pillar and Matt Joyce, among others paying the price for saying such things. There has been no report at all, however, that Anderson said such a thing. And, if he did, why would he only get one game?

There’s gotta be more to this. A player getting one game just for cussing makes no sense. If we hear any more about it, we’ll certainly provide an update.

UPDATE: And here it is:

Again, specifics definitely matter, and I presume we’ll get them soon, but I strongly suspect that this is a case where Anderson, who is black, used a word that is historically acceptable when used by and among black people and always unacceptable when used by non-black people. If that is the case, MLB has thrown itself into the insanely controversial and likely indefensible position of presuming that it can and should police a black person’s use of that term. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I feel like I’m not.

UPDATE: Nope, I’m not.

Bold move, MLB. But not a wise one I don’t think.

And it goes without saying that you all had best mind yourself in the comments on this one.