Rangers and Giants: Teams of Destiny

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In the past 72 hours I have been on a handful of radio shows, and each time the host has asked me if I agreed that the Rangers looked like a “team of destiny.”  Well, not all of them. Some of them have asked me if I agreed that the Giants looked like  a “team of destiny.” Some quick Googling reveals multiple articles and forums in which the media covering and the fans rooting for both teams are considering whether their guys truly are fated to win this thing. The only person I’ve seen dismiss the concept out of hand is Jeff Francoeur, and since he’s wrong about just about everything maybe there’s something to this.

As a guy who doesn’t believe in fate or destiny or any related form of magical thinking, these questions have flummoxed me. I mean, man, even if the invisible hand of fate was making all of this happen, you’d think it would find a more efficacious avatar than Juan Uribe through which to work. But like I said, I’m out of my depth here.

But a lot of people do believe in this kind of thing, bless their little hearts. They truly believe that their team is destined to win. Which is fairly nuts. I mean, even if you find a Yankees fan with the most stereotypical sense of entitlement imaginable, they never say that theirs is a team of destiny. They think the Yankees win because of fairly simply yet immutable laws of nature, perfectly observable by scientists. And they’re probably closer to being right than the team of destiny crowd. There’s probably a lesson in here too: it’s only fans of flawed underdogs who believe that their team is a Team of Destiny. I mean, something had to help them get past the Phillies and the Yankees of the world, right?

The saddest thing about this is that one of the teams is going to have to win, thus making half of the Destiny Crowd believe they were right.  Who knows what other silly beliefs such a turn of events will bolster? If the fates deigned that their baseball team worthy of a championship, maybe they will make Junior’s strep throat go away without antibiotics. Maybe they’ll make that work-from-home business pan out.  One of these teams winning is going to screw up the social order, dammit, I just know it.

And for the losers? For the people who believed in fate, yet had their hopes and dreams crushed by a World Series loss? A descent into nihilism. Which is way worse than even believing that your team is fated to win.  I mean, say what you like about the tenets of Divine Predestination,  Dude, but at least it’s an ethos.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.