Guess the naked baseball player from the cover of ESPN the Magazine

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ESPN the Magazine’s answer to the SI Swimsuit issue is its annual “Body Issue.”  Which is at least more honest than the Swimsuit Issue is in its intentions of giving you beef and/or cheesecake. I mean, it’s been a while since I read the Swimsuit Issue, but back in the day they had the prices of the swimsuits next to the pictures, as if anyone was reading it for the latest swimwear fashions.

Anyway, ESPN is also upfront about its desire to sell a bunch of magazines with this, so it makes multiple covers to appeal to multiple sport and/or softcore porn buying constituencies. There are covers with men, some with women, some with football players, some with basketball, etc.

The cropped pic I feature here is from the baseball player. Guess who it is.  When you give up, go here for the full monty, er, I mean the full picture and the answer.

Baseball comes back Friday, folks. Bear with us until then.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.