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#pounditSaturday, January 22, 2022

Baseball

Braves took funny shot at Astros on Twitter

Dansby Swanson in his Braves uniform

The Atlanta Braves took six games to beat the Houston Astros in the World Series last fall. But they only needed one tweet to beat the Astros again on social media this week.

On Friday, the Braves took a hilarious shot at the Astros on Twitter. They responded to a tweet from Delta Airlines that read, “Name a city that changed your life.”

“Houston, Texas,” the Braves wrote in reply.

For reference, Atlanta won the clinching Game 6 of the 2021 World Series on the road in Houston. It was the Braves’ fourth World Series title in the 151-season history of their franchise and their first since 1995.

Atlanta already got in funny taunts at Houston’s expense during the World Series matchup. They could not resist getting one more in on Friday too.

Photo: Nov 2, 2021; Houston, TX, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (7) reacts after turning a double play against the Houston Astros during the fourth inning in game six of the 2021 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

David Ortiz calls out ‘a–hole’ writer over Hall of Fame snub

David Ortiz wearing shades

David Ortiz is currently the leading vote-getter for this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame class, but he has an issue with one particular writer who did not vote for him.

The retired Boston Red Sox great appeared Wednesday on WEEI’s “Merloni & Fauria.” During the interview, Ortiz was asked about Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe, who recently submitted his Hall of Fame ballot and left Ortiz off it. Shaughnessy voted for Jeff Kent and Jeff Kent alone, his second straight year of submitting a Kent-only ballot.

Ortiz, who is in his first year of eligibility, reacted to the snub.

“You know Dan Shaughnessy has been an a–hole to everybody, so what can I tell you?” said Ortiz, per CBS Sports Boston. “It’s not a surprise for me, it’s not a surprise for y’all. Now he didn’t vote for me, so what can I do? I mean, seriously, that’s not gonna stop anything. It’s just one guy that didn’t vote for you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“He’s got no damn power, bro,” Ortiz added about Shaughnessy. “You know that. He’s just got the power of the pen to write whatever he believe on. But everybody knows that he’s an a–hole. What else can you do?”

Shaughnessy’s peers definitely believe that Ortiz, a three-time World Series champion and one of the greatest sluggers of his generation, deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown. As of a recent tally, Ortiz was the leading vote-getter in the 2022 class. He had 83.9 percent of the vote through 168 known ballots, well above the 75 percent cutoff necessary to make the Hall of Fame.

Granted, Shaughnessy, who has covered the Red Sox for several decades, has history with Ortiz that may be at the heart of this beef. Several years ago, Shaughnessy drew Ortiz’s ire with comments about Ortiz’s alleged PED use.

Photo: Jul 11, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox former player David Ortiz is interviewed before the 2017 MLB All-Star Game at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Correa switches agents to Scott Boras

Scott Boras talks

Carlos Correa is making business moves even while MLB players are locked out.

Correa has changed his representation and hired Scott Boras to serve as his agent.

Correa was among the shortstops available in a stacked free agent class at his position. Corey Seager and Javy Baez already signed deals before the lockout, while Marcus Semien did as well (Semien can also play second base). Seager received a $325 million deal; Semien received $175 million; and Baez received $140 million.

Former GM Jim Bowden thinks that Correa may have come to the conclusion that he made the wrong decision when he didn’t sign before the lockout and that Boras may have provided him with better guidance.

Correa was previously represented by William Morris Endeavor, which is traditionally a talent agency. WME’s parent company, Endeavor, just purchased some minor league teams, which could be a conflict of interest with the MLB Players Association.

Correa batted .279 with 26 home runs and an .851 OPS last season. He has played for the Astros his entire career.

Photo: Mar 2, 2019; Clearwater, FL, USA; Bryce Harper agent Scott Boras speaks as they formally introduce right fielder Bryce Harper (3) as a Philadelphia Phillie at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ronald Acuña’s teenage brother signs with notable AL team

Ronald Acuna Jr

The Acuña family is now officially represented in both MLB leagues.

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported on Saturday that Bryan Acuña, the 16-year-old brother of Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuña, has signed with the Minnesota Twins. Saturday marked International Signing Day, the day that international free agents can officially sign with MLB teams.

Bryan, a shortstop ranked No. 39 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 International Prospects List, signed with Minnesota for $650,000, Sanchez adds.

Video also went viral Saturday of Bryan’s seemingly identical swing to that of his older brother Ronald. The two Acuñas are both right-handed hitters.

Minnesota is a solid landing spot for Bryan. While they only won 73 games last year, the Twins are just a little ways removed from a 101-win campaign in 2019 and could be gearing up for another playoff run by the time that Bryan is ready for the bigs.

The younger brother trend is quickly catching on in Major League Baseball. The Acuñas are just the latest pair of star siblings to make it to the league.

Photo: Sep 20, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) reacts against the San Francisco Giants in the third inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani shares his lofty goal heading into next season

Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani already won AL MVP honors in 2021 with arguably the most extraordinary individual season that baseball had seen in over a century. But he appears to be striving for something even bigger going into next season.

The Los Angeles Angels star was featured this week in a cover story for GQ. As part of the story, Ohtani shared the lofty goal that he has — helping to make baseball the most popular sport in the country.

“Baseball was born here,” said Ohtani. “I personally want baseball to be the most popular sport in the United States. So if I can contribute in any way to help that, I’m more than open to it. But if you look at the whole baseball population in the world, it’s a lot less than, like, soccer and basketball, because only select countries are really big on baseball. But in those countries where it’s huge, it’s unbelievably huge.”

Granted, baseball has a fairly long way to go to catch up to both basketball and especially football in America. In a 2018 Gallup poll of American adults, 37 percent of respondents chose American football as their favorite sport to watch. 11 percent picked basketball while baseball came in third with just 9 percent of the vote. Soccer was not too far behind baseball either, earning 7 percent of the vote.

In recent years, baseball has also been confronted with the issues of an aging fanbase, a perceived inability to market their top stars, and disillusionment with the leadership of commissioner Rob Manfred. The ongoing lockout, which is beginning to spark concern, is not helping matters either.

For Ohtani’s part though, he is the most exciting attraction that the sport of baseball has seen in a long time now. He hit 46 home runs and struck out 156 batters last year, giving him truly unparalleled unicorn status.

While restoring baseball to its past glory is far from a one-man job, Ohtani, who creates buzz every time he breathes, is as good of a candidate to begin the crusade as any.

H/T theScore

Photo: Aug 21, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani in the dugout against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Growing concern about how long MLB lockout may last

Rob Manfred

The first meeting between Major League Baseball and the players’ union in over a month did little to spark optimism that a deal could be reached anytime soon. In fact, the opposite seems to have happened.

MLB made its first post-lockout labor proposal on Thursday, but it was poorly received by the players, according to Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers of ESPN. Sources close to the negotiations suggested that the offer and the reception it got increased the likelihood that the start of spring training will have to be postponed.

MLB’s aim with its proposal was to start a discussion on key issues such as salary arbitration and the draft, but several topics of importance to the union were not part of the proposal. There is no word on when the union might offer a counterproposal, with some sources fearing it may not come until closer to the end of January. In that scenario, given the distance between the two sides, it would be very difficult for the two sides to reach a deal before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report.

A great deal of distance remains between the two sides on key economic issues, and a deal is not expected anytime soon even if regular negotiations begin.

The two sides had not talked in over a month before Thursday, apparently with the hope that waiting until January would provide leverage in talks. There isn’t really any indication that has happened at this point, and rapid progress may be needed to prevent the work stoppage from impacting the regular season.

Photo: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals outfielder has unexpected offseason elementary school job

Harrison Bader smiling

With MLB players in the midst of the offseason and locked out anyway, some are looking for things to do with their spare time. St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader is among them, but it’s fair to say his temporary job is a bit different than anyone else’s.

Bader filled in as a substitute physical education teacher at Meramec Elementary in Clayton, Mo. when school returned from winter break. With the regular P.E. teacher out sick, Missouri state senator Brian Williams helped hook the school up with Bader, who led class instead.

“We introduced him as a sub, or a guest teacher, and so they were all like wearing masks and he didn’t have a uniform. It was like, wait a second who is this? What’s going on?” Principal Patrick Fisher told Holden Kurwicki of KSDK.

Bader led the class through a game they created themselves, though he admitted he didn’t see a future for himself in teaching.

“Definitely not going to have a career change,” Bader said. “It was nice though to be in St. Louis and not have to worry about which righty throwing 100 was trying to take my lunch that day.”

The 27-year-old outfielder is coming off a season that saw him hit .267 with 16 home runs, and he took home a Gold Glove Award for his play in center field. No career change is necessary.

Bader has shown himself to be a confident guy in the past. Kudos to him for taking on the challenge.

Photo: Sep 24, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader (48) smiles after scoring against the Chicago Cubs during the fifth inning of game 2 of a doubleheader at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Orioles’ ballpark removing 1 big advantage for hitters

Brandon Hyde in his Orioles hat

The Baltimore Orioles had the worst ERA in baseball this past season at a grotesque 5.84. Next season though, they could benefit from a structural change being made to their home ballpark.

The Orioles revealed to the Baltimore Sun on Tuesday that they have begun construction to alter the left-field wall in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, their home stadium. The team will be raising the height of the wall from seven feet to 12 feet and moving the wall back by up to 30 feet.

The short wall had been a big advantage for hitters. The Sun notes that the 364-foot distance to the left-center wall was one of the league’s shortest. Oriole Park also had the single shortest left-center wall in all of baseball.

According to ESPN’s Park Factor statistics, Oriole Park was the seventh-friendliest ballpark for hitters in 2021. The new left-field dimensions will not change that entirely. But they could help tip the scales back towards pitchers (as well as cause slightly less havoc in the outfield over there).

Photo: Aug 5, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Brandon Hyde (18) stands on the field during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto’s phenom brother changes course, to sign with different NL team

Juan Soto in a Nats hat

Juan Soto’s younger brother is changing course and going with a more storybook landing spot.

Washington Nationals writer Byron Kerr reported on Monday that Elian Soto is close to signing a deal with the Nationals, joining his brother Juan.

The teenage Elian, who plays outfield and third base, recently went viral for his powerful lefty swing, just like his older brother. He was originally said to be planning on signing with a different National League team.

Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic reports that Elian would not officially be able to sign with the Nationals until Jan. 2023, pending a change to the MLB’s collective bargaining agreement.

That said, verbal agreements are common in international free agent situations such as this one.

There had been some uncertainty about the long-term future of the All-Star slugger Juan in Washington. But having his younger brother on the Nats just might change the equation a bit.

Photo: Jul 30, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Juan Soto (22) in the dugout before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Video: Mookie Betts bowls another perfect 300 game

Mookie Betts at Dodgers camp

Mookie Betts is in the middle of an MLB lockout, but that’s not stopping him from accomplishing impressive feats.

The Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder bowled yet another perfect game. Video showed him with a strike in every frame and needed one more for the 300. Yes, the guy known as “Marku” on the scoreboard picked up the final strike for the 300.

Betts has been an avid bowler since high school and even rolled in a professional league in 2015.

He probably made the right career choice given his MVP award and five All-Star Games, not to mention his $365 million contract.

As for his name being “Marku” on the scoreboard, Betts’ full name is Markus Lynn Betts. He goes by Mookie for short, or “Marku” when the scoreboard limits you to five characters.

Photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports