Hi everybody! It's Gabe once again and boy oh boy, do we have a fun newsletter for you today.

Since (spoiler alert) a majority of this newsletter will focus on America's pastime -- that's baseball, for those who don't know -- I fell into one of my favorite cultural traps and started remembering one of my favorite "The Simpsons" episodes: "Homer at the Bat."

Obviously, the star cameos of Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Ozzie Smith and Darryl Strawberry are all great, but what sticks out to me is Terry Cashman doing a parody of his own song "Talkin' Baseball" as "Talkin' Softball." The song recaps the episode and all the wild stuff that happens, like Griffey getting addicted to Brain and Nerve Tonic and getting gigantism.

Now, I could go on and on about this episode, and "The Simpsons" in general. But do you want me to do that, or do you want to read about some dingers (and dunks)?

Let's get started

📰 What you need to know

1. Lakers vs. Warriors did not disappoint 🏀 

Before we get to the diamond, let's talk some hoops.

For the first time since the 2018 NBA Finals, LeBron James and Steph Curry were matched up against one another in a pseudo-postseason scenario when the Warriors took on the Lakers in the play-in tournament.

It lived up to the hype, as the Lakers squeaked by with a 103-100 win.

The Warriors came out strong and headed into the half with a 13-point lead, thanks to a Curry circus shot at the buzzer. But then the third quarter happened, and the Lakers defense forced a bunch of turnovers. It left the door open for them to come all the way back, which set the stage for some late-game drama:

  • With just over two minutes left in the game, James was fouled hard at the rim by Draymond Green. He stayed down and was clearly in pain from getting poked in the eye by Green
  • But James couldn't have been that hurt, because he then hit the game-winning 3-pointer with under a minute remaining
  • After the game, James said of the shot: "I was seeing three rims out there. So, I shot at the middle one."

LeBron finished with 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and Anthony Davis chipped in 25 points and 12 rebounds of his own.

As for the rest of the Western Conference postseason, the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs, 100-96. They'll take on Golden State for the right to hold the eighth seed in the West. The winner of that will take on the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Lakers have the Suns up next.

2. Death, taxes and no-hitters in 2021 ⚾ 


One of the worst things that can happen in the world of sports is when Yankees fans get another reason to celebrate. Well, such a thing happened last night as Corey Kluber threw a no-hitter against the Rangers in Texas.

It's the latest example of what's becoming a wild trend in baseball this season.

The no-no happened in a 2-0 victory against the Rangers, where the only thing separating it from a perfect game was a four-pitch walk to Charlie Culberson in the bottom of the third. It is the second no-hitter in as many days, with Spencer Turnbull doing it just one night prior against the Tigers.

Here are some other fun facts about Kluber's performance:

  • Kluber threw the first no-hitter by a Yankee since David Cone did it in 1999, ending what was the eighth longest drought in the majors
  • This is the 12th no-hitter in Yankees' history
  • It's the first time MLB has had back-to-back no-hitters since April 30 and May 1, 1969
  • The Rangers became the third team to be no-hit twice this season, an MLB record
  • This is the sixth no-hitter of the season. The modern-day record is seven, while the all-time record (dead ball era) is eight

Naturally, the Discourse Instigators who live for controversy online decided to bring up the question of whether no-hitters were losing their specialness. Personally, I think preventing an opposing team from recording a single hit in a game through nine innings is still cool and good, and hopefully enough people agree with me that such a discussion can die on the spot. 

3. Why the unwritten rule Tony La Russa loves is stupid ⚾


A pretty solid portion of my friend group are White Sox fans, so I vividly remember the day that their beloved ballclub hired the near-octogenarian, Tony La Russa. Though the conversation happened entirely through Twitter DMs, I could still hear the audible groaning of these Southside Supporters as their exciting squad of young talent were entering 2021 with the physical embodiment of "old school" as their manager.

I desperately wanted to laugh at the misfortune of my pals, but I just couldn't because I felt the exact same way as they did about this. One quick look at the standings, and you could be forgiven for thinking I was wrong in my beliefs. But then the whole incident with the Twins and Yermin Mercedes happened, and the flaws many predicted La Russa would have as a manager of this particular White Sox team came out in full force.

For a brief recap of that, you can reread Shanna's newsletter coverage of it here. For deeper analysis of why La Russa was wrong to handle this situation as he did, here's our baseball expert Matt Snyder:

  • Snyder: "I will never understand when we got to this place where a 3-0 count was somehow sacred. A hitter is supposed to let a pitcher throw a strike on 3-0 and then he's allowed to resume trying to get a hit on the next pitch, apparently. You'll hear something like 'he's just gonna get that pitch again on 3-1.' First off, anyone who says this hasn't been paying attention to 3-1 counts for about two decades. Secondly, even if a pitcher still grooved 3-1 fastballs routinely, why should you wait on that when you're already getting one on 3-0? See the ball, hit the ball, right? I guess it's 'see the ball, hit the ball, unless it's a 3-0 count' then.

    It's these kind of circular-logic discussions that make me embarrassed for our great sport. It's basically just noise."

You can point to the standings and game results all you want, but the fact of the matter is such accomplishments tend to feel a lot emptier when they're leading to public expressions of disgust from players, as Tim Anderson did so on Twitter.

4. Ohtani? Ohtani! ⚾


And now we move to the lighter side of the sport of baseball, where instead of an out-of-touch guy yelling at a cloud, we have a game-breaking phenom who is absolutely killing it for the Angels. Shohei Ohtani is living up to the fantastical expectations that were set for him when he first made his move over to the big leagues.

Not only is he proving to be a solid starting pitcher with a with a 2.10 ERA entering Wednesday (and is holding opponents to a .126 batting average) but he's also dominating in the batter's box with a league-leading 14 dingers and .632 slugging percentage.

At the current pace he's on, Ohtani is slated to hit 57 dingers by the season's end, which would put him alongside greats like Ken Griffey Jr. and Hack Wilson (it should come as a no surprise that a guy named "Hack" accomplished that feat in 1930.)

Ohtani has been so incredible that it has grabbed the attention of many elite athletes, includes ones from other sports:

  • JJ Watt: "It feels like a lot of people are talking about Shohei Ohtani but still nowhere near enough people are talking about Shohei Ohtani. What he's doing in baseball is insane"
  • CC Sabathia: "Best player I've ever seen"
  • Marcos Stroman: "Ohtani is a mythical legend in human form. What he's doing is beyond incredible. Everyone in the big leagues is in awe of his talent. After games, I be running to my phone to check and see what Ohtani did on the night!"

If for some reason, you don't buy the mythologizing that these guys are doing towards Ohtani, consider the fact that while I was writing this up last night, Ohtani pulled off another amazing highlight: bunting against the shift and beating the throw to first with speed you've likely never seen on a pitcher ever before

📝 Odds & Ends


📺 What to watch tonight


🏒 Islanders vs. Penguins, 7 p.m. | O/U 5 |  TV: NBCS

🏒 Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. | TOR -210 |  TV: CBC

🏀 Wizards vs. Pacers, 8 p.m. | WAS -150 | TV: TNT

Best thing I saw on the internet 🏅

Hey, guess what? We're back to baseball again! Here's an incredible managerial meltdown from Nationals' coach Davey Martinez, who got so mad during his tirade that he picked up first base and threw it.