Weekend thoughts on the 2021 Astros

As the Astros are treading water in their AL West “race” against the Oakland A’s (they have been exactly 2-1/2 games ahead for the last eight games), it is time for another visit to Weekend Thoughts.

My, how the outfield situation has changed. Heading into the 2021 season, the Astros were looking at a very fluid situation in the outfield. Josh Reddick and George Springer were gone. Yordan Alvarez was coming off of knee surgery on both knees, so he could not be counted on to do anything but DH to start the season. The outfield was going to be Kyle Tucker (who looked good in a short 2020 season, but it was a short season) and Michael Brantley (who they tore from the clutches of the Toronto Blue Jays at the last minute in free agency) and Myles Straw (who had not shown he was even a 4th outfielder yet). The fourth outfielder ended up being Chas McCormick, who had not played at the major league level.

Straw struggled early, McCormick was not hitting for much average but was driving in runs at a high rate off the bench. Alvarez was given more left field assignments as the season went on. McCormick saw more playing time as Tucker and Brantley both missed time. Straw had a strong June and then was suddenly sent at the trade deadline to Cleveland in a trade for reliever Phil Maton and a low minor league catcher. They did this thinking that a combination of McCormick and prospect Jake Meyers, who had been tearing up AAA, would be better than Straw plus McCormick. So far, they are right.

It is a small sample, but Meyers in 36 ABs has as many home runs (3) with the Astros as Straw had in 524 ABs. But, Straw had all that speed, you say? Meyers actually has a faster high-end sprint speed than Straw. With consistent playing time after the trade, McCormick has been slashing a shiny .333 BA/ .379 OBP/ .845 OPS in August. When Kyle Tucker returns next week, the Astros will have gone from what looked liked 2-1/2 options to cover their outfield starting the season to a plethora of choices today. They will use Tucker, Brantley, McCormick, Meyers, Alvarez and even Aledmys Diaz in the outfield. It is a nice traffic jam to have.

Can we call them the Y Guys? Ok, Meyers – Y is in the middle of his last name, and Yordan and Yuli start their first names that way, but it was fun to see them all ripping home runs Friday night. Meyers tends to hit them high with lots of backspin to soar over the fence. Yordan rips them with tremendous ball speed off the bat – his home runs almost always clear with plenty to spare. Yuli’s home runs are violent rips – dipping down and slashing them somewhere into the Crawford Boxes or similar. The Astros hope to watch the two (y)ounger Y’s do this for a long time.

How weird is baseball? After making a bunch of no-name pitchers with Kansas City with ERA’s on the wrong side of 5.00 look like All Stars, the Astros face Yusei Kikuchi of the M’s, who started the game with a 3.82 ERA and rip him a new one. 2.2 innings later and a career-worst 7 runs allowed, Kikuchi is in the clubhouse, and the Astros missing offense is found.

Aces Wild. When talking about the Astros rotation ace, the only thing for certain is that Jake Odorizzi (5-6, 4.74 ERA) is not it. But the other four guys in the current rotation can put a claim out there as they are all statistically close. Zack Greinke (11-3, 3.43 ERA), Lance McCullers Jr. (10-4, 3.21 ERA), Luis Garcia (9-6, 3.39 ERA), and Framber Valdez (8-4, 3.16 ERA) are all excellent. Even Jose Urquidy (6-3, 3.38 ERA), before being MIA on the IL, could stake a claim to being their best starter. It is rare to see this many pitchers on staff so closely stacked statistically.

Must-See TV is expanded. With the emergence of Jake Meyers, the Astros Must See TV lineup is expanded. Yordan Alvarez’s every at bat is always worth checking out. Kyle Tucker, before going on the IL, was a run-producing highlight machine. Michael Brantley is leading the AL in hitting. Carlos Correa is heating up. Aledmys Diaz has been a revelation since returning from the IL. Yuli Gurriel had slumped after his IL stint, but it looks like he is heating up again. Chas McCormick, if he was headed to 500 ABs, would be headed towards 100 RBIs. And this does not include 2017 MVP and recently slumping Jose Altuve or 2019 MVP runner-up and recently rehabbing Alex Bregman.

Not flinching these days. The bullpen is not perfect, but there is less flinching on this observer’s part when Dusty Baker waves a reliever into the game. Will it be enough when the playoff pressure comes? Who knows, even the best bullpens wilt under those conditions.

What are you thinking about today?

78 comments on “Weekend thoughts on the 2021 Astros

  1. OK, I have been waiting to share my Saturday thoughts, and up rolls this post.
    * McCormick’s speed to 1B is incredible.
    * I don’t expect to see Diaz much in the outfield the rest of the season. I think they will take advantage of his bat to rest infielders and maybe at DH/PH against some lefties. Just sharing my opinion.
    * Staying under the luxury tax line in 2021, changes our picks resulting from QOs from the end of the fourth round to the end of the second round. Much higher picks and much higher slot money to work with in the draft. I just don’t see the downside of giving Verlander a QO. If he were to take it, which he probably won’t, the Astros have their ace back for a year with the resulting higher attendance. If he doesn’t take it, we get a pick.
    * I thought Gurriel’s two year deal would attract other Cuban players and it is working.
    * Bregman produced more offense last night than his entire previous rehab assignment.
    * LMJ was completely unhittable Friday until we got a big lead and then he coasted, which was fine with me because the relievers we used needed the work.
    With Stubbs hurt, I think we see catching duties split pretty evenly for the Astros, until he comes back to Sugarland.

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  2. This manager is unbelievable. He puts guys in strange positions..he sits Diaz because you know he might be “tired”. And by the way Correa is sitting tomorrow. Chas has a “sore hand”…with THIS manager I have my doubts.
    Good news…they are going to reinstate Bregman Monday….BUT don’t forget Diaz has been LITERALLY awesome, that guy who is hitting everything! Odorizzi is pitching pretty good so far but man his pitch count is 51 so far in the 3rd!

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    • It would appear you are correct. However, with Dusty, Maldonado might also be in the mix. Seriously, going forward, I am comfortable with Brantley, Meyers, Tucker and ChasMc being the four. If Dusty continues as manager, they can play in 75% of the games and take off about 40 games each year. Once or twice a week.

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      • Also we do have Jose Siri at Sugar Land. He is still batting over .300 but has made 5 errors playing in the OF. Marty Costes is also there batting over .300 for the year between Skeeters and Hooks. But Siri covers a lot more ground and has stolen 22 bases.

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    • For me, De Goti and Kessinger are the best fielding infielders in AA and AAA. But neither have hit well this year. Pedro Leon is at least a year away, again in my opinion, as an infielder with 7 errors in limited action. I just don’t see an immediate replacement for Correa next year. Of course Aledmys was the starting SS for St Louis and Toronto before being Utility in Houston.

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  3. Some minor league Astros notes:
    * Catcher Cesar Salazar has played 20 games for Corpus Christi since his promotion from Asheville. In those 20 games he has 3 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs and 15 RBIs, a stolen base and is sporting a .963 OPS. He started the year in extended spring training before being assigned to Asheville about the same time Quintana was traded away from CC and Korey Lee was moved up to CC.
    * Jacob Wilson was drafted in 2012 and has almost 3,000 minor league ABs. You can imagine how wonderful yesterday’s game must have been for him.
    * If Correa leaves, Jeremy Pena will get a look at SS also, next spring. Pena has to be added to the roster this fall or will be lost in Rule 5.
    * So many times in the past, Taylor Jones has looked lost at the plate for the Astros. Then, yesterday, he looked like he owned the game of baseball. He made that throw look effortless. Maldonado’a eyes must have been amazed to see that ball come in head-high over Seager.

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  4. I’m with Becky…….Dusty’s lineups are hard to understand.
    After that throw to home yesterday you’d think Jones would be back in left field.

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  5. Yordan is in LF, Brantley is in RF, Meyers is in CF and Jones is the DH. Diaz is at 3B and Gurriel is at 1B. McCormick still is hurt when he swings. Dusty is going with the best lineup he has, with all the hot bats in there.

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  6. Well I tried to post a list of thoughts earlier today that is somewhere in the etherworld- but one of the points was to emphasize how Yordan was such a Must See Tv able to launch at anytime as he showed in the 2nd

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  7. Here is what I tried to post before the game….
    Even more weekend thoughts:
    – I’m always thankful for our loyal commenters like Old Pro, AC45, GoStros and others who bring us updates for the minors. My spare time is spent trying to squeeze a post out of the major league club every few days, so your time is appreciated
    – Taylor Jones has been hitting better since he came back at the beginning of August. He’s hitting .333 with a 1.056 OPS. Even without last night’s breakout he was hitting a solid .280 BA/ .789 OPS in August. What he hasn’t done and needs to do … is walk. No walks in August and only 4 on the season. In the interviews, he seems like such a likeable nice young man. Always good to see.
    – Brantley, Meyers and Alvarez in the OF today – Meyers better have his quick shoes on. Only “regular” out is Chas as I guess he is resting his hand and Taylor Jones is DH.
    – Urquidy heads to Sugar Land….
    – Piling on the Must See TV line – Yordan can hit one out any time. He is so on right now. He can hit it out to all fields almost effortlessly. Gotta watch.
    – Jose Altuve looks like he’s getting his eye back. And as fast as Meyers or McCormick are – it was pretty amazing to watch Altuve legging out the triple. Man those wheels were churning
    – Jacob Wilson only has a couple hits so far, but he had put good wood on the ball a number of times in other games before his triple yesterday.
    – The Astros have 10 triples on the season in 123 games, but 4 of those rarities in the last 2 games

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      • Thanks GS – the readers/commenters here bring a lot to the table and I do appreciate it. Now bring a bunch of your friends and corporate sponsors and I will be even happier…..

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    • Oddly, this one did not annoy me all that much. Once we gave them 2 late with our most reliable arms, I figured we had a pretty good chance of losing. Even with the bases loaded and nobody out, I was not shocked we didn’t finish the job. Apathy slipping back in?

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      • Well, Sandy was right – we put Yordan in left instead of Jones and so when we subbed for Yordan in the field it removed our hottest bat.
        But we really lost this earlier when we kept failing with guys in scoring position. Gave us no breathing room and the best relievers can’t always be perfect

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  8. You have the bases loaded, nobody out, the winning run on third and up strolls the guy who says that 6 yrs/$150 million is not even in his ballpark.
    Then he shows everyone what they would get for 6/150.
    What a bitter pill this one is to swallow!

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    • You are right except for the strike three call was at least 3 inches inside. What PO’d me more than that was Correa just walked away and said nothing. Maybe if somebody would get into the umps face and give them what for maybe a little fire might be generated. Instead we go back to the dugout and pout. No fire at all from the manager either. I really think this all speaks volumes about this team. Just my opinion.

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  9. That pitch was more than a ball width inside and the ump was over that side of the plate and I would get mad if it wasn’t for the fact that so many of our players failed today.

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  10. Those are all good points. 1) If Carlos hits a soft grounder almost anywhere in fair territory, the run should score. 2) Terrible call and Dusty needs to go out there and give the ump his Howard Beale speech. 3) Yes, we had lots of other chances. Here’s what Carlos had to say about it:

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    • Yeah great point – our bench was so thin we were having McCullers pinch run. He walked away because a guy who makes that brutal a strike call might throw you out for raising an eyebrow.

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  11. We can post this until the cows come home, but Dusty continues to confuse with his lineups. He did not know the game would go into extra innings, but had he put Taylor Jones in left, and had Yordan DH, he would need not use McCormick (sore hand), and then Castro, and finally emptying his bench by moving Diaz to left and bringing in Watson. I think pinch running McCullers needed to be made but he could have brought in Castro for McCullers. But as they say, you can’t step into the same stream twice.

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  12. Sugar Land update. Remember Nick Tropeano. He is now 30 and started for OK City last night. Bregman got a double. C J Hinojosa still is batting around .300 but made his 16th error of the season. Brett Conine gave up 8 runs (5
    Earned) but lasted only into the 3rd.

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  13. What was wasted was a great outing by Framber. The usually reliable Graveman and Pressley both give up a run and then Stanek comes in a attributes to the loss. We get 12 hits three walks and can only muster 3 runs. Pretty pathetic. This team just befuddles me. Twenty seven runs in the two previous games and only 3 here. I even heard some boo birds yesterday.

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  14. Oh Crikey! The Downton Abbey high-waisters are back, throwing another pitcher with a 5+ ERA into the fray against our Astros. All we have to counter with is some old codger named Greinke – a deposed Royal himself, at that. If the last series we had with these guys is any indication, the blue-bloods have us right where they want us! Advantage: Powder Blue crest.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. After a game like yesterday, I try to look to the future and the minor leagues. Some thoughts:
    * Shay Whitcomb has hit for power at two levels in his first full year of pro baseball. He has terrific speed and has played 3 different infield positions. But that body has the ability to add 1B to the mix. He strikes out too much, but has a chance to improve that at the next two levels. It will be interesting to see his work by spring of 2023.
    * Forrest Whitley has been a huge disappointment, but he is still an Astros prospect and all the dookie he has carried could melt away if he becomes a good pitcher for us. I’m not giving up on him. He ain’t no spring chicken, but he ain’t an old rooster either.
    * Yainer Diaz got promoted to High A ball and in three games has 3 home runs, 1 in each game.
    * Waiting to see Meyers turn on a pitch and crush it to left field. Still think he and McCormick show signs of being able to improve a lot at the plate.
    * Hunter Brown is 5.5 years younger than the players he is facing in AAA. I see him possibly being a factor for the Astros soon. His 23rd birthday is this coming week. Fifth round pick from Wayne State.
    Does the extended AAA schedule give Jeremy Pena a chance to show some stuff in Sugarland in September? Their last game is Sept 30th.

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    • Forrest Whitley – age 23; our 1st round pick in the 2016 draft, he has had a number of injuries, resulting from forearm strains, oblique tweaks, shoulder issues, and a right UCL sprain. He is presently on the 60 Day IL recovering from TJ.

      He has not faced regular-season competition in the minors since 2019. His minor league numbers up to that point were not encouraging:

      57 Games;
      197 IP;
      9 wins vs. 15 losses;
      ERA 4.71;
      WHIP 1.35;
      BAA .232;
      BB/9 4.34;
      K/9 13.20.

      The last number [13.20 K’s per 9 innings pitched] is probably the only reason he is still ‘a prospect’. It is good enough, however, to give the young man every chance. The ball is in your court, Forrest.

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    • -I like Whitcomb long term myself, OP. While the K-rate can be fixed, ya just can’t teach raw power.
      -Shame we haven’t heard much from Dauri Lorenzo this year, but Chritian Gonzales is starting to pour it on, after tearing up Fayettville. Several of the recent draft guys have been impressive. Probably SP, Chayce McDermott heads that list.
      -You mentioned Pena and while we’d like to get more updates on him and Whitley, Kent Emanuel sure hasn’t been shy about videoing his workouts. He looks to be ahead of schedule. After Martes just bombed out, Emanuel would be a welcome surprise late next year.
      -Whitley retains his prospect status (now #6 on MLB) mainly because of his elite arsenal. Interestingly, on the injured arms front, I thought for sure Tyler Ivey was out for the season, but by some sort of miracle, he is trying to make another comeback this season — not that I think it will happen — he says he feels great.
      -Instead, I’m very excited Josh James is progressing. I still cannot fathom why the Astros put Bryan Abreu back in AAA, but he too is pitching very well!
      -So, the debate rages on what to do with Diaz when Bregman comes back? My opinion is that since he’s a slow starter, Bregman should be the back-up for awhile, or at least figure out how to get Aledmys in 4 games a week. Even if Diaz were the current better player, Astros similar to the Reddick vs Tucker debate, they will play the player they’re paying the most. Dusty would have his hands tied even if he agreed with me. Bregman is still not out of my doghouse for being putrid in ’20 ALCS, plus showing up this Spring out of shape. Watching him run these days, nobody can convince me he’s 100%.
      -Also, what to do with Odorizzi when Urquidy returns? Seems to me there are a few starters who run into trouble at 80+ pitches and the 5th inning. Maybe they will try to have Javier, Abreu and Odorizzi be more of the Bridge Starter variety? A bunch of healthy longmen at playoffs is surely the goal.
      -Isn’t it crazy that MLB added one extra to the 25-man, and yet teams across the league are still depleted with injury? Having Lance McCullers PH, then pinch run typifies it. Correa said he didn’t argue that horrendous strike-3 call because there was nobody to play SS if he got ejected.

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  16. Hmm?! Remember years ago I made some allegations that Angels were partly responsible for Skaggs death? I had surmised this because I heard his wife say it blindsided her, and she sounded extremely credible. Look what’s happened in the meantime, Angels had Calloway get into legal trouble for harrassing 5 women, plus Brian harkins fired for supplying the league with stick ’em, including Cole & Verlander while they were Astros.

    Well, check this out!

    Breaking: Fentanyl that Killed Tyler Skaggs Delivered to Angel Stadium on Day He Died, Gov’t Claims. Are Angels Responsible for Pitcher’s Death?
    The feds allege ex-angel employee Eric Kay was running a drug operation within the Angels organization & using Tyler Skaggs as a middleman. Kay allegedly distributed opioids to at least six Angels players, acc’d to court docs. -Amy Dash CBS Sports Radio

    Skaggs family sued the Angels in July of this year, where I’d heard they hired Rusty Hardin a few years ago. Why was there a delay?!

    Didn’t the Arlington police group that investigated this initially have the same findings? Funny how these things get stifled for so long. I recall thinking that Crane would be a fool to hire Brad Ausmus after this happened on his watch.

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    • I read about the Eric Kay accusations, I think in SI. Rusty Harden is staying busy. If the feds criminal case is solid, the Skaggs family will get a big settlement from the club at some point.

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      • You’re probably right. I still haven’t read the entire thread from Amy Dash on twitter, but it looked like more was being reported than I’d previously seen too.

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  17. Went back and re-watched the Sugar Land game from yesterday. Bregman looked more comfortable at the plate than his earlier rehab. But he is running (perhaps on orders) at about 3/4 speed. The term “gingerly” comes to mind.

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  18. It’s pretty clear to most everyone here that Captain Carlos is not my captain. My captain does not amble into second base standing up in a feeble attempt to tag up against a guy in center that has a habit of outfield assists. If you don’t want to get your pants dirty, stay at first. Lackadaisical at best, but also dumb and arrogant and indifferent. That mentality is why we are losing games to crappy teams right now.

    I know, I know Carlos has already put up a 5.5 WAR on the season. But our club is 73 and 52 overall, and 69 and 46 when Carlos plays. Not much difference.

    When we lose, Carlos plays a real role, hitting .217 with a .277 OBP, a .343 slugging and a .620 OPS. A .620 OPS. He’s sure not carrying this club.

    The guy that wants 300 million has contributed to my apathy issue as much as anyone. He might be in the field most days, but he’s still mailing it in when he’s not in the mood to play ball.

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    • Well a few things here daveB. If we are 73-52 overall and 69-46 when Carlos is playing – that means we are 4-6 when he isn’t, which is not good news. The other thing I will say is that I have thought that Carlos has really been hustling – going first to home on doubles, taking extra bases, running hard to first base, etc.

      That said – this was a really brain dead play on his part. Like Bags said in the booth – it was right in front of him – he literally could see the ball coming right at him from the outfield – how could make such a stupid move?

      I’m willing to give anyone a mulligan – but this better not be a new Carlos.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dan, we never needed to give guys like Biggio, Bergman or Bagwell a mulligan. A mental error is one thing. You should never get thrown out in that situation, but the real sin was a lack of effort. He was safe had he hustled in and gotten down. Correa is supposedly a leader. The premise of my remarks remain that that kind of leadership helps explain the erratic under performance of our club.

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      • I know but…..
        – Carlos Correa in 63 post season games has 17 HRs/50 RBIs and slashing .270 BA/ .338 OBP/ .869 OPS
        – Craig Biggio in 40 post season games had 2 HR/ 11 RBIs and slashed .234/.295/ .618
        – Jeff Bagwell in 33 post season games had 2 HR/13 RBIS and slashed .226/.364/.668

        I’m sorry, but I can give the guy a mulligan

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  19. In looking at the standings this AM, if we do not win the division, then we may not even make the playoffs. The Yankees are red hot having won 10 in a row. Boston is in the lead with Oakland 1 game out, Seattle 3, and Toronto 4.5 back. With the exception of the A’s all are playing better baseball than us so there you have it.
    Does anybody have an answer for the funk we’re in. It just appears that there is no fire at all in this team. Starting pitching has been good as of lately and the bull pen except for a couple of hiccups has been better. Timely hitting has been almost non existent. I’m just not sure these guys want to win. They don’t act like it. No matter what happens this year they better do some house cleaning and get some guys ready to play everyday. That could also be an issue and get us a fiery manager to lead them.

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    • This team needs to go on a long, sustained tear – and they need to do it soon. They seem to have no more game plan/strategy than they do fire. The Royals are having a ball besting -no humiliating – them in every phase of the game. If the Royals can befuddle us like this game after game, in whatever stadium we play, and whoever is pitching on either side, I hate to think what the Rangers -who have only one reason to play the rest of the season – will do.

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    • Hey is my answer. I enjoy watching the minors because they are “trying to make it.” As opposed to MLB where the millionaires “have it made.” And don’t forget, a little later in the game, a Royal pulled the “I don’t need to slide” play.

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  20. Enough. Change all offensive signs every inning – if not every batter. Have the catcher and a dugout ‘decoy’ deliberately mislead the opponent in a different way on every pitch. Adjust the shifts between pitches – or at least pretend to to shake up the batter [like defenses shift around in football to confuse the offensive line about blocking assignments]. Stop giving games away to inferior teams because you are so predictable.

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  21. AT SOME POINT YOU HAVE TO *W I N*….instead of waiting for Oakland to LOSE😠!! They play the” arlington little league “this weekend and those guys gave Boston a run for it last week! WIN GAMES and then we’ll talk playoffs

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  22. I noticed that when they gave the umpire the bottle of water, his hand was trembling. So it makes good sense to take the umpire out. You don’t see that very often unless it is a foul ball that hurts him.

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