The Dodgers Must Fire Dave Roberts

Call this emotional. Call it recency bias. Call it whatever you want. Just don’t call it wrong.

Dave Roberts has been the Dodgers’ manager since 2016. Since then, they have won one World Series – the Covid-shortened 2020 season. This in spite of the fact that the team has wielded a star-studded roster with one of the game’s largest payrolls since then.

Sure, one championship is one more than most other teams have in that time frame. But considering the resources the team has, and how it has spent them over the years to make sure the team is competitive, just one title seems far short of what would be expected.

One could argue, it’s not all his fault. To a degree, they could support it. Sure, he hasn’t any idea how to manage a pitching staff, but he isn’t the one that assembled a roster that required the likes of Billy McKinney and the corpse of Albert Pujols getting key at bats. But at the end of the day, despite imperfections dotting the roster, it comes down to this. Did you win the whole thing? If not, well, why not?

Roberts isn’t without his redeeming qualities. He’s a nice fella. Keeps the clubhouse loose. Makes sure guys get enough playing time to stay involved. Faces the media.

But wow. A blind rhinoceros could handle a pitching staff, and especially a bullpen, better.

Over the 162 game slog of the regular season, his ineptness is generally obscured by a combination of indifference and success in spite of it. After all, about 100 of those games are coming against teams more interested in losing than they are in winning. If you make an absurd bullpen call against the Oakland A’s, it’s unlikely to cost you.

That luxury, however, doesn’t exist in the playoffs. There are no Oakland A’s, Colorado Rockies, et al in the postseason. Decisions matter. And while you can accuse me of cherry picking, the list is too long for that argument to hold water. Whether it’s leaving Kershaw in to die against the Astros when it was clear as day they knew what was coming; or going to Kershaw against the Nationals out of the bullpen, instead of Kenta Maeda who’d been dominant out of it, or Adam Kolarek who was acquired specifically to face hitters like Juan Soto; or leaving Joe Kelly in for a second inning when his ERA after one inning was somewhat close to a billion; or whether it was pulling a cruising and dominant Rich Hill against the Red Sox; or keeping a clearly injured Blake Treinen on the roster over battle-tested veteran Craig Kimbrel, who wasn’t nearly as bad during the season as Dodger fan casuals will have you believe, against the Padres. If there’s a big pitching decision to be made, he’s going to blow it. Every time.

But what about 2020, you say? If you need a reminder, this is the postseason where Julio Urias was utterly unhittable, and closed out the championship in style. Now, I have no firsthand knowledge of this, but I would bet my bottom dollar that there was a conversation had between Roberts and the front office that went something like this.

FO: Any big spot, you’re going to Julio

DR: But…

FO: No buts. You’re doing it.

DR: But Kenley… Kershaw can pitch in relief!!!!

FO: It’s Julio, or you’re fired.

So I digress, there is no need to belabor this point. But tonight, it came to a head.

No, it isn’t his fault that the front office has assembled a bullpen consisting of guys like Shelby Miller and Phil Bickford, while cycling through guys like Andre Jackson, Jake Reed, Dylan Covey, Zack Burdi, and Tayler Scott. It’s not his fault that instead of World Series hero Dylan Floro, they have Alex Vesia, who was so bad he was demoted to the minors a few weeks ago. It’s not his fault that Andrew Friedman got crunk as fuck one night and decided to make Noah Syndergaard an offer resembling one given to a pitcher who could get outs at the big league level. None of that is his fault.

What is his fault is not making the most of the resources he does have – primarily reclamation project turned top three reliever in baseball, Evan Phillips. Sure, there’s arguments to be made that your best reliever needs to be used to get the opposition’s toughest part of their lineup out. I get it. But in the playoffs last season, Phillips was used as early as the fifth inning. Good thing the opposition’s best hitters never come up again after the fifth inning, right?

Time and time again, he’s gone to Phillips way too early and left the likes of Brusdar Graterol to invariably fail in big situations.

Tonight it was the 8th inning, and it wasn’t even the Reds’ best hitters. Fortunately, he’d already used the calamitous Graterol earlier in the game, but going to Phillips in the 8th left Caleb Ferguson, who has struggled badly with his command, for the 9th. Even that is forgiveable, if he’d realized after the second of Ferguson’s four consecutive walk/HBPs, that he needed to make a change. Nope. About 15 pitches too late, he finally went to Shelby Miller, probably the third best option he had remaining at the time which is infuriating on its own level, to predictably give up the game-winning hit.

Back to the slog of the regular season. In years past, this gets papered over. It’s one game, and yes, Roberts is so bad at his job that he makes people yearn for the days of Don Mattingly, but this isn’t the same Dodger team as in recent years. Stars have departed, replaced by rookies who are going through their understandable ups and downs. This isn’t a team that is going to win 100+ games. This is a team that is, perhaps luckily, 9 games over .500 after 61 games. Not awful, perhaps even decent, but gone are the days of running away with the NL West. This team is nowhere near guaranteed to make the postseason, so these winnable games that are pissed away on an otherwise innocuous night in Ohio are going to matter.

Despite the tone of this article, I’m not even mad. I saw it coming as early as the 6th inning. I’m just realistic. I’m ok with this team being probably 25 games worse this season than last season, if it means making a run at Ohtani next offseason. But the trade off is, you have to win the games you have in the bag.

And the truth is, if you have a blithering idiot as your manager, it’s just not going to happen. For all of Roberts’ likability as a person, he’s an all-time bad manager. It’s time for the Dodgers to decide if they’re serious about winning, or if one title is enough for the next 20 plus years.


Best MLB Debuts: May 2023

Some big names made their MLB debuts with 2022 MLB draft pick Ben Joyce joining the Los Angeles Angels bullpen, along with Sam Bachman. Meanwhile up the freeway Bobby Miller earned a win in his Los Angeles Dodgers debut and currently has a 2-0 record with a 1.64 ERA, but that is not good enough for the best debut or the best month. Even further up the California freeway system, Patrick Bailey is hitting over .300 with a couple home runs and a dozen RBI, but he didn’t have the best debut month for the San Francisco Giants in May. For both the pitcher and batter, the player with the best debut was also the player with the best first month. 

Best Hitting Debut & Month:

Casey Schmitt, 3B, San Francisco Giants – Schmitt went 2-4 with a solo home run in his debut, making him the only player to homer in his debut this month. He has gone on to hit another home run, is hitting .325, driven in 16 and crossed the plate a dozen times. Schmitt has been arguably the best player on the Giants over the past month. 

Best Pitching Debut & Month:

Bryce Miller, RHP, Seattle Mariners – Miler didn’t get the win on his debut, but he went six innings while allowing just a single run with two hits. He wound up striking out 31 batters in his 36 innings on the month, with an ERA of an even 3.00 and a 3-2 record.

2023 F1 Monaco Grand Prix Preview

Arguably the most iconic track in all of racing, the Monaco Grand Prix takes center stage again this weekend. A year ago the race began behind a safety car on the formation lap before being red flagged due to the pouring rain. Haas has both their cars out of the race by lap 27, with Mick Schumacher’s crash bringing out another red flag.

The story of the day was pole sitter Charles Leclerc pitting well after Sergio Perez and being double stacked with his teammate Carlos Sainz, losing far too much time and falling all the way off the podium. Perez took home the win with Sainz in second and Max Verstappen in third.

This weekend there is a chance of rain all weekend but, after having last weekend’s race in Imola called off due to the immense rain and flooding in the region, it does appear to be a relatively dry weekend. Currently it appears the chance of rain during qualification and race day sitting right around 20%. If there is rain, Pirelli will get the chance to debut their new intermediate and wet tires that don’t require tire warmers.

Ultimately, I anticipate some mild weather coming into play in the strategy of the day which, based on recent seasons, doesn’t bode well for Ferrari despite the fact they may have the best car for the circuit. I anticipate this being the first non-Red Bull win of the season, with Fernando Alonso my pick to end his win drought given how quick the Aston Martin is in the corners and the fact the track will limit the Red Bull DRS impact. That doesn’t mean Red Bull won’t see the podium, as I expect the Perez to have another excellent showing on a street circuit and finish second. Leclerc is my pick to round out the podium and give him his first podium in his hometown.

Other stories to watch will be how Mercedes does this weekend, as they are expected to debut a number of upgrades in Monaco despite it being a track that is easy to clip a wall. With many other teams holding off on their upgrades another week, this may be Mercedes making a desperate swing to regain traction as a top three team, but I am not optimistic.

A driver I think is a lock to finish in the points despite not being one of the top teams is Valtreri Bottas, as I expect him to actually finish in the top eight on Sunday.

We will also see the return of F2 and F3 giving us a full weekend of racing to take in as Monaco becomes the first European race of the season.

Pride Night: Dodgers Bungle it Shamefully

How do you screw up Pride Night? How, with billions of dollars at your disposal and thousands of people on your payroll do you screw up any night, for that matter? But especially this one. Pride Night is important.

For as long as there have been sports, the LGBT+ community has been excluded. Shunned. Ridiculed. Especially in baseball. To date, there has never been an openly gay active MLB player. Some came out after retirement, notably Glenn Burke. But how many people do you think gave up on their baseball dream at a young age because they knew they’d be an outcast due to their sexuality? Could we have had more Mike Trouts? Ken Griffey Jrs.? Dwight Goodens? We’ll never know, but odds are the sport and its fans have likely missed out on generational superstars due to institutional homophobia.

If that is ever going to change, the sport and its teams need to execute events like Pride Night correctly. Unequivocal inclusion is the message, and anything short of spotless execution is going to dilute it.

Here’s a summary of how it went down.

The Dodgers announce their Pride Night and the participating organizations. So far so good? This is where it all started going to shit. One of the organizations invited by the Dodgers was the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a charitable organization of men who dress in drag as nuns. Nobody will dispute the group’s good works, but the problem is, they openly mock Catholics. They claim not to, but they sell dildos in the shape of Jesus on the cross on their website. Read that sentence again.

This is problematic because a large part of the Dodgers fanbase is Latino, their primary religious affiliation, Catholicism. As you can imagine, there was some blowback. The Dodgers were caught off guard, not because Catholics took offense but because nobody had bothered to do any background research on any of the invited organizations. Also getting in on the blowback were people like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, an anthropomorphized pile of excrement if there ever was one.

Then the Dodgers compounded their error by… capitulating to the blowback. They uninvited the Sisters and whoa boy. If the ballclub thought the blowback to inviting the Sisters was bad, they had no idea what they were in for. Prominent California democrats condemned the team for giving in to right wing pressure. Other invited LGBT+ organizations withdrew from the event. Social media went crazy.

And if you don’t think Social media matters, well, why do you think every big league team in every big league sport has an active Twitter account. And wow, did the Twitter warriors go nuts on the Dodgers. Now, it’s true that probably 95% of the people most outraged didn’t actually care one bit what happened. They’re not really “allies.” They have likely never donated a penny to an LGBTQ+ cause, or stood up for an LGBTQ+ person being bullied. They lack the ability to care about anything other than how many likes and retweets they get, how much clout they can acquire, how much attention they can manufacture for themselves. They lack the intellectual capacity to process nuance. They’re honestly good for little. But what they can do is amplify a message. And did they ever amplify it.

Fast forward to Monday, May 22nd, the Dodgers once again flip flopped and reinvited the Sisters to Pride Night, reigniting the slobbering, flop sweating rage of the right wing bigotry machine. And probably, and less vocally, a whole lot of Catholics.

This is where the nuance comes in, and the aforementioned useless clout addicts of the Twitterverse. Not a lot of people outside of the Catholic faith are going to have a ton of sympathy for Catholics. The church has a long history of sexual scandal, pedophelia, homophobia and very public opposition to marriage equality. So when an organization engages in anti-catholic behavior, the sentiment is generally, “so what, fuck ’em.” Well, isn’t that inclusion for you.

Again, more nuance. While all of the warts on the Catholic church on that front were earned, the tides have indeed shifted. President Joe Biden is a lifelong devout Catholic, and the most pro-trans president in history. And while there remains a long way to go with the Vatican, Pope Francis has taken a publicly conciliatory tone toward homosexuality. So I maintain, you are either for inclusion and equality for all, or you’re either a piece of shit or a brainless twit who derives self worth only from online engagement.

Here is how it should have gone down.

  • All organizations invited should have been thoroughly vetted.
  • Once they fucked that up, they should have stuck to their guns, and released a public statement along the lines of this. “It has come to our attention that there are some concerns regarding of Pride Night’s organizations sentiment toward Catholics. While we don’t condone actions that denigrate anyone’s faith, we continue to believe in the importance of what the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do for the LGBTQ+ community and look forward to their participation in this important event.”
  • Then, when people critized that, they could have followed up with a statement that says, “We continue to hear concerns. While we don’t disregard any of them, the Dodgers remain committed to making baseball and Dodger Stadium a safe and welcome place for all. We believe all people should be treated equally, and if you are not of that same mind, then you are welcome not to attend Pride Night.”
  • But they didn’t.

    All it would have taken is for one low level intern to do some basic research and say, “Hey Boss? They sell Jesus on the cross dildos. Is that…problematic?”

    Hopefully other organizations learn from the Dodgers’ failure.

    Book Review: Power Players by Chris Cillizza

    You read that correctly, we at The Stain now do book reviews. The only caveat is that they have to be about sports in some way shape or form.

    So let’s get into it. Power Players examines how sports and politics have intertwined when it comes to the American Presidency. Chris Cillizza is a political commentator, probably best known for his time at CNN. His penchant for pissing people on both sides of the political aisle off, and leaning into his boldest and most absurdist political takes with full committment should make this book, at the very least, interesting.

    A couple of things gave me pause before I started reading. First, most books come rife with testimonials prominently available, either on the cover or first pages. The cover testimonial, “… a fun read for politicos and sports fans alike,” comes from none other than Cillizza’s former CNN colleague, Jake Tapper. Look, if you have to rely on a former work buddy for your cover kudos, is that really a good sign? And was calling the book “a fun read” really the best you could solicit? It sounds a lot like something you might say about the shower while you were leaving a hotel review on Yelp. “Yeah, it got me clean enough but the water never quite got as hot as I wanted, and shower head made this strange high-pitched whirring noise on the massage setting. But the water pressure was good!”

    Second, there has been no shortage of books authored by those in the journalistic world in the wake of the Trump presidency. Not that I can blame anyone for chasing a buck, but if that’s your primary motivation in the endeavor, how much effort is really going into it? In fact, Cillizza himself sort of notes this exact thing in the Jimmy Carter chapter, saying, “Nowadays, of course, it’s a rite of passage. Leave the White House, srite a dishy book about its inner workings – with you as the hero – and then cash in.” In fairness, he’s talking about aides in that reference but it certainly applies to journalists as well.

    But anyway, all that stuff would just be judging the book by something other than its contents.

    Let’s start with the criticisms.

    From the get go, Power Players reads a little bit like a text book. For something that is supposed to be a fun read, there are somewhat substantial stretches where you feel like you might have to do a homework assignment once you’re done with the chapter. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and if you’re the type to prioritize getting educated rather than entertained, it might even be a selling point for you. I, on the other hand, had hoped for a little more of the fun I was promised by Jake Tapper.

    Additionally, Cillizza makes the somewhat understandable choice to go chronologically with his profiled presidents, starting with Eisenhower and ending with Biden. However, while sticking to that timeline, Cillizza jumps around quite a bit with tidbits and “fun facts” about other presidents outside of the one he’s talking about in a particular chapter. It seems unnecessary, seeing as there’s an upcoming chapter about the other dude, and takes away from the book’s flow.

    The choice to start with Eisenhower was also a strange one to me. Didn’t sports exist before 1953? I mean, Eisenhower was a war hero and viewed universally in a positive light, so it makes sense on that level. And while I’m not sure anyone really cares about the tiddlywinks exploits of Millard Fillmore, surely there was a president of some consequence before Dwight that played… I don’t know, anything? Lacrosse is reported to be the oldest sport in America, having been played since the 1600s according to Wikipedia. Are you telling me that no president between 1776 and 1953 was a fan?

    Finally, and this ties in to how few presidents ultimately were featured in this book, but due to the paucity of material, in order to fill a chapter, Cillizza tends to go on too long with certain stories. There’s only so hard that you need to drive the point of home that Eisenhower was mad about golf. Or that Jimmy Carter allegedly insisted on approving use of the White House tennis court himself, and how that shaped public perception of him. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of plenty of opportunities for anecdote that left me wanting. Gerald Ford was a remarkable athlete with a storied history of achievement. Surely there were a few more yarns that could have been woven into his chapter, rather than repeating too often that his critics painted him as a numbskull who took too many blows to the head in football. And of course, Trump. It’s understandable and even entertaining that Cillizza would work in some of Trump’s more absurd assertions of his own prowess, and give us the unnecessary reminder of how avid a golfer he was. But I feel there were some missed opportunities, both in the story of his USFL failures / inability to secure an NFL franchise, and his involvement in pro wrestling and Wrestlemania. Both items are touched upon but they are legitimately interesting stories and I’d love to have read more than a couple of pages on each. And the note about Trump eschewing exercise due to his belief that the human body carried a finite amount of energy like a battery, though well-known, is nevertheless always a hilarious memory.

    Now, if it sounds like I’m beating up on the book a little bit… it’s because I am. But it’s certainly not all bad. There’s plenty of good stuff, and I don’t regret reading it. I learned some pretty interesting stuff – stuff I wouldn’t have expected to be true. Stuff like Richard Nixon was good friends with Jackie Robinson. Stuff like George W. Bush actually warmed up for his iconic first pitch at Yankee Stadium, because he didn’t want a repeat of a poorly thrown first pitch like the one nobody remembers from earlier that season. And there’s other good stuff like this in there, that I won’t bullet for you here as this isn’t supposed to be some kind of spoiler alert.

    I’m just trying to help you make a decision on whether or not you should spend your money on this book.

    The Verdict: So, should you? Personally, I wouldn’t. It’s $30. But if this subject matter is your thing, I wouldn’t blame you if you did. What do book reviews use these days, a four star system? If so, I’d give it probably 2.5 stars out of four. While there are certainly fun and educational parts of the book, it does seem like the research done, if any, was mostly surface level stuff you could find just about anywhere online. It doesn’t seem like any interviews were original – and there’s something that feels a little wrong about using mostly the investigative toil of others to publish something. It also seems like there was indeed an element of trying to capitalize and squeeze one last dime out of Donald Trump’s clown car of a presidency. If I’m going to cough up $30, I just want a little more for my money, ya know?

    2023 F1 Miami Grand Prix

    There were plenty of fireworks early in the Miami weekend with a car hitting the wall in both of the Friday practices. Come Saturday the practice was relatively uneventful in terms of incidents, and Max Verstappen put together a blistering 1:27:558 fastest lap. Then came qualifying, where plenty of drama ensued.

    In Q1there were a number of incidents that were investigated by the stewards, but ultimately no penalties were handed down. On his home soil, Logan Sargeant had an abysmal weekend, finishing dead last in qualifying and later being one of two backmarkers and finishing P20. Also out in Q1 was Yuki Tsunoda, both McClarens, and a shock in Lance Stroll. Q2 provided another shocker when Lewis Hamilton failed to qualify in the top six for the first time and even failed to make Q3. Once Q3 began, the initial story was Verstappen making a mistake on his first flying lap and heading back to the garage before putting in an official time. That came back to bite him as Charles Leclerc spun out and hit the wall in the closing minutes, drawing a red flag and the end to qualifying, putting Sergio Perez at P1 and Verstappen at P9.

    Come Sunday all eyes were on Verstappen and the question of whether or not he could be the first race winner from P9 since 1984, which he went on to accomplish with little struggle amazingly. Perez finished second, extending the battle at the top of the championship from the rest of the pack and giving Red Bull a stranglehold on the constructors race. Fernando Alonso found himself on his fourth podium in five races, finishing third. The story of the race really was the Red Bulls as there was not a single yellow flag during the race, much less a safety car. The big incident on the day was Carlos Sainz getting a five second penalty for speeding into the pit lane, although that didn’t impact the final standing as he finished more than eight second ahead of Hamilton behind him.

    The overtake of the day and the driver of the day both also goes to Verstappen, with an impressive move to get ahead of Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen in a single turn.

    In other open wheel news, the F1 Academy raced in Valencia. Initially Marta Garcia won double pole, but ultimately had her lap time deleted due to track infringements, giving fellow Spaniard Nerea Marti the pole out of Q1. Come race day, Hamda Al Qubaisi won race one with Marti in second and Lena Buhler getting her first podium of the season. Race two saw Bianci Bustamante on top of the podium with Buhler continuing a strong weekend and Al Qubaisi getting on the podium again. Race three was the first ever Sunday race for the F1 Academy, and Garcia took home her third win in six races, while Marti and Abbi Pulling rounded out the podium.

    The F1 world takes the next week off before F1 through F3 hit the track in Imola, and the F1 Academy stays in Spain, but heads to Barcelona.

    2023 F1 Miami Grand Prix Preview

    Formula 1 is the only open wheel circuit taking to the streets of South Beach this weekend, but they are not the only ones on in the F1 family racing. F1 Academy will have their second weekend of races in Valencia, Spain on Saturday and Sunday, with qualifying taking place Friday. During Thursday’s testing, the two fastest laps were put in by the Al Qubaisi sisters, with Amna putting in a 1:34:143 second only to Hamda who finished her best lap in 1:34:071. Among the three other fastest racers in practice, it should come as no surprise Abbi Pulling is in the group, as is the Championship leader Marta Gacia, racing on her home track. In fifth is a fellow Spaniard who calls Valencia home in Merea Marti.

    It would almost be a shock to see Garcia not secure at least one pole and one race win, but the other four are clearly excellent competition for her this weekend, as is the rest of the field, as every team scored at least a point in the first weekend of the F1 Academy, and there were seven different people who stepped onto the podium a week ago.

    Clearly the focus this weekend will be on the streets surrounding Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, and even plenty of focus inside the stadium as the Paddock has been moved onto the football field this weekend. Last season was the inaugural race for F1 in Miami, and it was pretty well dominated by Max Verstappen who won the race and secured the fastest lap. The other two podium spots belonged to Ferrari as Charles Leclerc finished second after securing pole in qualifying, and Carlos Sainz finished third.

    After seeing what the Red Bulls did this past weekend in Baku, it is hard pressed to believe they won’t finish 1-2 yet again this weekend, where I would anticipate seeing Verstappen defending his title with Sergio Perez finishing second. In a single lap setting, Charles Leclerc certainly has an argument to be the best in the sport and expect to see him prove it again by being the pole sitter, but ultimately falling down to third again this weekend.

    Currently the weather looks like it will be kind as the highs are in the mid-80s all weekend with limited chances of rain, so we should see slicks all weekend long. In the first race most teams went with a single stop strategy going from mediums to hards, and we will probably see another single stop weekend.

    One driver to really keep an eye on is going to be Logan Sargeant as it will be his first home circuit race and he is one of two racers still without a point this season. He had a good showing in qualifying in Baku, but the pressure of a home circuit is always tough, but it would make for a great story as Sargeant is the first American to take the cockpit of an F1 car in 8 seasons.

    Did it Happen? Andy Roddick Refuses to Win.

    The scene – a third round match in the 2005 Rome Masters tennis tournament. Not a major by any stretch, but certainly a lucrative tournament that most of the world’s top players entered. American Andy Roddick is mostly having his way with plucky Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco. Roddick is up a set in the best of three match, up a break at 5-3, with Verdasco on a second serve, down love 40.

    Linesman: FAULT!

    Umpire: Game, set, match, Mr. Roddick.

    Roddick: No it isn’t.

    Umpire: It… is though?

    Roddick: The ball was good. Caught the line.

    Umpire: You’re joking, right? Just shake the guy’s hand. You won.

    Verdasco: What is happening?

    Roddick: Your serve was good. We’re still playing. I’m trying to tell this punk ass (gesturing at the umpire) but he ain’t listening.

    Umpire: What did you just call me?

    Roddick: Oh, shut the hell up before I break the handle of my racket off up in your ass.

    Umpire: Jesus… ok, whatever. Point Verdasco. 15-40. Mr. Verdasco to serve.

    Roddick had long been seen as the successor to Pete Sampras in the long line of great American tennis players. John McEnroe. Jimmy Connors. That… other guy. And while Roddick never quite ascended to those heights, he did manage to achieve the the world number one ranking for a brief while before the immortal Roger Federer arrived and took it from him.

    What he did achieve was a well-deserved reputation as one of the best liked guys on the tour, and a fan favorite. He was a fiery competitor, and never shy to light up an umpire for a bad call. But with his opponents and in the press, he was the consummate gentleman; always gracious to his opponent in defeat, and always willing to give an insightful interview with the press.

    In one of the most iconic matches in recent tennis history – just two short years before this one – Roddick outlasted Morroccan Younes El Aynaoui in an Austrial Open five setter, 21-19 in the fifth set. Five hours of tennis.

    Anyway, Verdasco had never achieved, and never would, the level of success of his opponent, but himself was a respected competitor. Lacking a big serve or signature weapon, he would always be at a disadvantage against guys like Roddick who could smash a first serve at over 130 mph. But what he lacked, he made up for with aggression, hustle and grit.

    Still down two match points at 15-40, Verdasco was far from out of the woods. Nonetheless, the Spaniard clawed his way back and held serve. It would likely be for naught, however, as the big serving Roddick was still up 5-4, and would now serve to close it out. Funny thing, however. This match was being played on clay, not the surface best suited for a big server. The texturous surface took a considerable amount of sting out of the ball, compared to the much faster and skiddier hard court, to say nothing of the grass courts at Wimbledon.

    Verdasco broke Roddick’s serve, forced a tiebreaker and won that, forcing a deciding third set. As the players changed sides, Roddick looked at the umpire.

    Roddick: I was kidding. It was out.

    Umpire: Excuse me?

    Roddick: The serve. It was out. Do I win?

    Umpire: Yes.

    Roddick: Really!?

    Umpire: No.

    Like it or not, believe in it or not, momentum is real. Emboldened by his comeback in the second set, Verdasco played amazing tennis in the third set, hammering one blistering groundstroke after another with pinpoint accuracy, leaving Roddick virtually helpless to do anything. Verdasco would win the set, and the match, proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished. Roddick downplayed his sportsmanship after the match, crediting Verdasco for his excellent play, maintaining his honesty about the call was simply the right thing to do.

    But can you imagine the bottom of the ninth inning, the Yankees clinging to a one-run lead in a pivotal playoff game. Mariano Rivera fires the game-ending cutter for strike three past a hapless, frozen hitter. Only after the umpire calls the third strike, Rivera says,”Nah Blue. That was a bit outside. What? No, of course I’m not kidding. We wouldn’t want the game to end on a bad call, would we? Good!”

    Or with the Ligue 1 title hanging in the balance, Paris St. Germain’s Lionel Messi summons his remaining energy after 90 minutes plus stoppage time of relentless running for one last foray up the pitch. Kylian Mbappe feathers an impossibly perfect through ball to Messi who appears to just beat the goaltender and the desperate efforts of the last defender to flick the ball over the line for the game-winning goal. The referee signals it’s a goal, and with time having run out is ready to blow the final whistle, only for Messi to say, “Ref. It’s no goal. I fouled him. Yes, I’m serious. Why would you ask that? Yes, I know that now we have to go into added time and 97% of Paris hates me, but what’s fair is fair. If you can’t win honestly, what’s the point of winning?”

    Larry Bird hits the game-winning three-pointer as time expires over the outstretched hand of his friend and rival, Magic Johnson. The Celtics are your NBA Champions!!! Except Bird has the nagging feeling the buzzer sounded while the ball was still on his finger tips. As fans rush the Boston Garden parque in jubilation, Bird erupts, “ALL OF YOU GOD DAMNED CLOWNS GET BACK TO YOUR SEATS! WE’RE GOING TO OVERTIME. I DIDN’T GET THE SHOT OFF IN TIME!”

    Hard to imagine, isn’t it? So, imagine it! Did Andy Roddick really decline a victory, and tens of thousands of dollars in prize money, on a call he thought was unfair to his opponent? No Googling! Tell us what you think on Twitter.

    Thank you for reading.

    2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Recap

    The streets of Baku are are typically good for some wild action, but the weekend’s featured races were actually rather calm compared to other years. The non-featured races were a whole different story though, especially the F2 sprint.

    In qualifying, American Brad Benavides crashed bringing out a red flag leading to him starting at the back of the field in both the sprint and featured race, two races he ended up not finishing either. The big incident of the weekend though came at the end of the sprint when a massive crash in turn one took out six cars.

    The driver of the weekend in F2 is unquestionably Oliver Bearman, who had the fastest lap in practice, qualified in pole position, won the sprint, and stood atop the podium in the featured race. American Jak Crawford snuck onto the podium in the sprint finishing third and came away with another point finishing tenth in the featured race. Championship leader coming into the weekend Ayumu Iwasa really struggled, qualifying 17th, retiring during the sprint, and finishing twelfth on Sunday finishing the weekend with zero points, allowing Theo Pourchaire to take over as the Championship leader after four weekends.

    The F1 weekend was the first double qualifying weekend with there only being a single practice on Friday followed by the featured race qualifying. Then Saturday had the sprint qualifying followed by the sprint race, then the traditional Sunday featured race.

    Pierre Gasly had a Friday to forget as smoke came pouring out of his car in practice and he found the wall later on in Q1that also saw Carlos Sainz and Zhou Guanyu spin and Nyck de Vries hit the wall. The surprise in Q2 was Sainz off the track again and George Russell in the Mercedes that had so many upgrades in the month break missed Q3. Ultimately it was Charles Leclerc getting a Baku hat trick, grabbing his third consecutive pole in Azerbaijan.

    Leclerc continued his qualifying dominance in the sprint qualifying, grabbing pole there as well. The sprint race saw Leclerc hold on for a bit before Sergio Perez was able to get by and dominate the race, finishing nearly 4.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc, with Max Vertappen also making the podium.

    Unlike a year ago when Perez beat Leclerc to the first turn, Leclerc held onto the lead early on Sunday, but eventually lost his spot to Verstappen and not long after Perez, as the Red Bulls looked were easily the fastest cars on the track yet again. On lap 10, de Vries went down the escape road that led to a safety car, but before the safety car was determined, Verstappen entered the pit lane, costing his multiple positions. Perez took over the lead of the race and got his pit in during the safety car and didn’t look back completing the double finishing two seconds ahead of his teammate. Leclerc held onto third despite being more than 21 seconds behind Perez, but it did give Ferrari their first podium on a Sunday this season.

    With two laps to go George Russel pit for soft tires and managed to secure the fastest lap on the final lap of the day, earning himself an extra point.

    With the double, Perez has closed the gap to Verstappen who now only holds a six point lead at the top of the driver standings, while Fernando Alonso is 27 points behind Perez. Red Bull has more than double their nearest competitor in the constructor standings, as it appears they will be running away with that championship this season.

    Meanwhile, in Austria the F1 Academy got underway, with Abbi Pulling grabbing herself a double podium, but it was Marta Garcia who stole the weekend. While Amna Al Qubaisi won the middle race of the weekend, Garcia found herself on top of the podium twice, including the first ever F1 Academy race. Garcia came away with 58 points this weekend, while Al Qubaisi securing 36 points, and her younger sister Hamda finishing the weekend with 26 points, one more than Pulling.

    March/April MLB Debuts

    Each month here at The Stain we will look back at the players who made their MLB debuts in that month. This month we will extend a few days as the season started on March 30th.

    This year we saw plenty of big name prospects debut with three players in the MLB top 100 prospects coming into the season, Anthony Volpe, Jordan Walker, and Grayson Rodriguez. We also saw Masataka Yoshida debut after being the big international free agent signing, and we also saw a 2022 draft pick in Zach Neto find his way to the big leagues. 

    Best Hitting Debut:

    Joey Ortiz, 2B, Baltimore Orioles – 1-3, 3 RBI – Ortiz got his first career hit in the top of the fifth inning on a grounder into right field scoring both Jorge Mateo and Adam Frazier. Two innings later he connected on a sacrifice fly to score Adam Frazier giving him the most RBI in a debut of anyone to start the season. 

    Best Pitching Debut:

    Logan Allen, LHP, Cleveland Guardians – 6 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, 8 K, W – There were quite a few arms that secured a win in their debut, but nobody performed better than Allen. The first batter of the game was Jon Berti who went down swinging to give Allen his first career MLB strikeout, although Berti did get his revenge in the third as he hit a solo home run for the only run Miami managed to score against Allen.

    Best Hitting Month:

    Masataka Yoshida, OF, Boston Red Sox  – It is no surprise Yoshida had the best month, as he is a 29 year old Japanese veteran in his first MLB season. That said, he has been much better on the road than at home, where he is hitting below the Mendoza Line. Given his ability to use the whole field it was, and still is, expected he take advantage of the Green Monster in left, but just hasn’t found it enough yet. 

    Best Pitching Month: 

    Jose Hernandez, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates – In addition to the Pirates being a surprise team in the first month, they have also seemed to find them a quality reliever as well. It won’t likely be a trend to see a reliever have the best month, but given he has only walked one hitter, given up only a single run, and struckout 11 through 11.2 innings over nine outings is proof positive he has become a reliever the team can rely on. 

    Worst Debut:

    Hogan Harris, LHP, Oakland Athletics – 0.1 IP, H, 5 BB, HBP 6 ER – This won’t be a monthly feature, but the stat line is just too eye popping to ignore. Harris managed to face just eight batters in his debut, walking five of them, hitting another, and only recorded one out. He was sent back down to AAA after the game so he currently has a career WHIP of 18.000 and career ERA of 162.00.

    Best Story:

    Drew Maggi, 3B, PIttsburgh Pirates – Another entry that won’t necessarily be a monthly inclusion, but how can you not include Maggi when discussing player debuts this month?!?! Maggi spent 13 season in the minor leagues with six different organizations and seen action in over 1,100 games before finally making his big league debut, with the team that originally drafted him back in 2010. The 34-year old went 0-1 in his debut, but finally got his first career hit in our nation’s capital over the weekend.