Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes. This time, we’re looking at the hottest takes from April 26 to May 2.5. Bob Nightengale writes there’s “no scientific evidence the ball has changed”: There’s been a lot of research indicating that MLB’s baseball was more aerodynamic (“juiced,” producing more home runs) than the norm in 2017 and again so far this year, with a MLB commission of scientists and statisticians even confirming that in 2018. Despite all that, USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale decided to write an equivocating piece on the issue this week, headlined “Is MLB’s ball juiced? Home runs are being hit at record pace and pitchers just want the truth.”And while that piece includes players saying the ball’s different, numbers on the amount of home runs being hit, and even “MLB commissioned independent reports last year which determined there is less of a drag on the baseball,” it also includes MLB commissioner Rob Manfred chalking it up to “the baseball is a hand-made product that is almost exclusively made from natural products” and “the result of that is there’s going to be some variations in baseballs.” And the really bizarre line comes not from Manfred, but from Nightengale himself, where he insists that there’s “no scientific evidence the ball has changed” despite the aforementioned independent reports confirming that it had (in 2017, at least) and despite the research this year that’s shown dramatically lower drag again. Here’s how he writes that:
“Still, with no scientific evidence the ball has changed, the tell-tale sign that something is dramatically different, pitchers say, is the way so many hitters are reacting when they hit the ball.”
That is a completely rubbish sentence. There is scientific evidence the ball has changed. The quotes from David Price on hitters’ reactions that follow are fine, but they don’t prove anywhere near as much as the actual data, and the data goes beyond equivocation. And Nightengale got rightly called out for it:https://twitter.com/dj_mosfett/status/1124029973453529093Rob Arthur, the author of that linked Baseball Prospectus piece, had his own thoughts on this:https://twitter.com/No_Little_Plans/status/1124030547406331904Indeed. It hasn’t been a good run for Nightengale recently, as he also was pilloried for his puff piece on Addison Russell returning from a domestic violence suspension, which was pretty much just Russell talking about how he’s overcome adversity and deserves a second chance. It included no comments from victim Melissa Reidy, domestic violence experts or anyone beyond Russell, Cubs’ president Theo Epstein, and Cubs’ rookie team manager Carmelo Martinez, but it did include Russell comparing his comeback to that of Tiger Woods. So, you know, Nightengale clearly has a great sense of what’s really important in these stories. But hey, at least the Cubs’ vice-president of communications probably doesn’t have a problem with his coverage.Rating: 🔥🔥4. Michael Schmidt asks about A-Rod on Sunday Night Baseball, saying “In what other industry would leaders so dramatically embrace and celebrate someone who trampled on the values they claim to be most important?”: Criticism of Alex Rodriguez can be valid; he received multiple performance-enhancing drug suspensions from MLB (including for the Biogenesis scandal in 2013, detailed in the recent Screwball), there are people who didn’t like him as a player for other reasons, and there are plenty of reasons to complain about his performance in the Sunday Night Baseball booth. But Michael Schmidt of The New York Times (who, for the record, is not former baseball player turned analyst Mike Schmidt, who’s also shown up here) had rather a hilarious criticism of A-Rod this week, suggesting that his redemption narrative is unprecedented in other fields:https://twitter.com/nytmike/status/1123243123927388160As a million people pointed out to Schmidt, those who “trampled on the values they claim to be most important” are regularly rewarded in other fields, including politics (Schmidt’s regular beat), banking, corporate leadership and more. Blasting ESPN and Fox for employing Rodriguez is one thing, but suggesting that it’s only sports where the scandal-plagued get second chances is absurd.Rating: 🔥🔥3. Gary Bettman claims Boston University CTE researchers told him “hockey and football are not the same,” “there have not been conclusive determinations,” gets called out by those researchers: Boston University’s renowned concussion research team has been the subject of quite the takes recently, including ex-ESPN analyst and current war on concussion research leader Merril Hoge saying they “cheat, lie, and abuse/suppress science.” This week, they were the subject of an international hot take, with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman testifying before a Canadian parliament committee (the House of Commons Subcommittee on Sports-Related Concussions) and claiming “Based on everything I’ve been told — and if anybody has any information to the contrary, we’d be happy to hear it — other than some anecdotal evidence, there has not been that conclusive link” between hockey and concussions. What really elevated Bettman’s take was where he attempted to say the BU researchers had told him wasn’t as risky as football, a take that got called out by those researchers:https://twitter.com/rwesthead/status/1124123654772621312It’s understandable why Bettman wants to be careful with his comments on concussions; the NHL recently settled a lawsuit with 318 former players for $18.9 million ($22,000 each), and there could be further litigation against them from players who weren’t covered by that or didn’t opt in. But misrepresenting what researchers told you is not a good look.Rating: 🔥🔥🔥2. Mike Francesa questions Giants’ draft pick Corey Ballentine’s character because he got shot, then denies he said that: Francesa’s often known for his “I never said that!” attempts to distance himself from what he actually said, but the moment he delivered on that front this week was impressive even by his own standards. On both his app and his show Monday, Francesa implied that the Giants couldn’t talk about draft pick Corey Ballentine’s good character because Ballentine was shot at a house party Saturday (Ballentine is recovering, but his friend was killed).https://twitter.com/BackAftaThis/status/1122865862204166149″When you finish your draft and stress how you went out of your way to take the right kind of guys, guys that you want on the team, guys that are going to be great character guys, and you stress that as strongly as the Giants did, it looks pretty bad when one of them gets shot on a Saturday night. It does not look good. It’s just more of the same for the Giants, who just can’t get out of their own way, no matter what they say.”https://twitter.com/BackAftaThis/status/1123051950273122307That led to Francesa getting criticized by Ballentine’s father (who said Ballentine “is the kid that that guy [Francesa] wished he had as his son” and “My son is a grown man. He can go out and celebrate a little bit. Who doesn’t go and and celebrate with their friends?”) and by WFAN morning hosts Boomer Esiason and Gregg “Gio” Giannotti. And that led to Francesa calling in to Boomer and Gio and claiming they were taking him out of context (they weren’t):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gJ1D_AGsEc
“I said this can be very iffy, if it proves the kid was doing something wrong or in the wrong place, that can make the Giants look very bad. I said we have no information. That’s how I opened it up.”
That’s not the thrust of what you said at all, Mike, especially on the app show. And not only coming out with this atrocious take about a shooting victim, but then trying to defend it by claiming you didn’t say what you said, is a heck of a take.Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥1. Phil Mushnick starts a column about mascot changes with “So I said to Joseph Goebbels, ‘Burn any good books, lately?'”: The Flyers and Yankees disassociating themselves from Kate Smith (over songs like “That’s Why The Darkies Were Born” and “Pickaninny Heaven”) recently and the Long Beach State 49ers disassociating themselves from the “Prospector Pete” statue and mascot last fall (over complaints about racism and genocide during the California gold rush) are moves that are apparently comparable to those made by Nazi Germany minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels in Phil Mushnick’s mind. Here’s what the New York Post columnist wrote this week:
So I said to Joseph Goebbels, “Burn any good books, lately?”Recently in New York and Philadelphia, Kate Smith was disinterred, posthumously condemned to death, then reburied for singing, in addition to “God Bless America,” a racist song, 90 years ago. It’s called beating a dead corpse.That she spent America’s World War II years raising millions of dollars to combat genocidal master race Fascism and delivered a 1945 radio address decrying racial and religious intolerance was left ignored, unimportant or unknown.At roughly the same time on the West Coast, Cal State-Long Beach put to death a suddenly “inappropriate” on-campus regular, a fictional character named Prospector Pete, the school’s mascot since it opened in 1949.Prospector Pete, symbol of the California gold rush, last year had his statue removed from prominent view and now has been entirely “disappeared,” as the gold rush, according to the school, was “a time in history when the indigenous people of California endured subjugation, violence and threats of genocide.”
First off, there’s no comparison between book-burning and moving statues or removing yourself from associations with people or mascots. Book-burning is destruction of information; dissociations are decisions to no longer celebrate a particular person or group. No one is deleting the records of these teams associating themselves with Kate Smith or Prospector Pete. And while arguments can be made against both of these moves (not always good ones, though, as Will Cain showed last week with his take on the Smith saga), there’s absolutely no need to illustrate Godwin’s Law by bringing up the Nazis. Much less starting your article with that ludicrous comparison.Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥Hot Take Standings:Jason Whitlock – Hall of FameStephen A. Smith – 242Skip Bayless – 203Phil Mushnick – 186Colin Cowherd – 84Rob Parker – 59Doug Gottlieb – 53Shannon Sharpe – 35Don Cherry – 30Albert Breer – 29Dan Shaughnessy – 26Darren Rovell – 25Ray Lewis – 25Mike Francesa – 24Charles Barkley – 24Danny Kanell – 24Britt McHenry – 20JT The Brick – 20Andy Benoit – 18Dan Dakich – 18Michael DeCourcy – 16Jason McIntyre – 16Tony Massarotti – 15Ben Maller – 15Bill Plaschke – 14Jason Smith – 13Kirk Herbstreit – 13Mike Felger – 13The Sporting News – 13Chris Broussard – 13Rick Morrissey – 13Michael Wilbon – 12Michael Rapaport – 11John Middlekauff – 11Keith Olbermann – 11Jeff Schultz – 10Greg Gabriel – 10Rob Rossi – 10Bill James – 10Joe Simpson – 10Bob Brookover – 10Jeremy Roenick – 10Berry Tramel – 10Kristine Leahy – 10Graham Couch – 9Chris “Mad Dog” Russo – 9Ross Tucker – 9Ryen Russillo – 9Garth Crooks – 9C.J. Nitkowski – 9Bob Ford – 8John Feinstein – 8Steve Simmons – 8Frank Isola – 8Bart Hubbuch – 8Will Cain – 7Howard Eskin – 7Trent Dilfer – 7Damien Cox – 7Mike Bianchi – 7Cris Carter – 7Pat Forde – 7Peter King – 6Charley Casserly – 6The Wall Street Journal – 6Pat Leonard – 6Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6Terry Bradshaw – 6Greg A. Bedard – 6Merril Hoge – 5Jonathan Allen – 5Dean Blevins – 5Tony Rizzo – 5Paul Sullivan – 5Dan Wolken – 5Dan Clark – 5Paul Daugherty – 5Michael Kay – 5Tom Jones – 5Max Kellerman – 5Mark Readings – 5Neil Warnock – 5Patrick Bet-David – 5Jared Stillman – 5Jen Rainwater – 5Matt Walsh – 5Jon Steinberg – 5Bill Welt – 5Jack Todd – 5Aaron Murray – 5Chris Childers – 5Mark Knight – 5The Herald Sun – 5David Booth – 5Tom Nichols – 5Keith Hernandez – 5Bill O’Reilly – 5Brandel Chamblee – 5Michael McCarthy – 5Mike “The Reputation Doctor®” Paul – 5Dennis Dodd – 5Rich Lowry – 5Chris Reed – 5The San Diego Union-Tribune – 5David Hookstead – 5Tomm Looney – 5Alex Shaw – 5Rick Reilly – 5Randall Mell – 5Ian O’Connor – 5Michael Bamberger – 5Bob Bubka – 5Cathal Kelly – 5Pete Prisco – 5Bill Simons – 5Christine Flowers – 5Jason Lieser – 5John Steigerwald – 5Josh Peter – 5Alexi Lalas – 5John Moody – 5Marni Soupcoff – 5Ryan Rishaug – 5Kurtis Larson – 5Rod Watson – 5Chuck Modiano – 5Joel Klatt – 5Steve Buffery – 5Joe Morgan – 5Nancy Armour – 5Richard Justice – 5Ameer Hasan Loggins – 5Jesse Watters – 5John McGrath – 5Mike Sielski – 5Gordon Monson – 5Scott Fowler – 5Terry Frei – 5David Jones – 5Sabrina Parr – 5Abbey Mastracco – 5Terry Cushman – 5Rick Bozich – 5Michael O’Doherty – 5Simon Briggs – 5Dan Wetzel – 5Mike Parry – 5Bob Ryan – 5Robert Reed – 5Pete Dougherty – 5Dan Le Batard – 5Marcus Hayes – 5Kyle Turley – 5Mike Ditka – 5Erril Laborde – 5Lowell Cohn – 5Rosie DiManno – 5Mike Florio – 4Randal Grichuk – 4Mike Schmidt – 4Mike Bell – 4Cody McDavis – 4The New York Times – 4Dan Crenshaw – 4Mike Vaccaro – 4Mike Klis – 4Richard Keys – 4Bruce Levine – 4Malcolm Gladwell – 4That’s Kappy – 4Mitchell Nathanson – 4The New York Daily News – 4“Big” Jim Murray – 4Jeff Diamond – 4Marc Berman – 4Evan Roberts – 4Corbin Smith – 4DJ Siddiqi – 4The Express – 4Mark Kiszla – 4Greg Witter – 4Myron Medcalf – 4Bill Polian – 4MJ Franklin – 4Alex Reimer – 4Joan Vennochi – 4Matt Yglesias – 4Bill Livingston – 4Michael Irvin – 4Shawn Windsor – 4Brock Huard – 4Byron Tau – 4Maggie Gray – 4Michael Powell – 4Mark Spector – 4Chad Forbes – 4Gary Myers – 4Mark Schlereth – 4Andy Gray – 4David Fleming – 4Jeff Pearlman – 4Tony Grossi – 4FanSided – 4Tony Kornheiser – 4USA Today – 4Nathan Ruiz – 4Gary Bettman – 3Chris Torello – 3Aaron Taylor – 3Undisputed producers – 3Pete Thamel – 3John Kincade – 3Brian Burke – 3Doug Russell – 3Carl Steward – 3Jerry Coleman – 3Jon Johnson – 3Trey Wingo – 3Lance Zierlein – 3Michael Salfino – 3Tom Van Riper – 3Andy Katz – 3Tony La Russa – 3Jim Brady – 3Bill Simmons – 3Mark Teixeira – 3Wally Hall – 3Damien Woody – 3Victor Cruz – 3Andrew Walker – 3Jim Kaat – 3Jason Gay – 3Steven J. Brams – 3Aaron Isaksen – 3Will Muschamp – 3Buck Lanford – 3Stan Fischler – 3Sonnie Wooden – 3Chris Jones – 3Kelly Smith – 3Reggie Miller – 3Mark Madden – 3Larry Brooks – 3Dan Canova – 3Steve Rosenbloom – 3Stephen Jackson – 3Mike Sando – 3Walt Borla – 3Nick Cafardo – 3Ice Cube – 3Justin Peters – 3Elise Finch – 3Kevin Skiver – 3David Bahnsen – 3Harold Reynolds – 3Kevin Reynolds – 3Mike Sheahan – 3Steve Greenberg – 3Matt Burke – 3Malcolm Gladwell – 3Mike Milbury – 3Mac Engel – 3Nick Kypreos – 3Caron Butler – 3Don Brennan – 3Robert Tychkowski – 3Mike Johnston – 3Jeff Mans – 3Joe Browne – 3Mike Harrington – 3Greg Mitchell – 3Michael Schmidt – 2Bob Nightengale – 2Pierre McGuire – 2The Palm Beach Post – 2Karl Ravech – 2Dari Nowkah – 2Ella Dorsey – 2The Hill – 2John Kindt – 2Bill Madden – 2Tony Gonzalez – 2Mike Greenberg – 2Grant Paulsen – 2Jeff Ermann – 2Ed Werder – 2Ben Mulroney – 2Ron Cook – 2Brian Kenny – 2Barrett Sallee – 2Craig Calcaterra – 2Gareth Wheeler – 2John Cornyn – 2Tony Dungy – 2Bruce Jenkins – 2Chris Wesseling – 2Seth Greenberg – 2Doug Smith – 2Newsweek – 2Teddy Cutler – 2Bill Cowher – 2Paul Finebaum – 2Amin Elhassan – 2Jim Henneman – 2Mitch Lawrence – 2Nick Wright – 2Domonique Foxworth – 2Gary Parrish – 2Michael Farber – 2Andy Furman – 2Donovan McNabb – 2Seth Davis – 2Jon Heyman – 2Jason La Canfora – 2Booger McFarland – 2Joe Schad – 2Cork Gaines – 2Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. As always, you can send submissions to me via e-mail or on Twitter.