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World Series 2021 – How two balls hit to left field put the Atlanta Braves one win from a World Series title

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ATLANTA — At this moment in time, no human being on the planet has more self-esteem than Braves left fielder Eddie Rosario, who is easing into the role of postseason star like it’s gradually taking on the shape of his body. Rosario sat back casually at the podium after the Braves’ Game 4 win over the Astros — one that put them one win from a World Series title — with an easy smile, ready to unleash the charisma.

He wore a sweatshirt depicting a massive blue-green eyeball with flecks of brightly colored lashes. At one point he responded to a question by saying, “I feel right now I’m Super Rosario.” The answer was kind of relevant to the question he was asked, and kind of not, and that was the best part about it. The game was still inside him, and his enthusiasm for his own handiwork hadn’t quite found the proper outlet.

Rosario had two hits Saturday night, but nobody wanted to talk about them. He scored the Braves’ first run, at a time when it appeared the offense was going to take the entire night off, and nobody cared.

The game followed the same path as the three that came before — not much happening over an unfathomable amount of time — until a lot happened in a big hurry. The wildest and most unexpected event of the night came in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Rosario made what might have been a game-saving catch on a two-out drive by Jose Altuve. The catch was remarkable for a number of reasons, the biggest being how downright lucky it was.

“Wow,” Rosario said. “What a catch.”

A lot happened in left field at Truist Park in Game 4, and Rosario’s catch was only half of the story. Yordan Alvarez attracted attention for failing to make a catch that was ridiculously difficult but still possible. After Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson hit a solo homer in the seventh to tie the score at 2, pinch-hitter Jorge Soler followed with a 107-mph warhead that hung in the air for 3.8 seconds, long enough for Alvarez to travel 59 feet — at a clip of 22.9 feet per second, for those counting — and get within a glove string of a catch that would have preserved the tie. Alvarez threw his arm above the wall a split-second after the ball had passed, and then he hung over the wall by his left underarm just long enough to make it seem possible he might stick there.

When he returned to the ground, he stayed there. The crowd spontaneously combusted in outright delirium. Soler raised a fist as he floated around the bases, and it seemed as if Alvarez’s immobility was merely frustration. Shortstop Carlos Correa, the closest Astro to Alvarez, immediately ran toward his teammate, along with the Astros trainer.

“I was very worried, very worried,” Correa said. “When I saw him, I made sure to get out to him and translate for him and thank God he’s fine.”

It’s weirdly symbolic that Alvarez, a DH forced to play the outfield in order for the Astros to get his bat in the lineup for the games in a National League park, played such a pivotal role in the outcome. Given the rule changes that are expected to be enacted during the offseason, he is probably the last of his kind: the reluctant non-outfielder forced to do his best and live with the consequences in the only sport that changes the rules of its signature event based on the location.

Nobody will mistake Alvarez for a good, or even average, big-league outfielder. He’s wildly unsure of himself out there, and he treats nearly every fly ball hit his way as if he’s just emerged from a dark room to face the bright sun. But it’s also true — considering its 70% catch probability — that Alvarez is only one of a group of bona fide big-league outfielders, some no doubt on his own team, who would not have made that catch. Correa termed the play “impossible” and said, “It was a rocket. I mean, he had to time it perfectly, and even then he might have broken a rib trying to make that catch. For me, it’s an impossible play to make. I mean, Rosario’s play was very impressive, but that ball stayed in the ballpark. This one was out.”

Rosario’s catch deprived Altuve of at least a double, and he would have been the tying run, in scoring position, for a last-ditch effort by the Astros. As soon as he hit it, Altuve gave off the impression that he believed for all the world that he had tied the score, and, in 26 other big-league ballparks — including Minute Maid Park — he would have been right.

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Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler hit back-to-back home runs to push the Braves ahead of the Astros.

Altuve’s fly ball hung in the air 4.2 seconds, a full 0.6 seconds longer than Soler’s, but Rosario was playing shallower than Alvarez and had farther to run. He took off right away, turning his back to the plate and running blind to the spot he predicted the ball would be. He got to the warning track and twisted his body so that his back faced second base. It was odd and slightly awkward, and he stabbed his glove up toward the wall at the last possible second — purely an educated guess.

He was right, it turned out, even if just barely. The ball found itself in the webbing of his glove, and Rosario looked as surprised as anyone in the ballpark. Rosario ran back to the dugout, his exquisitely landscaped facial hair framing the world’s happiest face while his teammates ran toward him.

“It just happened,” Rosario said. “That was it. I think anyone in that position is just trying to make the play, and that’s all I was doing. When the ball was hit, I was just charging as hard as I could, and I was running. So at the last second, I threw my glove at it, and I was able to catch it.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker, a man of fundamentals and playing the game the right way, no doubt pines for the days of the two-handed catch. “I’m not even going to look at that again,” he said of Rosario’s catch. “That’s probably not an instructional video we’re going to show.”

There was a hint of admiration in there, struggling to find its way out. Rosario’s teammates, not surprisingly, were far more effusive in both their praise and their use of their descriptive powers.

“I was in the corner there with a group of guys, and we were watching the play,” Soler said. “When Eddie turned to look at the fence, we thought to ourselves — or at least I thought — that ball either hit the fence, or it’s gone. Then he just kept running and threw the glove out there and made the catch, and we all looked at each other in amazement, like, ‘Did that really just happen?’ It took us all by surprise, and it was something truly out of a movie.”

One night, one field, two vastly different movies. Angels — and devils — in the outfield.

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Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and USWNT soccer player Mallory Pugh announce their engagement

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Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson earned a ring last month. U.S. women’s national team forward Mallory Pugh got one this month.

The World Series champion and the World Cup winner announced their engagement on Instagram Thursday night. The two have dated since 2017.

The couple met through Swanson’s former teammate Jace Peterson, now with the Milwaukee Brewers, who is married to Pugh’s sister.

Pugh plays with the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL and has been with the U.S. national team since 2016. She played in the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2019 World Cup, scoring a goal against Thailand.

Swanson made his major league debut with the Braves in 2016. This season, he hit .248 with 27 home runs and 88 RBIs.

The couple is just the latest power couple with connections to the U.S. team. They join Megan Rapinoe and her partner, WNBA star Sue Bird, and Julie Ertz, who is married to Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz.



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Time to put Minnie Minoso in Cooperstown (finally) and more on this weekend’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote

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As much as it might feel like it, the baseball world has not completely shut down. While the thrilling rush of free-agent signings and trades from the past few days will cease for now because of the lockout, there is a lot of baseball business still to be conducted.

One of the more important items comes this Sunday, when the biggest void in the membership of the Baseball of Hall Fame can be filled: The omission of White Sox legend Saturnino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Minoso, remembered by history as Minnie.

Minnie Minoso is one of 20 greats who will be under consideration at the winter meetings this weekend for induction to the Hall of Fame. And, yes, the winter meetings will go on even without the presence of Major League Baseball. The minor league portion of the meetings will still take place, and those appointed to consider the Hall’s two era-committee ballots will convene, as scheduled.

The ballots are as follows:

• The Early Baseball committee (covers the beginning of time to 1950) will consider Bill Dahlen, John Donaldson, Bud Fowler, Vic Harris, Grant “Home Run” Johnson, Lefty O’Doul, Buck O’Neil, Dick “Cannonball” Redding, Allie Reynolds and George “Tubby” Scales.

• The Golden Days committee (covers 1950 to 1969) will consider Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Roger Maris, Minoso, Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce and Maury Wills.

This is a big weekend for the Hall, which is hoping that 2022 will bring with it the full Hall of Fame induction experience, including the annual Parade of Legends, the induction ceremony itself and the scores of fans who make their way to Cooperstown, New York, each July. After the festivities were canceled because of the pandemic in 2020, 2021 saw a scaled-down version in September in which Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller were inducted without parades and with smaller crowds than otherwise would have flocked to upstate New York, particularly for Jeter.

The thing is, Induction Weekend is a heck of a lot more fun — and a bigger draw — when there are actual inductees. And there is no guarantee that this year’s BBWAA ballot will produce any new Hall of Famers.

Sadly, of this group of 20, the only candidates still living are Kaat, Oliva and Wills, so obviously it would be great for one or all of that trio to get in. We’ll get to that, but for now I want to really focus on Minoso, the most egregious omission in the Hall’s plaque room, at least among those not still on the BBWAA ballot.

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Advocates for Minor Leaguers forms steering committee to give players a voice, push for better conditions

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NEW YORK — While the owners and Major League Baseball players intend to collectively bargain for the terms of their next agreement, one group will not be at the table during those discussions: minor leaguers.

While Major League Baseball recently announced improved housing conditions across all levels of the minor leagues — including furnished housing — many across the minor leagues do not believe this is enough. As a result, Advocates for Minor Leaguers announced the formation of a player steering committee on Thursday, which will provide strategic advice and leadership regarding the ongoing labor battle to provide better conditions across baseball’s development levels.

“The players on the Advocates for Minor Leaguers Player Steering Committee have decades of combined experience in the Minor Leagues,” said Advocates for Minor Leaguers director Harry Marino. “They are thoughtful, intelligent and committed to improving the game of baseball for future generations. At a meeting earlier today, they decided to make public the existence of the committee and to voice support for the Major League Players Association.”

The players on the committee will remain anonymous to protect their future job prospects in the sport.

“For decades, we Minor League players have been exploited by Major League Baseball’s owners, who have abused their unique antitrust exemption to pay us less than we are worth,” the steering committee said in a statement. “This year, most of us will make less than $15,000. Many of us will work second and third jobs, struggling just to make ends meet and put food on the table. Without question, the mistreatment that we endure as Minor League players is the most urgent labor issue facing the sport.”

Marino said that the recent concession by Major League Baseball to provide improved housing shows the balance of power is shifting towards minor leaguers.

“There is much work yet to be done,” Marino said. “Going forward, I expect the committee to play a key role in our ongoing effort to provide a collective voice for Minor League players and improve Minor League working conditions.”

The first action for the committee is to voice their public support for the Major League Baseball Players Association, who the owners decided to lock out at midnight on Thursday morning.

“The owners who have voluntarily decided to shut down Major League Baseball are the same individuals who abuse a legal loophole to pay Minor Leaguers poverty-level wages,” the committee said. “As in the past, they use restrictive contracts and collusion to pay the vast majority of professional baseball players less than their actual worth.”

The committee stated the uniform player contract for minor leaguers — which ties a player to the same team for seven seasons and prevents them from seeking better pay in baseball domestically or internationally — is fundamentally unfair.

“Now that we have found our collective voice,” the committee said, “we intend to use it.” —

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