It’s that geological grind that’s so tough.

He led the league twice in home runs, which isn’t a lot for the 600-homer club. Thome did it once, and Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa also did it twice. The rest of the club (Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey, Jr., Babe Ruth) led their respective leagues at least four times each.

It’s that geological grind that’s so tough. Pujols has 14 different seasons with 30 homers or more (one behind Aaron and Rodriguez … for now). His story of 600 homers is a story of incredible skill, health, and a gradual decline. The other possible story is that of incredible skill, an unfathomable peak, and just enough health to accumulate the stats. Once he missed the four-season stretch of 60 homers, he had to chip away.

And, again, this isn’t including the players who are still in their mid-20s. Justin Bour is a beastly fellow at the moment, but, fine, he’s developing. Aaron Hicks was always a top prospect, even if this is getting a little freaky. The Rays acquired Corey Dickerson for a reason, so it’s not like his success should be that surprising. Chris Taylor was overlooked in the minors, perhaps, where he generally found success.

Start with Zack Cozart. He was a poor man’s Brandon Crawford for years, and that was fine. He was valuable defensively and hit just enough. Now, at the age of 31, he’s hitting .351 and slugging .623. Just for good measure, he’s six walks away from his career high. Now instead of a poor man’s Crawford, he’s a rich man’s Carlos Correa.

SABERMETRICIAN: Actually, it’s all about the launch angles. See, last year Cozart’s …
That’s not the point. He’s Zack Cozart. He’s 31. There are rules.

For five seasons, Marwin Gonzalez was a nice utility infielder. His career line was .257/.298/.389. He was a known quantity. That’s the key phrase with a lot of these players. Known quantity.

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The Astros are great, and they might get even better

The Astros have a 14-game lead in the AL West. They’ve lost 16 games this season, and the next closest team to them has 30 losses. They’ve scored 106 more runs than they’ve allowed, and they have the best record in baseball.

It’s possible, if not likely, that the Astros are the best team in baseball.

Marc Normandin has already talked about the infamous Sports Illustrated cover, but I want to bring it up one more time. Back in 2014 like, they had Playstation 4s and everything back then it was considered hilarious for a magazine to suggest that the Astros would win the World Series in four seasons. They were butt-slide bad, and I had to write a response to the article that took a brave stance of Hold on, it might not be such a wild idea. It would have been imprudent not to hedge your bets after 324 losses from the Astros over the previous three seasons.

Stolen bases are rad, though. We can agree on that. I will vote for you in a general election if you run on a More Billy Hamiltons platform.

Cody Bellinger is a symbol of how baseball has changed, yes. He’s not a symbol of how it’s broken. This is something to watch. It’s also something to WATCH:, in internetese. While I agree that baseball needs something more than the three true outcomes, and while I fear that the Rob Deer Fan Club has moles employed at the highest levels of the game, I’m still OK with the balance. There are more strikeouts. There are more home runs. And there are still an awful lot of baseball plays in between.

Keep an eye on the strikeouts and homers. For now, however, I will enjoy baseball go boom and big man throw rock hard. It’s a little more extreme than it used to be, but this sport isn’t unrecognizable to me.

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NCAA Baseball Tournament 2017 scores and bracket: Davidson is your new favorite team

Sunday of the NCAA baseball tournament’s first weekend is a rough one for one-loss teams, since they have to win twice just to stay alive in the postseason. A number of No. 1 seeds faced just that scenario Sunday, including Florida State, Kentucky and No. 2 overall seed North Carolina.

The Frogs scored none in the bottom of the third, then big time bat Brendan McKay led off in the fourth and immediately blasted a homer to right, thus chopping TCU’s lead in half, 4-2. Devin Hairston followed that up with a single to left center, and the Cardinals were back in the fight with no outs.

TCU started a buildup in the bottom of the fourth, after Wanhanen dropped a single into center and Watson walked. These two worked in impressive tandem all evening, harrying Louisville’s staff into manufactured runs of the old school variety. Nothing came of that one-two, as Watson was tagged out trying to steal second, and off to the fifth they went.

The top of that inning ended Lodolo’s night immediately, after Logan Taylor slammed a big league homer over the right field wall. With the score 4-3, the Frogs couldn’t risk further damage that early in the evening, and so on came the alliterative Cal Coughlin to handle swing duties until the later innings.

Coughlin lasted just two outs, however, and Sean Wymer was brought in to handle mop up duties. He pushed the Frogs through the fifth, putting down the side in the top of the sixth. Big time arm Sam Bordner came on for Louisville in the bottom of the frame, in the hope that he could finish out the game with no more water taken on.

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host Southern Miss found itself in trouble early against Illinois-Chicago

In the nightcap, Florida and TCU met for a much ballyhooed rematch of Sunday’s opening night bout that left the Horned Frogs with their first loss of the bracket round. Florida’s pitching staff is masterful, and though they may score the most runs in this tournament field, they’re also not going to allow them, and the Gators have allowed just a single run in the CWS to this point, quite obviously the lowest runs-against rate of the group.

Florida pitcher Jackson Kowar and TCU man Mitchell Traver held each other’s opposite bats hitless through the first two frames, then Kowar surrendered a single to right and a strong double to left to plate the Frogs’ first run of the night.

A wild pitch moved TCU leadoff man Austen Wade over to third, and the buildup was on with two outs. Wade then scored on a strong Zach Humphreys double to left center, which has received a remarkable number of hits and homers, considering the wind blows in from that area of the park at TD Ameritrade. Never mind, though, since the wind blew out all day on Friday.

In the Hattiesburg regional, host Southern Miss found itself in trouble early against Illinois-Chicago, who’s playing in its first college baseball tournament in nine years. The Flames led 6-0 after the top of the fifth, but the Golden Eagles chipped away over the course of the next two innings, plating three then four runners in the sixth and seventh.

The most dramatic moment of the day’s action took place in the Fayetteville regional’s opener between Missouri State and Oklahoma State. The Cowboys carried a tenuous 5-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth with shutdown closer Trey Cobb on the hill. Missouri State’s slugging shortstop, Jeremy Eierman, then stepped to the plate with a man on first and two outs and ripped a bomb over the right field wall.

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Cubs’ White House visit is a political statement whether Joe Maddon agrees or not

The Cubs have already visited the White House after winning the 2016 World Series. They visited the previous President, Barack Obama, who was not only a sports fan but also had Chicago ties that had a little something to do with how unusually quickly the customary championship trip occurred. Now, the Cubs are getting a second, less formal White House visit to see Donald Trump, and Joe Maddon immediately went on the defensive to claim that this is not a political statement.

Due to some atrocious weather in Fort Worth and Hattiesburg over the weekend, a handful of games were pushed to Monday of this week. As of Monday morning, in fact, three teams yet survived in Fort Worth: Dallas Baptist, Virginia, and hosts TCU were still duking it out for the rights to a super regional berth, with only TCU the sixth overall national seed having no losses.

In the Houston regional, Texas A&M got 8 1/3 innings from starter Stephen Kolek to shut down hosts Houston, 4-3. Mop-up man Cason Sherrod faced just one batter and stone-colded him to send the Aggies through to the super regional round. This is just filthy.

In the Lubbock regional, Sam Houston State went on a tear to win their way into the super regional, thanks to 4 2/3 innings of work by middle reliever Riley Cooper. Starter Seth Ballew got into trouble early and lasted just two innings, but the pen came in behind him to finish the job. Let’s all admire closer Nick Mikolajchak’s leaping celebration on the final strikeout.

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Jose Iglesias flips while tagging White Sox opponent, takes umpire with him

The third inning of the Chicago White Sox-Detroit Tigers game on Sunday afternoon looked like a scene from an action movie as a stolen base attempt sent Jose Iglesias flying into the air where he collided with an umpire. It all happens so quick!

The Astros are currently in first place by a million games, but this is also a fine chance to add to a young, stacked organization and, oh, man, I can’t do this anymore.

We go every year for our anniversary. Can’t do August because that’s when her work starts up with a vengeance. Can’t go in July because of the All-Star Game and trade deadline for me. So we go in June. This year would be a couple weeks earlier than normal, but why would that make a difference?

Because of the draft, you idiot. There’s a baseball draft. The internet wants instant draft grades for some reason, even though they’re completely pointless, and I’m paid to write the baseball things that the internet wants. That’s my one-sentence job description, and by leaving before the draft, I’m screwing it all up.

The Royals’ system has been thinned out over the last few years, both because of win-now trades and sketchy drafting, and this is the highest they’ve picked since taking Hunter Dozier in 2013. They really can’t screw this one up, which is a tough thing to write about the 14th pick, considering there are more likely to be misses than hits in the middle of the draft.

The talent is there, but all of the other expected concerns are there, too. If the Royals can smooth out some of the rough edges, and if they can eliminate the larger questions about durability, this pick has a definite chance to work out.

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Matthew Beck then took over and popped up the final out of the inning

Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park doesn’t really allow for home runs. Its outfields are deep, and the wind generally blows in from direct center. Bring all the power hitting you want, but you’re going to have a tough time getting out of there.

But nobody apparently told that to Harrison, who proceeded to rock a wondrous smash out into the left-field bleachers, thus earning the first grand slam in TD Ameritrade’s College World Series history. That brought the score to 8-0, advantage Beavers.

But that wasn’t the end of Newman’s night, as he walked the first batter he faced in the seventh, advanced the runner on a wild pitch, allowed him to steal second, then bagged another on a wild pitch. In all, three Oregon State runners would cross, and suddenly the bloodbath was on. 11-0 and LSU facing down their first goose egg in CWS history.

Pitcher No. 5 was done. One inning pitched, two hits, five earned runs, one strikeout, and 10 batters faced.

Matthew Beck then took over and popped up the final out of the inning, an admirable feat considering the Tigers were hemorrhaging runs at that point. He threw a full inning, but after walking a guy and coughing up a double he got the ax with two outs in the eighth.

That pen action would eventually end Bennett’s night, as Adam Wolf came on to try and end the rally. Leadoff man Austen Wade managed a single to plate Merrill, and Wolf allowed no further runs in the frame. Still, though, the damage had been done, and TCU held a substantial lead into the top of the third, 4-0.

Louisville finally busted through in the top of the third, thanks to a Josh Showers single that put across Devin Mann from second. The Cards could manage no more, though, despite their bats finding the ball and some hit batters antics from Wolf.

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College World Series 2017 scores and bracket: TCU drops Louisville from Omaha

Florida State became the third team eliminated from this year’s College World Series on Wednesday night, dropping a more subdued loss to LSU, 5-4, after a wild affair on Saturday to fail out of Omaha yet again. In the other bracket, Louisville and TCU faced off in an elimination game, after both teams had been beaten by Florida in the CWS’ opening weekend.

TCU eventually eliminated Louisville in a 4-3 victory.

Neither team could break through in the first, with TCU’s Nick Lodolo and Louisville’s Nick Bennett sitting down each other’s sides in order to commence proceedings. Louisville was blanked in the top of the second, but in the bottom of the frame TCU third baseman Elliott Barzilli singled into right, then stole second, then third, and Connor Wanhanen knocked him home on a double to left center.

When you’re a young player and older players start making derogatory comments like that, you’re sitting in your stall and you’re just like, ‘what does that mean?’ and ‘how do I process that?’ Maddon said. You’re asking how that impacts you and if you did something wrong. There’s not even a thought of, ‘how can I make this right?’ or ‘how can I make this better?’ because you can’t.

You’ve got to suck it all up and it kind of tears at your fabric when you hear it, Maddon said. As a person and as a player, when you go out there, you’re not the same cat. You’ve now heard all this garbage kind of stuff, and it impacts the whole group.

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NHL trade deadline: Maple Leafs acquire center Brian Boyle from Lightning

The Maple Leafs have acquired center Brian Boyle from the Lightning in exchange for forward Byron Froese and a 2017 conditional second round pick.

Toronto was in the market for a bottom-six center, and reportedly had interested in Red Wings center Riley Sheahan.

Boyle has 13 goals and nine assists in 54 games this season but more importantly is regarded around the league as a tough, defensive-minded center who is solid on faceoffs.

Boyle has plenty of postseason experience that the Maple Leafs, the the second-youngest team in the NHL, can desperately use as well. He’s appeared in 100 postseason games with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Lightning over his 10-year career, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Boyle is expected to be in the lineup on Tuesday when the Maple Leafs begin a three-game road trip against the San Jose Sharks.

No player is more important to his team’s success than McDavid. After missing 37 games with a broken collarbone last season, he has developed into not only the top young player in the NHL, but maybe even the game’s best player.

McDavid led the league in points (100) and assists (70). He’s is in the middle of everything the Oilers do. He was involved in a league-leading 41.1 percent of the Oilers’ goals this season. That’s four percentage points more than the second-best rate Kane contributed.

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I’ll give this one a solid B- because it makes a little sense for both teams.

Except there are a couple of catches. The first is that the Cubs already have five starting pitchers with a recent history of success. And while it’s easy for me to write, Just kick Lackey out of the rotation!, it’s a little trickier to convince the Cubs to give up some of their best prospects to do that, especially when they’ve just given up two of their best prospects to get Quintana.

The second catch is that Darvish is a rental, and he would possibly leave after the season, along with Arrieta and Lackey, with no obvious replacement ready within the organization. While the trade would also serve as a recruiting period for Darvish, who might be the Cubs’ preferred target anyway, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be hard for them to give up top prospects for two months of the regular season and however much postseason they’ll get to enjoy.

Lynn has quietly been one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball, with an adjusted ERA of 130 (2.99 ERA) over his last three seasons combined. He’s almost certainly better than Jason Hammel and Ian Kennedy, the two starters the Royals dumped money on during their last win-now frenzy, and he isn’t likely to cost something silly, like Hunter Dozier.

If the Royals aren’t going to win for a while, they probably wouldn’t mind giving up some prospects from the middle of their top 10 for a three-month rental who could help them get back to the postseason.

On the other hand, they’re just .500 and they’ll have a dozen holes to fill this offseason. Every young, cheap player is sacred.

I’ll give this one a solid B- because it makes a little sense for both teams. It loses points for a) not being mentioned in the danged article at all, and b) that part where the Royals dip into their farm system right the season before they’ll need their farm system more than ever.

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