Joey Logano's Last Lap Move on Martin Truex Jr. at Martinsville is Far From Dirty Given Circumstances
by Julian Spivey
Almost proving you can’t have anything nice in the sport of NASCAR, the final lap at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 28 was one of the most epic final laps in the entire history of the sport but left many within the sport and its fans torn as to whether it was fair or dirty.
In the final laps of the race 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. was racing leader Joey Logano for the race win and as both are in the final eight of the playoffs a win would give each driver an automatic bid to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in mid-November.
Truex Jr. raced Logano hard, but rarely contacted the No. 22 Ford driver in the waning laps of the race before finally making the pass for the lead. There’s no doubt that Truex Jr. raced Logano cleanly, but on the final lap of a race, particularly a short-track race where it’s hard to pass without making contact, and in a race whether the winner makes it to the championship race drivers should and most would do almost anything for the win. Even if a championship bid wasn’t on the line, most would do whatever it took to see Victory Lane.
Knowing he would have to get a little physical with Truex Jr. if he wanted to win the race and make it to Miami, Logano gave Truex Jr. the customary bump out of the way and then as the two were coming to the finish line they made contact at the door with both losing control of their cars. Logano had just enough control to reach the finish line before a hard charging Denny Hamlin in third place could take advantage of the contact between Logano and Truex Jr. and steal a win.
The final lap was epic. But, Truex Jr. felt it was a dirty move by Logano stating in an interview after the race: “[He] may have won the battle, but he ain’t going to win the damn war.” And, “What goes around comes around.” Maybe, NASCAR drivers need to learn some new clichés. Also, Truex Jr. needs to get more physical if he wants to win some of these hard fought races on skill and ability instead of relying simply on fast speed. These were the quotes of someone who doesn’t like the old “rubbing is racing” adage that’s been acceptable in NASCAR almost as long as there has been a sport. It could also be proof as to why Truex Jr. has the most wins of any NASCAR driver who has never won a short track race.
Logano didn’t dump Truex Jr. on the final lap of the race, as we have seen from drivers in the past like Hamlin on Chase Elliott just last year, but rather raced him in the manner that has come to define great short track races within the history of the sport. The last lap of Martinsville on Sunday is why fans and people within the sport are both begging for more short tracks on the Cup Series schedule. Logano’s move was physical, it was aggressive, but it was far from “dirty.”
But, because Logano is likely one of the two most hated drivers within the sport (along with the perpetually booed Kyle Busch) there were a lot of fans, both at the track yesterday and on social media, that didn’t like the move. If it had been a move made by Kyle Larson, as we saw at Chicagoland back in July, the stands and social media wouldn’t exploded into uproarious applause and cheers.
Today we should be talking about how great the finish of Martinsville was for the sport of NASCAR, but instead we’re split on whether or not it was a “dirty” final lap of racing. Sometimes with this sport we just need to enjoy the moments that made many of us love it in the first place.
by Julian Spivey
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger struck out in his lone at-bat in game five of the 2018 World Series on Sunday, Oct. 28 in a pinch hit appearance in the eighth inning when the Dodgers desperately needed to mount a comeback to extend the series. The K dropped his series batting average to .063 and was a predictable ending to Bellinger’s World Series.
Cody Bellinger is the worst postseason player I’ve ever seen in over 20 years of watching baseball. He’s probably one of the worst, if not the worst, postseason players in baseball history.
Bellinger, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, has appeared in the World Series in both of his MLB seasons and in his first last year he set a record by striking out 17 times (59 percent of his time at bat) in a seven game series and hit just .143 against the Houston Astros. This year he only struck out six times in his 16 at-bats, as he’s been turned into a platoon player in Dave Roberts’ splits heavy offense, but that’s still 38 percent of his time at the plate. Even when he wasn’t striking out against the Boston Red Sox he wasn’t getting on base, with just one hit and no walks in the series. He also made a huge baserunning blunder in the marathon game three that the Dodgers would end up winning anyway.
Bellinger’s postseason batting average through two seasons (30 games) is .174 and it’s mostly that high because of a good 2017 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. In three series this postseason he hit a measly .118, but somehow managed to be named the NLCS MVP against the Milwaukee Brewers pretty much solely for a big three-run homer, despite being right at the Mendoza line for that series.
Watching Bellinger perform in the postseason and especially the World Series was infuriating and this is from an objective party who just wanted to see good baseball. I can’t imagine how Dodgers fans feel about him right now.
The most annoying factor is that Bellinger has been a very solid player for the Dodgers in his first two seasons, being named to an All Star team and winning Rookie of the Year in 2017 and hitting 64 homers and driving in 173 runs in his first 294 games of his career. In those two seasons he hit a solid .263.
The only thing I can think of for Bellinger’s postseason struggles is he’s just in his head with baseball’s version of the yips. Maybe he’s trying too hard? But, it’s been very painful to watch over these last two postseasons.
Can you think of a postseason player who’s ever been this bad?
by Julian Spivey
The Boston Red Sox were the class of the American League all season winning 108 games. The high-powered offense led by Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez was the biggest factor in the Red Sox success and both are deserving of Most Valuable Player votes.
This would be my A.L. MVP ballot if I got a vote …
5. Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians)
The Cleveland Indians have the luxury of having two of the best infielders in all of baseball in third baseman Jose Ramirez and shortstop Francisco Lindor and either could be interchangeable on this ballot. Ramirez and Lindor’s number were almost identical this season, but I’m giving the edge to Ramirez because he drove in 14 more runs and had a higher on-base percentage. Ramirez was tied with Lindor for the fourth best WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in the A.L. at 7.9. He also was fourth in the A.L. in RBI with 105 and fourth in total bases.
4. Alex Bregman (Houston Astros)
Over the last few years, including during their championship run last year, Jose Altuve was the spark plug for the Houston Astros, but he suffered from some injuries this year. Third baseman Alex Bregman stepped right in as the spark plug for this dynamic offense hitting .286, with 31 homers, 103 RBI (fifth in the league, 170 hits (eighth in the league) and led the A.L. with 51 doubles.
3. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
Typically, I don’t really like to see players whose teams weren’t even in playoff contention toward the top of a Most Valuable Player ballot, but the fact is Mike Trout is so damn good you just can’t leave him off. It was somewhat of a down year for Trout and he still hit .312 (fourth in the league), 39 homers (fourth in the league), led the league in on-base percentage and walks and was second in WAR at 10.2, behind only Mookie Betts.
2. J.D. Martinez (Boston Red Sox)
There are some out there who think it’s near impossible for a designated hitter to win a Most Valuable Player award, but when they have the type of offensive numbers that J.D. Martinez did for the Boston Red Sox this year I really don’t think they should be excluded just because they only play one facet of the game. Martinez was an RBI machine this year with a league leading 130. Martinez was also second in baseball with 43 home runs, he led the A.L. in total bases, was second in hits, second in hitting and third in on-base percentage. It just so happens he was only the second best player on his own team.
1. Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox)
Mookie Betts was hot right out of the gates for the Boston Red Sox in 2018 and he never really slowed down, even with a disabled list stint. Betts led all of baseball this season in WAR at 10.9. He was also the leading hitter in the game with a .346 average. Betts hit 32 homers, drove in 80 and was in the top 10 in the A.L. in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, total bases, doubles, walks, runs scored and stolen bases. Betts also plays a gold glove outfield.
by Julian Spivey
For the majority of the season there wasn't a clear front runner for National League Most Valuable Player, but that pretty much changed over the last month of the season with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich powering his team to the N.L. Central Division title.
While Yelich is pretty much a shoo-in at this point for N.L. MVP this is how my top five would look if I had an MVP vote …
5. Jacob deGrom (New York Mets)
Jacob deGrom had one of the most dominant seasons of any pitcher in baseball history, though you wouldn’t really know it simply by looking at his won/loss record of 10-9. But, in today’s game of matchups the win/loss doesn’t mean as much as it once did. deGrom’s 1.70 earned run average is the lowest since Zack Greinke’s 1.66 ERA for the Dodgers in 2015 and the second lowest in more than two decades. He should be a lock for N.L. Cy Young with his 269 strikeouts (second to Max Scherzer) added in.
4. Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs)
Chicago Cubs middle infielder Javier Baez might be the most exciting player in all of baseball to watch play the game, especially defensively, but he became the all-around superstar the Cubs had hoped for this season with 34 homers, a league leading 111 RBI, a .291 batting average and a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 6.3 (third in the league).
3. Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
The biggest surprise in the National League this year was the N.L. East Division winning Atlanta Braves. The Braves had a handful of guys step up this year who could potentially garner MVP votes like rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. and Nick Markakis, but as always, the team was led by veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman, who lead the league with 191 hits, was fourth with a 6.1 WAR and third in the league with a .309 average. Freeman also hit 23 homers and drove in 98 runs.
2. Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies)
It seems annually now that Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado comes up just short of winning National League MVP and I see it happening again this season. He’s one of the biggest offensive threats in baseball (though likely aided some by home games at Coors Field) and some say he could be the greatest defender ever seen at the hot corner. Arenado led the NL in home runs this season with 38. Arenado was fifth in WAR, 10th in average, second in RBI and top 10 in hits, doubles, total bases and runs scored.
1. Christian Yelich (Milwaukee Brewers)
Christian Yelich proved to be the biggest acquisition of the last offseason when the Brewers acquired him from the Miami Marlins, as he led the upstart Brewers offense to a division title. Yelich’s second half was so fantastic that he came just one RBI and two homers shy of winning the National League’s first Triple Crown since before WWII. Yelich ran away with the N.L. batting title, hitting .326. He also led the N.L. in WAR at 7.4, led the league in slugging percentage, total bases and was only one run behind leading the league in runs scored. He should enjoy his first MVP at season’s end.