By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and in a deserved yet surprising move, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim designated veteran Albert Pujols for assignment. In the final season of a disastrous ten-year deal, Pujols has been among the worst hitters in baseball this season, and frankly, for many years leading up to 2021. Since 2017, Pujols has appeared in 460 games, completed 1934 plate appearances, and accumulated a dismal .240/.289/.405 batting line. Pujols’s contract will go down as one of the worst in baseball history. It would be shocking to see the future Hall of Famer generate much interest on the open market.
George Springer’s first season with the Toronto Blue Jays has gotten off to a rough start. The veteran outfielder has appeared in a mere four games this season, landing on the IL on Wednesday days after being activated. Springer’s status to return remains unclear, though there is every indication to believe he’ll be out into June. On the plus side for the Blue Jays, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. appears to have blossomed into a star. Guerrero is hitting .330/.465/.592 on the season, with 26 walks compared to only 22 strikeouts.
Left-hander John Means put his name in the record books with a dazzling no-hitter on Wednesday afternoon. Means racked up 12 strikeouts, and the lone blemish on his ledger was when a wild pitch led to a batter reaching first base following a strikeout. On the season, Means boasts a 4-0 record to go with a dazzling 1.37 ERA and an equally impressive 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Means has been among the best pitchers in baseball through the first five weeks of the 2021 season.
In the NBA, Lakers All-Star big man Anthony Davis rolled his ankle during an eventual loss to the Clippers, though he seems to have escaped significant injury. Despite post-game intentions to suit up for tonight’s pivotal tilt against the Blazers, L.A. has to be cautious with Davis, who has had his season derailed by ailments. The Lakers and Blazers are tied at 37-29, and the winner of tonight’s game will possess the tie-breaker. Considering the two teams are battling to avoid the play-in tournament, tonight’s match-up is a must-win game for both teams and a must-watch showdown for basketball fans.
Dallas defeated the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night, staying a game ahead of the Lakers and Blazers in the Western Conference standings. The Mavericks are well-positioned to avoid the play-in tournament with a cupcake remaining schedule. Dallas has six games left to play, two against the Cavaliers this weekend and match-ups against the sinking Raptors and lottery-bound Timberwolves to close out the season. The Mavericks seem poised for either a first-round date with the Denver Nuggets or a rematch of last year’s epic series with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Lost in Dallas’s win over Brooklyn is the continued struggles of the Nets without James Harden. Brooklyn is now 7-8 in games with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and no Harden. Out since April 5, Harden’s importance to the Nets is becoming abundantly clear. With Brooklyn amid a four-game losing streak, the Nets are no longer thinking about finishing the season atop the standings, merely staying out of the three-seed to avoid a first-round date with either Boston or Miami. Milwaukee has won four straight, including two over the Nets, and enter the weekend a mere half-game behind Brooklyn. The Bucks, with a game against Houston on tap, could move into the two-seed tonight.
Speaking of Brooklyn’s potential first-round date, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat enter the weekend at 35-31, positioned in the sixth and seventh seed in the conference. Boston currently owns the tie-breaker, which puts the Heat into the play-in tournament. However, the two teams will meet twice in the coming days, with a back-to-back scheduled for Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night. To avoid the play-in, Miami will either need to win both to secure the advantage over Boston or finish the season ahead of the Celtics in the standings. The three other slots in the play-in tournament are decided with Charlotte, Indiana, and Washington merely jockeying for positioning.