Arizona safety Budda Baker had a tremendous outing on Sunday, recording 15 tackles while leading the Cardinals to a 24-20 win against the San Francisco 49ers.
Baker, however, received some awful direct messages from a 49ers fan after the game — something San Francisco quickly condemned on Tuesday.
Baker receives horrific, racist direct messages
Baker shared a screenshot of three messages he received on Instagram, all of which contained multiple racial slurs.
The messages can be seen here, however they are extremely NSFW.
“I’m all good with opposing fans talking trash,” Baker wrote on Twitter. “But this right here man. All you can do is pray for people like this.”
The person who wrote them appeared to blame Baker for San Francisco tight end George Kittle’s knee injury. Baker tackled Kittle late in the first half on Sunday, which sent him limping to the sidelines and out of the game briefly.
The play was perfectly legal, and Kittle later returned to finish the game. He is questionable for their matchup against the New York Jets on Sunday.
The 49ers issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the racist messages. The team is investigating to determine who sent the messages. The account has since been deleted or removed from Instagram.
“The San Francisco 49ers unequivocally denounce the racist messages sent to Budda Baker,” the team said in a statement. “The individual who sent the messages does not represent the 49ers or the Faithful. Per team policy, we are working to identify this person and will ban them from all 49ers games and events.
“Incidents like this demonstrate how much work remains to be done to address racism and hate in our society. We remain steadfast in our commitment to that work.”
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2020 French Open women’s draw, bracket
If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.
Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.
Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.
If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.
Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.
The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.
Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.
The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.
FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule
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2020 French Open women’s draw, bracket originally appeared on NBCSports.com
Why Angels, Phillies miss playoffs despite star power
Mike Trout is not going to play in the postseason this year, barring a miracle. Even in a 2020 season where MLB expanded the field from 10 teams to 16, the Los Angeles Angels have not been able to ride the best baseball player in the world into playoff position.
At the helm for five seasons now, Angels GM Billy Eppler has never fielded a team with a winning record despite adding Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and, just this year, Anthony Rendon. The 16-team format seemed like an open invitation to the Angels specifically. And yet, their playoff odds sit at 1.4 percent entering Thursday — requiring a complete meltdown by the Houston Astros — and realistic hopes faded a while ago.
A similar, if less dire, predicament is playing out in Philadelphia, where the Phillies are clawing for a postseason berth. A cavalcade of splashy acquisitions led by Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto is on the outside looking in with three games to play — with interlopers like the San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins riding in the catbird’s seat.
GM Matt Klentak took over the same year Eppler arrived in L.A., prior to 2016, overseeing a rebuilding effort that soon kicked into win-now mode, luring Harper, Realmuto, Jake Arrieta and Zack Wheeler. That raised expectations, and a coin flip’s chance at being one of the NL’s eight best teams isn’t cutting it.
For better or worse, we are accustomed to baseball operations leaders being pushed out over large investments gone wrong. If 2020 disappointment claims Eppler or Klentak’s jobs, though, that won’t be the logic.
In his new Angels uniform, Rendon remains a perpetual force. Harper’s fame outstrips his production, but he’s been one of the game’s best 25 or so hitters. Wheeler is posting a career-best 2.67 ERA in his first season in Philly, and there is literal clamoring in the streets to keep Realmuto. As for Trout, he of the historic early career and $426.5 million extension, he’s probably only being kept from his perch atop the WAR leaderboard by time limitations.
Instead, the questions hovering over the Phillies and Angels arise from confusion. There are stars. They are performing more or less as expected. There are, as usual, a handful of teams that aren’t even trying right now. How could it be that these star-studded rosters can’t win?
Pitch and catch
The problems holding back the 2020 Angels and Phillies are not confusing, in a vacuum: They can’t pitch and they can’t field.
Los Angeles has two reliable if unspectacular starters and another rounding into form, followed by a spin cycle of horror outings. The Phillies have two starters who will get Cy Young votes, a reasonable back of the rotation, and one of the worst bullpens anyone has ever seen.
Both are bottom five defensive teams by every major metric. The Angels allow the fifth-most runs per game, and the Phillies the seventh-most.
It is possible that in a 162-game season, either team could get over a bout with giving up literally all the runs and storm into contention. The 2019 Nationals, you may recall, were 19-31 after 50 games thanks to a disastrous bullpen. And all those pitchers who make for difficult Sporcle quizzes, they keep coming up when you try to answer the quandary of how stars miss out on October.
Chasms in the win column start out as chasms in dealing with moments. Baseball teams, of course, only get to choose their fighter when they are pitching.
High-leverage situations — at-bats where games have the most potential to shift — offer a revealing if chaotic glimpse into what happens when teams are making their biggest choices. And across baseball, these moments are increasingly handled by relief pitchers. In 2015, the year before Eppler and Klentak took their current posts, starting pitchers still faced 40 percent of high-leverage batters. By 2019, that number was down to 28.5 percent. And this season so far, it’s at 27.5 percent.
So the seemingly fungible, here-today-gone-tomorrow arms who couldn’t possibly be as important as Trout or Harper or Realmuto, they are largely responsible for a huge portion of a team’s season-defining performances. This year, the Phillies are allowing a league-worst .318/.397/.529 slash line in those crucial spots — that’s 43⅔ innings worth. The Angels aren’t doing a whole lot better, .285/.354/.492 in 50 innings. Meanwhile, the nameless Tampa Bay Rays have suffocated opponents with a .171/.256/.257 line.
The difference in Mike Trout making the playoffs and not? It’s in there somewhere, built from an unsatisfying pile of broken bullpen innings.
The anonymous difference-makers
An MLB franchise’s competence just cannot be gleaned from a snapshot of its best players.
This has always been true in baseball, where there are 25 or more players on each team and fundamental rules that spread impact relatively evenly across those players. But even that truth has been exacerbated in recent years, perhaps to the detriment of the game’s narrative potential. And certainly to the disdain of front offices and fans hoping a shiny new star would instantly usher in an era of prosperity.
The Angels and Phillies? Exhibits A and B of how a star’s influence over wins and losses has been dimmed even further by shifts in baseball orthodoxy.
Variance and injury luck shape every baseball season, but the Angels’ continued mediocrity, in particular, seems to highlight a less-than-invigorating truth about what makes winning baseball teams: Having Trout be personally worth one or two more wins than any other individual player is maybe only equally as important as having workable backup plans spring from the woodwork a la the Dodgers and Yankees. Or learning to summon go-to arms from the ether like the Rays or Indians.
Moneyball and fantasy sports and the deluge of publicly available statistics have made it far more common for fans to identify with, root for and discuss GMs. But the successes and failures that swing seasons are descending further below the surface. Even as a state of play that does reward strategy and real talent, it could reasonably be called a concern for MLB. (The league’s proposed or implemented rule changes certainly nod in that direction.)
It makes the standings confounding to casual fans, and the thrust of a team’s fortunes impenetrable to even the most attuned observers.
Why can’t Mike Trout make the playoffs if you say he’s so good? Well, you see …
The Angels and Phillies, in other words, would be infuriating as TV shows.
The main characters are providing their usual heroics, yet their sides suffer grisly defeats. Because, turns out, the faceless army behind them is 15 percent less effective than the other faceless armies, and that is very important.
With new GMs and revamped personnel and practices behind the scenes, beyond what the eye can see during a game, Trout and Harper may well lead teams to October, and soon. The wins and losses might start to feel like they make sense again.
The changes, should they come to fruition, may even somehow be attributed to the stars. In reality, the supporting cast was the problem and the solution all along.
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PFT’s Week Three picks
MDS is building an early-season lead. As he seems to always do.
Last week, MDS nailed 14 of 16 games straight up, and 11 of 16 against the spread. I did well but not well enough, with a 13-3 record straight up and 9-7 ATS.
For the year, MDS has a record of 24-8 straight up, and 21-11 against the spread. I’m 21-11 and 16-16, respectively.
For this week’s picks, scroll away.
Dolphins (+3) at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The NFL is not exactly putting its best foot forward with the early slate of Thursday night games, but the Jaguars have at least looked like a more competitive team than most were expecting. Gardner Minshew will continue making the case that Jacksonville doesn’t need to find its franchise quarterback, because he’s already there.
MDS’s pick: Jaguars 27, Dolphins 20.
Florio’s take: The Jaguars have become a pleasant surprise, even if not many have noticed. On Thursday night, they’ll have a chance to get the nation’s attention.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 27, Dolphins 20.
Titans (-2.5) at Vikings
MDS’s take: The Vikings may be the NFL’s most disappointing team so far this season. Ryan Tannehill will continue his strong early-season showing as Minnesota falls to 0-3.
MDS’s pick: Titans 30, Vikings 20.
Florio’s take: The Titans have played too well to barely win two games. This week, they’re getting a team that suddenly have plummeted from contender to pretender to pathetic.
Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Vikings 10.
Bears (+4) at Falcons
MDS’s take: The Bears are 2-0 and the Falcons are 0-2, but that may say more about the quality of the team’s they’ve played than anything else. The Falcons will get their first win on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 23, Bears 20.
Florio’s take: The Bears have been living on the edge. The Falcons have been dying on the edge. A correction is in order.
Florio’s pick: Falcon 31, Bears 27.
Bengals (+5.5) at Eagles
MDS’s take: Carson Wentz has looked like a mess so far this season. I’m not expecting him to look great, but he should be better against a suspect Bengals Defense.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Bengals 21.
Florio’s take: I’m buying Joe Burrow, and I’m selling the Eagles. Until they lose enough games to finally wake up.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, Eagles 21.
Washington (+7) at Browns
MDS’s take: Washington’s defensive front has talent, but I see the Browns running on them in a low-scoring and fairly unexciting game.
MDS’s pick: Browns 20, Washington 7.
Florio’s take: Baker Mayfield struggled against a great defense, and he picked apart a less-than-great one. To avoid a repeat of Week One, the Browns need to run to set up the run, and then run some more.
Florio’s pick: Browns 20, Washington 17.
49ers (-4) at Giants
MDS’s take: Both teams are struggling with injuries right now, but the 49ers have a roster that can overcome those injuries. The Giants do not.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 31, Giants 14.
Florio’s take: Both teams have endured major injuries, with the 49ers taking even more of a pounding.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 24, Giants 13.
Texans (+4) at Steelers
MDS’s take: The Texans aren’t as bad as they look, but they’ve been handed a brutal early schedule. They’ll fall to 0-3 on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 20, Texans 17.
Florio’s take: The Steelers took too long to put the Giants away, and the Steelers allowed the Broncos to hang around too long. The offense should be better this week as Ben Roethlisberger gets more comfortable, and the Texans continue to navigate a who-did-they-piss-off? early-season schedule.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 23, Texans 17.
Rams (+2.5) at Bills
MDS’s take: Josh Allen is going to keep throwing downfield, and if he can use his feet to get away from Aaron Donald, the Rams are going to have a hard time stopping him.
MDS’s pick: Bills 31, Rams 28.
Florio’s take: The Rams have rebuilt on the fly, and they’re better than many expected them to be. The Bills are too good, however, and the L.A. to Philly to L.A. to Buffalo travel demand won’t help.
Florio’s pick: Bills 27, Rams 23.
Raiders (+6) at Patriots
MDS’s take: Las Vegas is 2-0, but a long road trip on a short work week is going to make this a tough one.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Raiders 24.
Florio’s take: The Patriots are for real. The Raiders eventually could be. For now, though, winning at New England is too much to expect from the most unlikely 2-0 team in the AFC.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Raiders 20.
Jets (+11) at Colts
MDS’s take: I’m not sure I’d pick the Jets to beat anyone right now. Sam Darnold is playing better than people think, but he’s not getting much help.
MDS’s pick: Colts 20, Jets 10.
Florio’s take: The Jets’ roster still needs more pieces before it can compete, much less contend. And the Colts have picked up plenty of confidence after last week’s shredding of the Vikings.
Florio’s pick: Colts 27, Jets 13.
Panthers (+6.5) at Chargers
MDS’s take: This Panthers team is playing hard for first-year coach Matt Rhule, but right now the roster just isn’t good enough. The Chargers will cruise to an easy win.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Panthers 14.
Florio’s take: Justin Herbert in, Christian McCaffrey out. Chargers on their way.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 24, Panthers 13.
Buccaneers (-6) at Broncos
MDS’s take: If the Broncos were at full strength I’d probably pick them to win this one, but they have so many injuries I just can’t see them winning.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 17, Broncos 14.
Florio’s take: Mile High Stadium has been a house of horrors for Tom Brady. He’s never faced a Broncos team with so little punch, however, given the home team’s rash of injuries.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 20, Broncos 13.
Cowboys (+5) at Seahawks
MDS’s take: Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson will both have big games, but Wilson will do just a little more, in a matchup that I have a funny feeling we’ll see again in January.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 31, Cowboys 27.
Florio’s take: This one could be a shootout, given that both teams have great offenses and work-in-progress defenses. The Seahawks currently have made more progress on both sides of the ball.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 30, Cowboys 21.
Lions (+5.5) at Cardinals
MDS’s take: The Cardinals’ offense looks fresh and exciting, and the Lions’ defense looks stale. It’s hard for me to believe Kyler Murray won’t have a very big game.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 35, Lions 21.
Florio’s take: The Lions won’t have to worry about blowing another double-digit lead this week.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 31, Lions 21.
Packers (+3) at Saints
MDS’s take: If I were a Saints fan I’d be worried about Drew Brees‘s arm, as he’s throwing short passes almost exclusively. And yet I think the Saints’ defense matches up pretty well with Aaron Rodgers, and so I think the Saints can pull out a close win here.
MDS’s pick: Saints 17, Packers 16.
Florio’s take: The warning signs are blinking quickly as to the potential decline of the Saints. Throw in a short week and a trip back from Vegas and a Packers team firing on each and every cylinder, and this one has a chance to get ugly.
Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Saints 23.
Chiefs (+3.5) at Ravens
MDS’s take: These look like the two best teams in the league right now, in a monster of a prime time game. I’ll pick Lamar Jackson to make one more big play than Patrick Mahomes.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 28, Chiefs 21.
Florio’s take: If the Kansas City defense was shredded by a rookie in his first start, it could be facing even more problems against the defending MVP, whose passing keeps getting better and better.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 27, Chiefs 24.
PFT’s Week Three picks originally appeared on Pro Football Talk
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