Day 2: What happens next in sports after protests, postponements?

Wednesday correctly has been called a historic day in sports after 14 games across four different leagues were postponed by athletes protesting and showing solidarity in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Kenosha, Wis.

Welcome to Thursday: History, Part II. Things don’t figure to get any less interesting today. Indeed, even by the morning there were already indications that big news would continue to unfold. Here is a glance at some topics relevant to various leagues as we try to sort out what happens next in sports:

*The NBA, which started the domino effect Wednesday when the Bucks walked out on their scheduled playoff game against the Magic, seems to have the most at stake and the potential for a prolonged shutdown.

The league’s board of governors and players reportedly are meeting separately Thursday morning to sort out their next steps. Of particular note: The Lakers and Clippers, two of the favorites to win the NBA title and homes to stars LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, reportedly voted Wednesday to end the season while other teams want to keep going.

But talks continued Thursday, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that players voted to resume the playoffs at some point. There will be no games Thursday, though, he reported.

*Several NFL teams have already called off or postponed practices Thursday, including the Jets, Colts, Washington, Packers, Bears and Jaguars. In a sign of cross-rivalry solidarity, former Vikings great Cris Carter tweeted in support of Green Bay postponing its practice.

While this is just practice, it is notable in a condensed NFL offseason that features zero preseason games. With the season set to open two weeks from tonight, it will be interesting to see how this story plays out in the most popular and richest sports league in the U.S.

College football news is starting to trickle out as well, with Boston College already calling off Thursday practice for social justice reasons.

*The WNBA presented a unified voice Wednesday as players decided as a group not to play any of the three scheduled games. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she woke up Wednesday morning thinking they might not be playing because of rumblings that the NBA might not play — and the likelihood that the WNBA would follow their lead.

In that context, it would be hard to imagine the WNBA playing Thursday (three scheduled games) with the NBA reportedly not playing. To Reeve, though, the next 24 hours or the prospect of when the league returns to playing are of far less consequence than the big picture of why players aren’t playing in the first place. The next scheduled Lynx game is 6 p.m. Friday against Atlanta.

“You know what they don’t care about? Just playing basketball. That’s first and foremost,” Reeve said about players in a Wednesday evening video call with the media. “I can tell you that those who might suggest playing basketball is something we should focus on or the fear of losing TV money and our owners losing money and therefore our league being in jeopardy … that’s not going to work. They’re focused on what can we do to help our communities, to help our families, so that we can live safely and live the same as white people. That’s what their focus is on. If we play basketball … you can bet that our mind isn’t 100% on basketball.”

*MLB was an interesting and somewhat disjointed test case. Of the 15 scheduled games, three were postponed after players involved in those games took a stand. Other games carried on despite individual players opting out of playing.

The Twins-Cleveland game felt like business as usual, which was strange in and of itself.

It sounds as though players plan to return to action Thursday, contrary to what is expected to happen in other leagues. Writes Jeff Passan: “Even if the teams return as expected after a one-day absence, the consequences of Aug. 26 won’t go away anytime soon.

*Major League Soccer saw five of its six matches postponed, with the earliest one between Nashville and Orlando carrying on before the others were scrapped after a majority of players and teams didn’t want to play as a sign of protest.

MLS doesn’t have any matches scheduled Thursday and has just one Friday before a busy eight-match slate Saturday — including a Minnesota United match against Dallas. It’s unclear at this point if there will be further postponements. What is clear is that players want to make sure they are in control of the narrative regarding why this is happening.

*The NHL barely did anything Wednesday as the playoff bubble games went on. The inaction is noticed by players — including the Wild’s Matt Dumba — and the league is getting criticism for it. Perhaps that will spur a different league response Thursday?

“NHL is always last to the party on these topics,” Dumba told Sportsnet 650 Wednesday evening, per Yahoo.com. “It’s kind of sad and disheartening for me and members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance and I’m sure for other guys across the league. But if no one stands up and does anything, then it’s the same thing. That silence. You’re just outside, looking in on actually being leaders and evoking real change when you have such an opportunity to do so.”

Dumba is on the Hockey Diversity Alliance. So is the Sharks’ Evander Kane. Around noon Thursday, Kane tweeted that the alliance wants the NHL to postpone games Thursday.

Players are being told to be ready for that very thing, according to one prominent Canadian hockey journalist:

Dumba and Kane’s strong comments are a good reminder of the unifying theme across sports: young athletes are unafraid to speak their minds and back up their words with actions.

“This generation of players is unafraid,” Reeve said.

New Wild goalie coach has huge task after 2019-20 struggles

In announcing two weeks ago that the Wild was parting ways with longtime goalie coach Bob Mason, general manager Bill Guerin managed to be blunt while still taking the high road.

“He had an incredible run here,” Guerin said of Mason, who had been with the Wild since 2002 and overseen when in many years was a position of strength. “I have nothing negative to say about him. Sometimes you just need change, and at that position we needed a change.”

The reason? Well, again Guerin didn’t mince words as he assessed the play of Alex Stalock, Devan Dubnyk and the position overall.

“Al had a tremendous year and Devan had an off year, and it needs to be better,” Guerin said. “That’s just the way it is. And if I told you anything different, I’d be lying to you. It was not a strong point for us.”

 

On Wednesday, the Wild announced Mason’s replacement: Frederic Chabot — formerly a professional goalie and formerly an NHL goalie coach with the Oilers — was promoted from his job with the AHL’s Iowa Wild.

Interestingly, Chabot’s time with the Oilers from 2009-14 coincided with the early part of Dubnyk’s career when he made 157 starts for the Oilers. Getting more out of Dubnyk — who is entering the final year of his contract next season with a $4.33 million salary — could be the Wild’s easiest path from fringe playoff team to more sturdy ground.

The No. 1 goalie job looks to be up for grabs, and it’s possible the Wild could look outside the organization or to fill that job with a promotion from Iowa as well. Chabot has overseen the development of Kaapo Kahkonen, who posted a 25-6-3 record, a .927 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average in Iowa last season while posting an AHL-best seven shutouts. Kahkonen made five starts for Minnesota, going 3-1-1 with a 2.96 GAA last season.

Without a clear No. 1 — a spot that was Dubnyk’s for a long time, evolved into Stalock’s role last season and could be anyone’s next season — Chabot will have his work cut out in turning a weakness into a strength.

But perhaps in delving into just how much of a weakness it was last year we can see how even being average would be a big boost for the Wild next year. Here are three key stats that tell the story:

*Quality start percentage: This is kind of an old-school way to try to describe something in a new way, and as such it sometimes feels as arbitrary as the “quality start” stat attached to baseball pitchers. But at a baseline this stat — defined as a start in which a goalie has a save percentage above the league average or at least 88.5% if he faces fewer than 20 shots — tells you if a goalie gave his team a chance to win.

Wild goalies delivered quality starts in just 31 of their 69 regular season games — around 45% of the time. League average for this stat is around 53%.

Stalock was right around league average at 52.8% for the season, but he delivered a quality start in just one of his four play-in games as the Wild made a quick exit from the Edmonton bubble.

Also, it’s rather telling of the expectations of Stalock that Guerin would say he had a “tremendous” year when he was basically average. For as well as he played at times, Stalock probably isn’t the top goalie on a contending team. He was signed as a backup and is under contract for two more seasons. In that role he is fine.

Dubnyk, whose early-season struggles in particular coincided with major health concerns for his wife, Jenn, which led him to leave the team for a stretch, had just nine quality starts out of 28 — a dismal 32%.

*High-danger save percentage: As a function of a commitment to a certain style, the Wild allowed — per Natural Stat Trick — the fewest “high danger chances” of any team in the league in 5-on-5 play. That’s a bit of a subjective notion since it is determined primarily by shot location and whether it was a rebound, but the Wild was the best at not allowing premium chances at even strength.

But when opponents did get high-danger chances in 5-on-5 play, Wild goalies saved the shots just 77% of the time — the worst mark in the league. In short: Wild goalies weren’t asked to bail out their defensemen very often at even strength, but when they were asked they were not up to the task often enough.

*Expected goals against: Perhaps not surprisingly based on that last number, the Wild allowed 141 goals in 5-on-5 play.

But according to Hockey Reference, they would have been expected to allow 121 goals in 5-on-5 play based on the league average of goals scored from the locations of shots. Those 20 extra goals over 69 games are a big deal and are another example of subpar goaltending.

How Chabot goes about trying to improve on those numbers, in concert with Guerin and head coach Dean Evason, remains to be seen.

Perhaps identifying the question will be as important as the answer: Was the problem with the Wild’s goaltending a function of technique? Or perhaps approach? Or was it more a function of the ability levels of the goalies themselves?

 

Twins vs. Cleveland vs. White Sox drama would have been great, but …

The American League Central, halfway through this truncated 60-game Major League Baseball season, has been everything that was advertised.

The Twins, at 20-11, are leading the division after starting the year as presumptive front-runners following last season’s 101-win effort. Cleveland is right behind them at 18-12, relying heavily on pitching to stay in contention. The White Sox, who looked much-improved on paper coming into the season, are also 18-12 — using a combination of power and star pitching to achieve that mark.

(And yes, the Royals and Tigers are still very bad).

In a normal season, we might have been setting up for a months-long division race full of tension, twists and turns. Tuesday would have been one of those nights to circle in retrospect, with Cleveland rallying to defeat the Twins 4-2 while Lucas Giolito threw the season’s first no-hitter in a White Sox victory.

It still had a little bit of that special feeling, but unfortunately like so much in recent months its edge has been dulled significantly by the constraints necessitated by playing through a pandemic.

There’s basically just a month left of this regular season, and there will still be some theater to absorb as the Twins play Cleveland four more times (including Wednesday night) and the White Sox seven more times.

But when the dust settles, all three teams are very likely to make it into the expanded playoffs in which eight teams from each league are granted entry.

Baseball Reference gives the Twins a 99.8% chance of making it; Cleveland sits at 99.0% and Chicago at 94.4%. There look to be seven very good teams in the AL right now, and three of them are in the Central. The eighth team might make the postseason with a record around .500.

The postseason seeding is a true 1-8, with the three division winners and best second-place team getting the top four seeds. All that gets you this year, though, is home field advantage for all three games of a best-of-three opening round — probably in a stadium filled with cardboard cutouts and little else.

Sure, there’s some value there. But if the conventional wisdom was that a 60-game season would make every game matter more the playoff format could have the opposite effect down the stretch. Would it be more valuable for the Twins to grind through the final month and try to win every game possible … or would there be more value in rest, recovery and the sorting out of the pitching staff knowing that a playoff berth is all but certain?

Maybe after last year’s tension-filled August and September a coast to the finish wouldn’t feel so bad on the nerves of Twins fans. There is some comfort in the math essentially telling us that 998 out of 1,000 times, given present circumstances and the future schedule, the Twins will be making a return trip to the postseason.

But if you’re a baseball fan who lives for the drama, you’re probably going to have to wait for the playoffs to start.

Most NBA mock drafts have Wolves taking Georgia’s Anthony Edwards

The consensus among those who evaluate the NBA Draft is that there isn’t a bona fide superstar or even a sure thing at the top of the draft, which makes this a complicated year for the Wolves to land the No. 1 pick even if it has definite value.

But that hasn’t stopped those who evaluate the draft from forming a near-consensus about which player the Wolves will take No. 1 overall if they do, indeed, keep the choice instead of trading it.

Looking at seven mock drafts that have been updated since the Wolves won the lottery last week, a clear theme emerges: 6-5 Georgia wing Anthony Edwards is the pick at No. 1 overall in six of them.

Edwards does seem like the best fit among the possible top picks — LaMelo Ball is a point guard and James Wiseman is a big man, positions of strength already for the Wolves with D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. But President Gersson Rosas clearly believes in taking the best player available and worrying about positional fit later.

Let’s take a quick look at the six who like Edwards for the Wolves, then the outlier:

Sporting News notes that, “Edwards didn’t amaze scouts like a typical No. 1 pick while playing for the Bulldogs, but he may have the most potential of any player in this draft. He is an explosive offensive force who can get downhill in a hurry.”

NBADraft.net offers plenty of kudos but also this warning about Edwards: “For someone who can get to the rim and challenge the help defender, he settles for a lot of deep, contested shots.”

Indeed, shot selection is a trait that keeps coming up in evaluations of Edwards. But that also seems to be a thing that is more easily taught than, say, athleticism.

Similarly, Tankathon rates Edwards as the top pick but also lists far more minuses than pluses next to his skill set. The biggest plus? His age. He just turned 19 earlier this month and has plenty of room to grow.

Forbes also stresses Edwards’ upside in tabbing him as a good piece for the Wolves, while also noting that at 19.1 ppg he led all Division I freshmen in scoring last season.

It’s possible that you’re breaking out in a cold sweat thinking about a young, inefficient athletic wing with high upside. Sounds a lot like Andrew Wiggins, right? Fair enough. But each player deserves the chance to be judged on his own.

Sports Illustrated has a pretty comprehensive breakdown and writes this about Edwards: “His flashes of offensive dominance, though fewer and farther between than you’d like, can be tantalizing, and if he hits his ceiling as a two-way perimeter threat who defends wings and can play on and off the ball, Edwards has All-Star potential.”

Bleacher Report likes Edwards to head to the Wolves, though the site’s headline references which team will land Ball — clearly showing which prospect at least has the bigger name. Of Edwards, it is written: “Between Anthony Edwards’ age (19), physical profile, explosiveness, advanced shot-creation and three-level shot-making, he possesses the draft’s most favorable mix of talent, upside and skill. And teams can’t seem to have enough creators and wings.”

The outlier? It’s a big one. ESPN.com (Insider required) likes the Wolves to instead take Ball — arguing that he has the greatest upside. “To speed up their rebuild, the Timberwolves need to continue to stockpile star power. No one in this draft class has more of that than Ball. His size makes him easy to pair with another guard, and teammates will love his tremendous passing creativity and the way he empowers others.

We’ll find out what the Wolves really do … eventually? The draft was tentatively moved to mid-October a while back, but it’s possible it could be moved again if the 2020-21 season is pushed back from a Dec. 1 timeline that Adam Silver recently said is “feeling a little bit early to me.

In strange season, why not this: Randy Dobnak, Rookie of the Year

The charming story of Randy Dobnak and his rapid rise from small college pitcher to independent ball pitcher to Twins minor leaguer to certified member of the Twins rotation has been well-documented.

Oh, he was an Uber driver along the way? Posted a 4.99 rating? Ended up being the Game 2 pitcher for the Twins in Yankee Stadium in last year’s playoffs? Sell the story to Hollywood, it’s that good.

But let’s spend a couple of minutes now on a more stripped down version of that story that focuses just on this: Dobnak, a pitcher who gets results. He had a 1.59 ERA in limited work last year.

And in case you thought that was a fluke, he’s 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA in six starts this season. That’s still a small sample size, but it’s a growing sample size.

More importantly in this strange, 60-game coronavirus sprint of a season, it’s a sample that’s about 50% of an entire year. So it’s not crazy at all to think about this: Dobnak as an AL Rookie of the Year candidate.

Wait, didn’t he pitch a lot last year? Yes, but he didn’t top 50 innings or 45 days on the active roster. So he still qualifies as a rookie.

But wait, aren’t there some other really good candidates with stronger pedigrees? Sure. Twins Daily got into that discussion a couple weeks ago.

Since then, Dobnak has put up two more solid starts. On online oddsmaker puts Dobnak at 6 to 1 to win the award — the third most-likely player behind Luis Robert of the White Sox and Kyle Lewis of the Mariners, both at 3 to 1.

Robert has been among the favorites all year and has not disappointed with 7 homers and an .862 OPS for the hard-hitting White Sox. He probably has to be considered the favorite at this point.

But Dobnak is in the mix. Though he has just 16 strikeouts in 30.1 innings, he has issued only seven walks. Perhaps more importantly, he has been excellent at inducing soft contact and keeping the ball on the ground — two things that when paired with his impeccable control have helped overcome a lack of strikeouts. He is, to borrow a phrase from the Twins’ past, the epitome of how pitch-to-contact is supposed to work.

Per FanGraphs, Dobnak is inducing soft contact on 20.2% of all balls put in play — eighth-best in the majors among 55 qualified starters. And he’s getting ground balls on 62.4% of balls put in play — third-best among qualified starters.

That has kept him from getting hurt too badly by homers — just three allowed in six starts, though all three were in his two most recent outings. The ground balls helped him through his shakiest start of 2020 Sunday, when three double plays in his five innings allowed him to escape having allowed just two runs despite giving up eight hits.

If Dobnak can continue to keep hitters off balance, he could wind up with very good numbers by season’s end. In this shortened year, that probably means just 6 or 7 more starts — and could lead to an honor even more meaningful than that 4.99 Uber rating at the end of 2020.

Picking ahead of Warriors, will Wolves relive or overcome 2009 draft nightmare?

As the smiling remote faces on the TV screen were reduced to two Thursday night — D’Angelo Russell for the Wolves and Stephen Curry for the Warriors, representing the two teams still in play for the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft lottery drawing — the past fears and future hopes of Wolves fans came into full view.

Would the lottery gods finally smile on the Wolves, giving them the No. 1 pick and launching them into a more promising future that includes Russell? Or would they laugh at them again, giving the Warriors and Curry the top pick?

Turns out the Wolves won for a change. And still …

The more fatalistic of Wolves followers couldn’t help, after the dust settled, to still make a horrifying connection to Curry and the Warriors. After all, it was 11 years ago when the Wolves — with the Nos. 5 and 6 picks in the draft, directly ahead of the Warriors at No. 7 — passed twice on the future Hall of Fame guard.

And now, if both teams keep their picks, another dilemma that will be judged for years to come: Will the Wolves make the correct pick at No. 1 overall, or will the Warriors one pick after them eclipse them again — leading to another generation of woulda-coulda-shoulda laments and novelty T-shirts like the one pictured above?

I know. I know. In general the Wolves are and should be ecstatic to land the No. 1 overall pick for just the second time in franchise history while wiping away, finally, the stain of never previously having moved up from their pre-draft slot in the lottery (a fate that had about a 1% chance of being their reality based on some numbers I crunched last year).

But Curry’s presence made it impossible to avoid thinking about the past.

Then again, maybe Russell’s presence at least eased some of that pain? He represents both the 2015 draft — when the Wolves clearly picked the right player, Karl-Anthony Towns, No. 1 overall — and the acumen of the current regime after he was acquired in a smart trade that shed the Wolves of the albatross of Andrew Wiggins.

There’s no undoing the past, but how you view the 2020 draft (whenever it actually happens) probably depends on how you ask this question: The Wolves are picking one spot ahead of the Warriors — what could go wrong?

Young Vikings corners will be tested by NFL’s toughest slate of quarterbacks

One of the more interesting directions we went on the most recent Access Vikings podcast was a discussion of the Vikings’ youth and inexperience at cornerback.

As a function of the three Vikings corners with the most snaps in 2019 — veterans Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander — all leaving via free agency in the offseason and the method by which cap-strapped Minnesota went about replacing them, which was largely through the draft, the Vikings enter 2020 with the least experienced cornerback group I can remember them having.

The top five corners on the current depth chart have combined to make nine NFL starts: 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes has five of them and 2018 undrafted free agent Holton Hill has four while 2019 seventh-round pick Kris Boyd and of course rookies Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler have zero.

Our Ben Goessling made a strong point on the podcast, noting that there tends to be a preference — particularly among the media — for the known over the unknown. We label the secondary a question mark because these players lack experience, but that doesn’t mean they won’t succeed. They’re just unproven at this level.

And those corners will have the benefit of playing with veteran safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, perhaps the best tandem in the NFL and a duo that can cover for a lot of on-the-job mistakes.

Still, this is unusual for a Mike Zimmer-coached Vikings team. When Waynes was a first-round pick in 2015, for example, the Vikings very much eased him in and had the luxury of veteran security blankets Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn to take the vast majority of snaps along with Rhodes.

Unless the Vikings add a top-four veteran late in camp after roster cut downs, they won’t be in that position this year. Again, that doesn’t mean it won’t work. An injection of youth after last year’s secondary regression could be a good thing.

That said, you could probably talk yourself into it being a more tenable position if the Vikings were set to face a soft schedule full of mediocre quarterbacks in 2020.

But the complete opposite is true. In fact, at least according to The Athletic’s Mike Sando’s ranking of teams and the opposing quarterbacks they will face, the Vikings are about to go against the very toughest QBs of any team in the NFL this season.

Sando rates five QBs in the top tier; the Vikings face four of them — Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers (twice) — while also going against second-tier QBs Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford (twice), Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott and Philip Rivers.

That’s 11 of 16 games against some pretty good QBs (and it should be noted that Kirk Cousins is considered a third-tier QB in these rankings).

This is all on paper, and we should account for the potential for injuries, the decline of older quarterbacks and Zimmer’s ability to scheme his way into favorable matchups as counterweights.

Still, the fact that the Vikings are employing a set of very raw corners against a group of very good quarterbacks this season is something to watch. How well those young corners hold up could very well determine their fate in 2020.

The most important Twins development: Kenta Maeda is pitching like an ace

Even in a shortened season, there are a lot of Major League Baseball games. These events — normally 1 of 162, this year 1 of 60 — tend to blend together and follow predictable paths. Few stand out from the crowd.

But Tuesday’s Twins game was an exception to that.

For four innings, both Milwaukee starter Corbin Burnes and Twins starter Kenta Maeda hadn’t allowed a hit. The Twins broke through in the fifth with two hits and a run, but Maeda kept putting up blanks — at one point striking out eight consecutive batters.

He carried that no-no all the way to the ninth, when Eric Sogard led off with a single. Maeda left. The normally reliable Taylor Rogers came in to presumably finish off a 3-0 win. Until the Brewers tied it, leading to a tense three innings before the Twins prevailed 4-3.

That’s a lot to remember, right? The near no-hitter. The unraveling. The extra-inning drama. The relief.

When games like that happen, though, sometimes we tend to overlook the most important things. Such as this:

A no-hitter from Maeda would have been a great story, but the bigger picture story is that he continued a trend this season where he has been pitching like an ace.

Note: He’s not an ace yet. We need a little more time on that. But if the hope from the Twins when they dealt top prospect Brusdar Graterol to get Maeda in the offseason went beyond just a salary-controlled middle-of-the-rotation starter, their faith (and scouting and trust in numbers) is paying off.

Even before he threw eight hitless innings Tuesday, Maeda wasn’t giving up many hits. The most he’s allowed in any of his five starts this season: five. His grand total in 31.2 innings: 14. Yeah, less than a hit every other inning.

Maeda isn’t overpowering with his fastball, but his pitch mix consistently has hitters off-balance. He primarily throws three pitches — slider, change-up, four-seam fastball — but he can mix in a sinker, cutter and even a curve just to really keep batters guessing. Batters have put 63 balls in play against Maeda and have only barreled him up three times.

The thing is, a lot of Maeda’s numbers are in line with what he did previously with the Dodgers, meaning the small sample size this season has a larger context.

Given a bigger role with the Twins — Maeda was shuttled between the bullpen and starting rotation with the pitching-rich Dodgers — Maeda is thriving.

Five starts this season is a small sample size (though it’s close to half of a season this year). But at this point, Maeda looks like a prime candidate to be a Game 1 starter in the postseason — and someone who could match a lot of other team’s best starter inning-for-inning.

For the Twins to advance in the postseason, that’s the thing that matters most.

Fernando Tatis Jr. upsets baseball’s whiners and their unwritten rules

The subject of unwritten rules is not new. So-called violations of these codes pop up often enough that even just a quick search shows that I have written about unwritten rules many times over the last decade.

Davey Johnson in 2012? He had no time for your unwritten rules, and I loved it.

Justin Bieber inadvertently stood on the logo in the middle of Chicago’s locker room, violating what almost certainly is the dumbest unwritten rule in hockey — if not all sports. I noticed in 2013.

The Twins beaned a guy because he stole a base in a 9-2 game in 2018? Not smart, especially since the Twins ended up getting the tying run to the plate later in a 9-6 loss.

And just last year, Jake Cave swung at a 3-0 pitch and drilled a base hit with the Twins ahead 13-5. Max Kepler, next man up, was beaned as a result. Cave had the audacity to try to keep competing. The nerve! He definitely upset the baseball dork gods.

So now we have the case of Fernando Tatis Jr. swinging at a 3-0 pitch and smashing a grand slam Monday. This awesomeness from one of baseball’s best young players was allegedly an unwritten crime because the Padres were already winning 10-3 in the 8th inning when he unloaded on the pitch.

This is the purest form of nonsense, of course — with hand-wringing coming from various sources including Tatis’ own manager, Jayce Tingler. His displeasure was couched in the notion that Tatis missed a take sign, which I’ll buy a little. But his quote was still dripping with condescension.

He’s young, a free spirit and focused and all those things,” Tingler said. “That’s the last thing that we’ll ever take away. It’s a learning opportunity, and that’s it. He’ll grow from it.

Plenty of others called out the absurdity of chastising Tatis, so at least there was that. Maybe Reggie Jackson carries the most weight?

I also really liked the take from former MLB pitcher Gregg Olson.

Look: Sportsmanship is a real thing, but the problem with those who would like baseball players to step off the gas in a lopsided game is inherent in the sport itself. In short: There’s no clock, so anything can happen. A basketball team dribbling out the final minutes of a blowout is one thing, as is a football team chewing up clock while up several touchdowns.

But let’s say Tatis doesn’t swing 3-0. Let’s say he does hit the 3-1 pitch, but it’s a tougher one and he grounds into a double play. Inning over, Padres up 10-3 after the top of the eighth, and they still have to get six outs for the win.

They’re still likely to win. But it’s not guaranteed.

So how about this: Play hard. Play to win. And amend the unwritten rule that there’s no crying in baseball to also include that there’s no whining about unwritten rules.

What has the NBA restart taught us about the Timberwolves?

I have to admit: The NBA in a bubble has been the most successful of all the return-to-play scenarios when considering atmosphere, intensity and player safety.

The playoffs, which started Monday, only figure to get even better.

Before we get too deep into the postseason, though, here are four things the NBA’s bubble has told you so far if you’re a Wolves fan. As with most things in life, it’s a mixed bag of bad news and good news, which we will get to in a meandering way.

*If it wasn’t obvious the Western Conference is stacked, the return in the bubble brought that sobering reality to the forefront.

Because of the format, only teams deemed to have a shot at the postseason were brought to Florida. And those 22 teams were not an even split. It was 13 from the West – all but the Wolves and Golden State – plus nine from the East.

Yeah, but how good are those 13 West teams? Um, an unsettling amount of good. Portland unsurprisingly got its act together to make a late charge and grab the No. 8 seed.

But the real story of the bubble was Phoenix, which went an almost unfathomable 8-0 and still couldn’t even get into the play-in game. If you want to be a realist and say the Warriors’ regression was likely a one-year blip brought on by injuries and other decisions, it’s possible the West has 14 legit playoff contenders next season. Everyone except the Wolves. Unless …

*No, this is not where I make my annual … er, monthly … um, maybe bi-weekly … argument that the Wolves should be moved to the Eastern Conference.

Rather, this is the place where we see the Suns’ rise through a lens of optimism for the Wolves. Phoenix is a young team that was seemingly stuck in a neutral gear much of this season. The recent past? The Suns didn’t win more than 24 games in any of the previous four seasons.

Suddenly they put it together in a strange environment, with Devin Booker (30.5 ppg in the bubble) leading the way. Sometimes a young team gets enough reps, gets some confidence and takes off. You could see that happening with Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and co. after an actual offseason of work together. However …

*If your dream as a Wolves fan is to add Booker to a Three Best Friends team along with Towns and Russell, the bubble burst in a big way in Orlando.

In what universe would the Suns consider trading Booker – not that they probably would have anyway – after watching how he became one of the very best stories while so many eyes were on him?

Honestly, it probably didn’t make a lot of sense anyway if the Wolves are committed to Russell and seem to want to sign Beasley long-term – and, you know, since none of the Three Best Friends do a whole lot on the defensive end.

But the idea of Booker getting frustrated in Phoenix was always fun fuel for future dreams. Going 8-0 against pretty good competition is the opposite of frustrating. It’s something on which to build in Phoenix, not Minnesota. But …

*Let’s end on a high note. Since Wolves fans are constantly expecting even improbable bad things to happen, there were at least a few who were convinced the short-handed Nets would blow their playoff spot – and avoid having to give up their lottery-protected first-round pick to the Wolves in the process.

Instead, Brooklyn had no trouble staying in the East’s top eight and thrived at times during the restart. As a result, the Wolves will get the Nets’ pick (No. 17 overall) and their own lottery pick – with a 14% chance that it will be the No. 1 overall pick when the order is chosen Thursday.

The Wolves had the third-worst record in the NBA. I would mention they’ve *never* moved up higher in the lottery than their order of finish, but we agreed I would end this on a high note.

Bottom line is the Wolves will have one very high draft pick, one pick in the middle of the first round and another near the top of the second round – three in the top 33. In what promises to be a strange offseason with a lot of different agendas, that sort of capital will allow the Wolves to do a lot of different things.