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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Dan Gartland

SI:AM | An All-Star’s Stunning Fall

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m taking a couple of days off, but Kevin Sweeney has you covered for the rest of the week.

In today’s SI:AM:

😬 Alek Manoah’s very bad day

The latest on the PGA Tour and LIV

🏀 Names to watch in the 2024 NBA draft

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What went wrong for Alek Manoah?

Alek Manoah was one of the best pitchers in the American League last season. Now he can’t get anybody out.

After a disastrous start to the season (6.36 ERA in 13 starts) the Blue Jays optioned Manoah to the Florida Complex Leaguethe lowest level of the minors—on June 6. The move to rookie ball was to give him an opportunity to reset, but Manoah’s terrible season hit a new low yesterday when he was shelled in his first start.

He lasted 2⅔ innings, allowing 11 runs on 10 hits, walked two, struck out three and gave up two home runs. None of the hitters he faced were older than 20. The two players who hit homers, Roderick Arias and Keiner Delgado, are 18 and 19, respectively.

It was a stunning result. Manoah, an All-Star last season who finished third in Cy Young voting, got lit up by a bunch of teenagers. He allowed as many runs yesterday against newly minted pros as he did in his final nine starts of last season combined.

Blue Jays manager John Schneider said the team wasn’t “expecting him to go throw a perfect game just because it’s the minor leagues” and that he wasn’t too concerned with the gaudy box score.

“Obviously saw the line score, but heard that the things we were talking about, in terms of strike throwing, delivery, tempo, velocity, were all positive,” Schneider said. “The rest of the stuff, you can take it with a grain of salt.”

Not everyone in the Toronto organization shares Schneider’s rosy outlook, though.

TSN’s Scott Mitchell reported after Manoah’s start that two people who were in the ballpark used the words “yikes,” “rough” and “ugly” to describe how Manoah looked.

“And that just wasn’t talking about the line,” Mitchell added. “That’s talking about how he looked in person.”

Mitchell also reported that the Blue Jays were upset when Manoah showed up to spring training weighing about 30 pounds more than he did last season, and that he’s been focusing on his conditioning during his time in Florida in addition to his mound work.

So what exactly is going wrong for Manoah? As you might expect, it’s a bunch of things. The most glaring is his lack of control. Manoah did a good job limiting free passes last season, allowing just 2.3 walks per nine innings and posting a respectable 3.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He ranked in the top 25 in the majors in both categories. But he’s struggled mightily with his command this season, allowing nearly three times as many walks (6.5 per nine) as he did last season. Until Michael Kopech walked seven in his start last night, Manoah was still tied for AL lead in walks despite not pitching since June 5. He has 42 walks in 58 innings this season, compared to 51 in 196⅔ innings last season. He’s walked 14.9% of the batters he’s faced, the worst walk rate of any pitchers in the majors this year with at least 50 innings pitched.

Manoah’s lack of command might not have been as disastrous if it hadn’t also been accompanied by diminished stuff. Manoah’s average fastball speed (92.8 mph) is 1.1 mph slower than last year, and his sinker is 0.6 mph slower. His slider, which had 6.2 inches of horizontal break more than the league-average slider last season, breaks only 3.8 inches more than the league average this season. Put it all together and it means that hitters are having a far easier time making solid contact against Manoah this season. Last season, he allowed a 31.5% hard-hit percentage (better than 92% of pitchers in the majors). This year, his hard-hit percentage is 43.3% (worse than 75% of pitchers in the majors).

The Blue Jays have managed to keep their heads above water even with their ace floundering. They’re currently 43–37, fourth in the tough AL East but just a half game behind the Angels for the final wild-card spot. If Manoah is able to get back on track, it’d be a big boost to Toronto’s playoff hopes.

The best of Sports Illustrated

Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports

The top five...

… moments in baseball last night:

5. 42-year-old Nelson Cruz’s single against 43-year-old Rich Hill.

4. Ozzie Albies’s flip to Orlando Arcia to get the out at first.

3. Josh Palacios’s home run robbery on Juan Soto.

2. Bo Naylor’s preposterous throw to catch a runner stealing after saving a wild pitch.

1. Shohei Ohtani’s incredible night. He went 3-for-3 at the plate with two home runs and struck out 10 batters on the mound while allowing just one run over 6⅓ innings of work.


On this day in 2006, the Raptors took Andrea Bargnani with the first pick in the NBA draft. While he had a decent 10-year career, it was underwhelming for a top pick. Who leads that draft class in career games played?

  • Rudy Gay
  • Paul Millsap
  • Rajon Rondo
  • P.J. Tucker

Yesterday’s SIQ: Which school did the Supreme Court rule in its favor in 1984 in an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA concerning the ability to negotiate television contracts?

  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio State

Answer: Oklahoma. Georgia was also a plaintiff in the suit, but the case is known as NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.

The two schools filed suit in 1981 after the NCAA threatened to sanction schools that allowed a group called the College Football Association to negotiate television deals on their behalf. The NCAA had controlled all TV negotiations and sought to maintain that exclusivity. The two schools sued claiming it was a violation of antitrust laws.

Under NCAA control, schools were limited in the number of times they could appear on national television in a given season. This helped smaller schools earn bigger paydays than they would have under a free market but reduced the earning potential for major programs that joined the CFA. The Supreme Court ruling, William Taaffe wrote in Sports Illustrated shortly thereafter, would benefit big schools at the expense of smaller ones.

By ruling that the NCAA may no longer serve as the colleges’ sole agent in the sale of TV rights, the Supreme Court killed a four-year $263.5 million deal the NCAA signed in 1982 with ABC and CBS, as well as a two-year $11.1 million arrangement signed last May with ESPN. Theoretically, the court established an open market in which the schools could peddle their games independently. In practice, it created such complete chaos that by week’s end the 105 colleges in Division I-A were attempting to cede back some of their new freedom to an umbrella group that would serve as their bargaining agent: either the NCAA again, or the College Football Association, which represents 63 major powers and may work out a coalition agreement with the non-CFA Big Ten and Pac-10.

In another story published two months later, Taaffe broke down the numbers and explained that the Supreme Court ruling would cost Boston College about half of its previously expected television revenue. Washington State coach Jim Walden told Taaffe that the lawsuit “will go down in history as one of the stupidest things ever done.”

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