MLB Star Power Index: Yankees pitcher brightens baseball with dirty uniform; college phenom brings the heat

Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index – a weekly undertaking that determines with awful authority which players are dominating the current zeitgeist of the sport, at least according to the narrow perceptions of this miserable scribe. While one’s presence on this list is often celebratory in nature, it can also be for purposes of lamentation or ridicule. The players listed are in no particular order, just like the phone book. To this week’s honorees …

Nestor Cortes, Yankees

Nestor Cortes certainly merits a spot within these august pages for his pitching excellence during the 2022 season thus far. Or he could rightly be added on account of the lush and fully germinated tickler reposed above his upper lip like a fainted duchess. Instead, though, we honor him for this, his soiled tunic:

Getty Images

Major League Baseball blessedly and belatedly has the universal DH now, which means pitchers no longer burden onlookers with their hitting and base-running unless absurd circumstances prevail. Of course, the DH has been a presence in Cortes’ own American League since 1973, when pensions still roamed the earth.

Why this narrative departure and discussion of the DH rule? We indulge in it to establish the mystery that has snatched us up by the tailored lapels and slapped us across our chompers. Given that Cortes isn’t batting or running the bases, how did he come to dirty himself in such a manner? Note that these are not the stains of grass, which would suggest an ill-advised dive for an infield pop-up. Rather these are the marks of beam clay, which, tantalizingly, suggest that Cortes fell down face-first on his very own mound or attempted to impede and opposing runner by performing Jimmy Snuka’s finisher on the base paths.

Whatever the specific cause of a pitcher’s having dirt on his uniform during the DH era, the end result – ie, dirt on a pitcher’s uniform during the DH era – is to be exalted and celebrated. When we see such a thing, we know something has happened that was not supposed to have happened, which is in some ways a signature of the youth and young manhood that the likes of Nestor Cortes, as puckish as he is impish, embodies. It shall surprise no one that Mr. Cortes has a long history of such off-label uses of his time and inclinations. A partial listing:

  • Nestor Cortes and Gus Bustard sneaked out of his house during a sleepover and sat on his roof and talked about what scared them. That turned into a fight, and they rolled off the roof and into Gus’ dad’s bed of hostas. Dirt was upon pajamas. “Aw man,” he said.
  • Nestor Cortes was dared by Jimmy Bubbabuoli to ride his skateboard down a waterslide during peak summer hours, and in keeping with ancient laws of honor Nestor Cortes did, which resulted in a crash into the snack bar and an application of Frito pie upon his jean shorts . “Aw man,” he said.
  • Once while building a tree fort high up in an old-growth maple, Nestor Cortes thought a squirrel called him a butthole for no reason. His lead hook missed the squirrel and caused him to lose his balance and fall 25 feet onto an active anthill. His shirt was stained by a noxious stew of blood, mud, and discarded charcoal briquettes. “You’re the butthole, “he said to the tangle of branches above from somewhere within the twisted heap of his body on the ground.
  • A friendly round of slap-boxing after church in the courtyard between Nestor Cortes and Gus Bustard devolved into a remorseless ground-and-pound session on some freshly laid sod, all of it driven by unspoken grievances of being forced to go to church. Not even Borax could spare the pleated khakis. “Gus started it,” he said.

By implication this explains how Nestor Cortes, moundsman in a DH league, could wind up with a dirty uniform. For that, we thank and honor him. The day he ceases to follow his most dubious urges is that day we become worse as a people.

Ben Joyce, Tennessee

We present to you two sports phenomena, each of which is said to have actually happened.

First, Abraham Lincoln was honored by the Wrestling Hall of Fame – possibly for pioneering the choke-slam, which is finisher of choice for those tasked with taking back the streets:

Yes, this is true.

Second, here is University of Tennessee right-hander Ben Joyce throwing 105.5 mph:

Yes, this is true. That’s the fastest pitch ever thrown in college baseball, at least on record. In matters related to his ability to throw, oh, 105.5 (and mix in a wipeout slider), Joyce for the top-ranked Vols this season has an ERA of 0.86 with 38 strikeouts in 21 innings.

So if in the course of your day, you regale those you encounter with the tale of the 105.5 mph fastball and they disbelieve your words, then present to them the following image as proof:

Ben Joyce’s 105.5-mph fastball

The Internet

The scientific method teaches us that if one unlikely thing turns out to be true, then any other unlikely thing is also true. Everyone should know this. “A 105.5 mph fastball? Pshaw, I do not believe it,” they say.

“Abe Lincoln is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame,” you say, at which point there is nothing left to say.

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