The Rundown: Baseball is Back, Cubs Will Face Just 9 Teams, Dodgers and Yankees World Series Favorites
Hey Hey, holy mackerel, no doubt about it…the Cubs are on their way to playing baseball in 2020. Players are expected to report within a week.
Play ball! pic.twitter.com/EApEPn9ApZ
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 24, 2020
Well, at least there is an agreement in place to play baseball, and with one month until the season starts, players will have to avoid COVID-19 like the plague. Yes, I’m aware that is akin to sitting in a sauna and saying “It’s like a sauna in here.” It’s the truth, though.
Both the players and owners have done everything humanly possible to sabotage the season since mid-March, but the coronavirus is warming up out there in the ‘pen like Mariano Rivera, ready to shut it down and finish the job neither side could complete. The next four weeks should be interesting as players get ready to resume playing baseball. Teams will train in their home facilities, though I haven’t heard any word on exhibition games to prepare players for the season.
That could make for some interesting baseball once the season begins. The league and players have reportedly agreed on some changes, mostly to minimize injury risk, and navigating baseball’s temporary normal may result in some laughable moments without a dress rehearsal or two. That’s italicized because I believe the new rules changes will be standard fare whenever baseball returns to a traditional schedule.
So strap it on, friends. I can’t wait to see Dan Vogelbach or Albert Pujols as the required designated runners in extra innings. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Joe Maddon navigates the three-batter minimum for pitchers. He could be the first field general to intentionally walk three hitters just to get to the better matchup. Way to set up that force at home, Joe.
The universal DH rule should help the Cubs, who have more outfielders and middle infielders than anybody else, though it sure would have been nice to have retained Nick Castellanos for that role. Perhaps Jason Kipnis or Steven Souza Jr. will offer similar excitement and professional at-bats.
The trade deadline has been pushed back to August 31, which should give Theo Epstein sufficient time to get below the luxury tax threshold. Warranted or not, expect those Kris Bryant trade rumors to fire up immediately. In fact, there may not be a better time than now for the front office to conduct a fire sale, and that will be the subject of tomorrow’s column.
Cubs News & Notes
- Yu Darvish showcased some of his pitching sessions at Sloan Park on Twitter.
- The Cubs will play games against just nine teams with the shortened schedule. That includes all the teams in the NL and AL Central divisions, including six tilts with the White Sox.
- A 60-game schedule might work against the Cubs this season.
- Per Gov. Pritzker, Wrigley Field can initially allow fans to attend games as long as attendance is limited to 20% capacity. That number should increase through the regular season and playoffs. Of course, restrictions apply.
- Yesterday was the 36-year anniversary of the Ryne Sandberg game. That will make you feel your age.
Find Your Inner Hero
Information technology professionals, always working behind the scenes, have been the unsung heroes of the current pandemic.
Odds & Sods
If it is ever invented, perhaps time travel won’t quite meet the general hype.
"In 2020, a virus caused the National League games to permanently start using the designated hitter. Also, Donald Trump is the president"
If you have a time machine, write this on a piece of a paper and give this to someone in 1990 and blow their freaking mind.
— DSzymborski (@DSzymborski) June 24, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
I watched a special on the Expos yesterday and believe more than ever that Rob Manfred should do whatever he can to bring baseball back to Montreal. If you haven’t seen it, you can catch “The Colourful Montreal Expos,” narrated by William Shatner, on YouTube.
MLB News & Notes
Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com provides the syllabus for the shortened 2020 season.
Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon is one of three Rockies who have tested positive for COVID-19.
How many wins should it take to reach the playoffs this year? I’d bet 33 is probably the minimum. One thing is certain, and that’s that any team could sneak in. There could be a few surprise postseason entrants, but fans of the Pirates, Tigers, and Orioles should temper any misguided expectations.
Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres should be the early favorite for AL MVP because the slugging shortstop will play one-sixth of his games against Baltimore. Torres slashed .394/.467/1.045 with 13 homers in 75 plate appearances versus the O’s last season.
The White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Reds look like the teams to beat in a 60-game season.
In fact, the Yankees and Dodgers are co-favorites to win the World Series. That makes just two months of Mookie Betts well worth it for Los Angeles.
Despite three months of finger pointing, over-the-top drama, and radical changes to the game, fans will likely fall in love with baseball again.
Which player do you think has the best chance of having a hot streak like the one Ichiro Suzuki had in 2004? I’m going to go with Cody Bellinger.
The MLB season is “scheduled” to start July 24th. From that date until the end of the season 2004 Ichiro hit .430/.467/.526. That is all.
— Nathan Bishop (@nathan_h_b) June 23, 2020
Sliding Into Home
I got some more challenging news from the doctor yesterday, and you can read the full update on my GoFundMe page. The Cliff’s Notes are as follows:
- I have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, a sickness that is debilitating to nerves and muscles; and
- I have a tumor in my right armpit that will be removed and biopsied on Monday afternoon. That means I will be absent from this column on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. I don’t like taking days off because writing for Cubs Insider and interacting with our readers is therapeutic for me.
Due to extreme budget constraints I’ve had to cancel a lot of my subscription services, including streaming music platforms Spotify and Tidal. If you have CDs just taking up space in your homes, I’m your huckleberry. Contact me for details. Most of you know my tastes in music by now. I’ll gladly love those Old 97’s and R.E.M. CDs, and anything else you send me, with all my heart.
Out of Left Field
I can neither confirm nor deny that the Earth is among the 36 intelligent civilizations scattered throughout the Milky Way. I guess Richard Dreyfuss is somewhat of a prophet.
A big hello to each of the 36 intelligent alien civilizations that may, possibly, be living in the Milky Way Galaxy with us https://t.co/TULKHlt1a9
— The Cut (@TheCut) June 17, 2020
They Said It
- “Excited as anyone to finally get back on the field!! But there’s gonna be a lot of positive tests (reported?) when players start reporting next week… part of the plan? Accounted for? Nail in the coffin? Who knows, so strap in…” – Jason Kipnis
- “I think we’re well positioned. The coaching staff, the support staff and our players have done a really good job of staying ready and staying flexible and staying in communication.” – Theo Epstein
Wednesday Walk Up Song
David Duchovny (The Reboot) by Bree Sharp – Aliens and extraterrestrials? Where’s Mulder and Scully when we really need them?