We’re nearing the end of the season and the Cubs have all but locked up the division.
But there is still a ton going on throughout baseball, so let’s check in on what’s happening around the league …
- When Giancarlo Stanton went down with a groin injury on August 13, it was supposed to mark the end of his season – supposedly yet another, injury-shortened Stanton year. However, in a surprise move, the Marlins activated Stanton from the disabled list prior to yesterday’s game and actually notched a pinch hit single. According to Manager Don Mattingly, Stanton will be used exclusively as a pinch-hitter for now, as he continues to get back up to 100%. With expanded rosters, Stanton can spend most of his time on the bench, slowly rehabbing (but doing so with his team at the Major League level). The Marlins are pretty tough 6.0 games out of a Wild Card spot in the NL, but anything can happen. If they do make a magical run, they’ll be happy to have Stanton ready to go.
- Stanton isn’t the only NL superstar scheduled to make his return, as the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is expected to pitch on Friday against those very Marlins. There was a point in time not too long ago where the next Kershaw v. Stanton at bat was almost certainly a season away. Now, it could happen in a few days. Kershaw returns to a 1.79 ERA (1.67 FIP), a 32.9% strikeout rate and a 2.0% (lulz) walk rate. His return could have a significant impact on the Cubs if these two teams find a way to meet in the playoffs. So, it’s time to root for a healthy, but mortal return for Kershaw down the stretch.
- Of course, if the Cubs manage to avoid Kershaw in the playoffs, they could always run into Stephen Strasburg, who was also throwing like top of the rotation pitcher before going onto the disabled list with right elbow soreness on August 21. Strasburg, like Kershaw and Stanton, was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday night and is expected to start tonight against the Braves. He returns to a 3.59 ERA (2.98 FIP), a 30.4% strikeout rate and a 7.5% walk rate.
- On Sunday, Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker was struck in the head by a 105 MPH line drive off the bat of Kyle Seager. The play (which can be seen here) is pretty terrifying to watch, as it clearly and completely nails Shoemaker in the head, as he goes down immediately. In fact, the hit was so severe that Shoemaker was forced to undergo emergency brain surgery later that evening. Thankfully, that surgery has been reported as a complete success and Shoemaker is expected to make a full recovery.
- Did you know that Brian Dozier is putting together a historically great season for a second baseman? At FanGraphs, August Fagerstrom discusses Dozier’s season (second most homers, second highest ISO, most valuable player in the second half by WAR) in a historical context, and you might be surprised at how good he’s actually been. “Not since peak-Ryne Sandberg has a second baseman hit for power the way Dozier has this season,” said Fagerstrom, “and Dozier’s overall batting line goes toe-to-toe with any line the Cubs’ Hall of Famer ever put up.” It’s worth checking out.
- Also at FanGraphs, Nathaniel Grow has an end-of-summer MLB legal update, including specific updates to two interesting/notable lawsuits in particular: one challenging the league’s minor-league pay (a big story earlier this year), and another questioning the fan-safety practices. On the former, the players have secured a second chance to expand the case into a class action lawsuit (under narrower terms) – a modest, but significant victory (according to Grow) – and on the latter, the plaintiffs have inched closer to satisfying the minimum, preliminary requirements for moving forward with their suit against MLB (which is aiming to install netting from foul pole to foul pole for the safety of their fans).
- Well, it might actually be happening: Tim Tebow may be close to securing a Minor League contract with the Atlanta Braves. Although the “there’s no risk,” argument is a fine/oft-repeated explanation for the move, Braves GM John Coppolella seems to imply that there are a few other, non-baseball reasons as well. “Whatever Tim decides, the fact that he wants to play baseball is good for the game,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “It’s similar to when Michael Jordan or others have wanted to play. It’s positive to draw this kind of interest to the game and make it a story because it’s good for baseball.” As Brett pointed out in today’s bullets, the Braves own their minor league affiliates, so if there’s a financial gain to be had by an increase in attention/attendance/fandom, they’ll actual be the benefactors. Which is fine.
- According to Jon Morosi (via Craig Calcaterra – NBC Sports), former Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos is a “confirmed candidate” to take over as the Twins’ President of Baseball Operations – a story we’ve been following very closely, given the apparent/increasingly possible Cubs connection (more on that later). Anthopoulos is currently working as the Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers (after being effectively squeezed out in Toronto), but he would probably consider leaving that post for the promotion.
- Earlier today, MLB announced its “most extensive recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month” with a new initiative. Jesse Sanchez has the story at MLB.com, but in short, among other things, MLB has created a special version of its logo that includes an accent mark, and a new bilingual spot celebrating the impact of MLB teams and Latino players both on and off the field in the Latino community. The commercial will be MLB’s first bilingual (English and Spanish), spot in general-market national media and will premier on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball one week from today.
- Mike Gosling might not be a name you recognize, but he has many awesome stories to tell (well, nine to be exact). This formerly forgettable left-handed swing man recalls some of the best and most memorable moments from an otherwise forgettable career.
- How fast can you run around the bases? Dansby Swanson did it in less than 15 seconds, en route to his first MLB home run (an inside-the-parker).