As I sit and type, the Chicago Cubs are up five runs to none on the Cincinnati Reds, well on their way to their first series sweep of the season. Hopefully, this opening sentence doesn’t look silly by the time this post goes up. (FUTURE MICHAEL EDIT: It got better.)
As usual, there’s a lot to get into, so let’s check into some news from around the league.
- There’s plenty to discuss from Wednesday’s Blue Jays/Braves matchup, but the worst – and most competitively impactful – news is that first baseman Freddie Freeman is expected to miss at least ten weeks with a left wrist fracture after being hit by a pitch in the fifth inning. Crushing. Freeman has quietly been one of the best hitters in baseball in recent years.
- The Nationals already had a stranglehold on the NL East (8.0 games up on the second place Braves), but now, thanks to a group of uncompetitive teams and an already-decimated Mets team, the Nats will likely be gliding into the postseason with ease. And Freeman, who is – by far – the best Braves best hitter (and is behind only Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in wRC+ this season), is now facing a difficult rehab for an injury that tends to leave lingering issues (remember Derrek Lee?) even after returning. As a fan of good players playing baseball, this is a huge bummer.
- That wasn’t the only (negative) thing to come out of yesterday’s Jays/Braves matchup. Earlier in the game, the benches cleared when Kevin Pillar allegedly used a homophobic slur towards Braves pitcher (and former Cub) Jason Motte. Pillar, apparently, took exception to a quick-pitch strikeout and failed to rein in his mouth and the benches cleared (he has since been suspended two games by the team). And THEN later in the game, Jose Bautista flipped his bat on a solo home run … even though his team was still down by four runs … and the benches cleared again. If you know me at all, you’ll know I have no problems with bat flips, but … that was a peculiar time to do such a stare-down-bat-chuck. I’m just not sure there was reason to celebrate like that in that particular moment. Shrug. Ugly game all around. Here’s the flip/chuck in question:
- Continuing the trend, the Giants and Dodgers dugouts cleared when Yasmani Grandal had, eh hem, words to share with Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto. It’s not entirely clear what was said – or really, what the problem even was – but no fights or ejections ultimately came of it.
- And because it’s apparently a bad news day all around, Jung Ho Kang’s eight-month suspension for his third DUI was upheld in South Korea. And while that, in and of itself, is not technically bad news (three DUIs merits punishment), it doesn’t exactly paint Major Leaguers in the best light. NBC Sports’ take on the news is that, although Kang can avoid jail time if he’s on his best behavior over the next two years, this most likely spells the end to his Major League career. If that’s true, Kang will end his brief stateside career with a .273/.355/.483 slash line at the age of 30.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has reportedly spoken to Luis Robert, the 19-year free-agent old Cuban outfielder, and remains “hopeful” that the Cardinals will be heavily involved in the final bidding for the top prospect’s services. Robert, you’ll recall, is considered the 2nd best international prospect – behind only Shohei Otani – and appears set to receive a very large commitment. The Cubs will effectively be out of the bidding, so your rooting interests are really just “not the Cardinals.” We’ll keep you updated on this as it unfolds, though he’s reportedly likely to sign sometime this month.
- Commissioner Rob Manfred says he’d like to see an MLB game in Europe by 2019.
- If you remember back to last season, you’ll recall that the general baseball community was relatively surprised by the 12.8% home run rate on fly balls. Why? Because that was the highest mark on record. Well, this season, that rate is … once again an elevated 12.8%. One of the early theories on the surge questioned whether seemingly innocuous changes to the official baseball itself was the cause, but that’s mostly been debunked. Instead, Travis Sawchik suggests that instead of one unifying theory, it’s likely that many small answers have conspired to create an increased homer rate. And hey, if there’s no funny business, I say bring on the homers. Sawchik has a detailed breakdown of the story here.
- Earlier today at Baseball is Fun, I took a decidedly Bleacher Nation look at Starlin Castro’s blisteringly hot start to the season to see if he’s finally becoming the slugger many projected him to be:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) May 18, 2017
- And finally at Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal writes that participation in both youth baseball and softball is back on the rise. In fact, according to a report by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, the two combined to be the most participated team sport in 2016. Woo hoo! Considering MLB’s dedicated and open efforts to increase youth interest in baseball, that is very good news. Hey, see? It’s not all bad news today!