The Cubs have an off-day today before heading out on the road tomorrow. That gives us the perfect opportunity to check out some news from around the league …
- On Saturday, umpires around the league wore white arm bands to quietly protest, in their view, increased verbal assaults from players. But by Sunday, the protest was off – not because the player have suddenly become “nice,” (or whatever) but because Commissioner Manfred agreed to meet with their union board to discuss their concerns. What will come of these meetings is still unclear, but for now, the dialogue is open and some sort of changes could come down the pipeline.
- In case you missed it, the Pirates and Cardinals squared off in a new event yesterday, known as MLB Little League Classic, at the Little League World Series. And although the game was not necessarily considered to be the first of many, it sounds like it may soon be. “Hopefully we’ll continue to play here and it will become an annual event,” Manfred said via MLB.com. “I know there was a lot of interest throughout the league from teams that wanted to be here and had players that played in the Little League World Series.” In later comments, you’ll really get the sense that Manfred enjoyed the whole experience, and given that MLB is looking to both 1) increase their youth appeal/outreach and 2) do 2-3 special events a year, this one seems like it could stick.
- Speaking of that event, the Cardinals and Pirates both got an extra man for the day (not unlike the roster rules for double header) and for the red birds that guy was Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty, you may recall, was sent to Triple-A Memphis after a particularly rough stretch (4-31) of baseball at the big league level, but may be back with the Cardinals for good now. During his short stint in the Minors, Piscotty slashed .313/.421/.781 with four homers and three doubles. He says he’s ready to go after getting back to the basics and playing in a low-stress environment. We shall see (and hope for the worst).
- Elsewhere in the NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers got Chase Anderson back from the disabled list and he made a five inning, one earned run, two hit, three walk, four strikeout start against the Rockies at Coors Field. That’s a pretty great first start, all things considered, though with three walks and two HBPs it’s fair to say Anderson isn’t all the way back just yet.
- Manager Craig Counsel realizes they’ll need to get Anderson back into form if they’re going to surprise everyone and win the Central, but to be fair, that was a really encouraging first start in a hitters park against a good offense. At just 2.0 games back of the Cubs, the Brewers are far from out of it and the return of Anderson should help.
- Speaking of Andersons, former Cubs pitcher Brett Anderson (now with the Blue Jays), is keeping his head up during a career riddled with injuries. He’s changed his pitch mix a bit and will keep grinding away at a Major League career.
- Clayton Kershaw, who’s been out since July 24th with a lower back strain, is going to throw a three-inning simulated game today, and could return as soon as September 1 against the Padres. It’s not like the Dodgers (87-35) need him, though (indeed they’ve gone 19-4 in his absence), but he’ll be a mighty useful tool come playoff time.
- Similarly, Trea Turner (June 29 – wrist fracture) and Jason Werth (June 3 – foot fracture) are expected to begin Triple-A rehab assignments today, to work their way back to the Nationals. Both have been out for quite a while, but like the Dodgers with Kershaw, the Nationals have managed to get by. Their expected returns to the Majors are both unclear, though the end of this month seems to be the target.
- In the four seasons from 2018-2021, Tigers outfielder Justin Upton will make $22.125 million/year. If my math skills are up to snuff, that’s essentially a 4-year/$88.5 million deal starting with his age 30 season in 2018. Why do I bring that up? Well, because Upton’s contract also includes an opt-out after this year, and the question of whether or not he’ll exercise that opt-out is pretty interesting. On the one hand, Upton is basically having a career year at the plate (140 wRC+) and has been much less of a defensive liability in the field than usual, but on the other hand there are reasons to believe he’s been a bit lucky at the dish (.349 BABIP) and defensive metrics are notoriously shaky over one year (or, in this case, smaller) samples. Plus, it’s not like his remaining deal is a tiny one. That’s a lot of guaranteed money to give up. For his part, Upton isn’t sure what he’ll do just yet, and just wants to focus on the season. At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron tries to get to the bottom of the question for him, asking “Should Justin Upton Opt Out?“
- Despite some activity from other contenders (Dodgers getting Curtis Granderson, Brewers getting Neil Walker), the Arizona Diamondbacks are not expecting any August additions. For what it’s worth, the D-Backs lead for the second NL Wild Card slot is nowhere near as commanding as it once was (the Cubs are now just a 0.5 game behind them, which means the Brewers are just 2.5 games back). They may actually need to consider a move if they want to hold onto that postseason berth this year.
- Oh how we love Bartolo:
Having beat the D-Backs today, 44-year-old Twins starter Bartolo Colon has now beat all 30 MLB teams. He's played for a bunch of them, too. pic.twitter.com/nj2w5mqH8n
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 21, 2017
- And finally, tell me you saw this catch (it’s seriously jaw droppingly good):
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 20, 2017