Starting today, the Chicago Cubs play in eleven straight games without an off-day, and have 27 total games in their next 28 days (h/t Rian Watt).
Hooray for baseball!
But, we have several hours until game time, so let’s get to some news from around the league.
- The Cardinals may be tied for last place in the NL Central, but they haven’t forgotten how to Voodoo. Recently released Dodgers outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker has been blazing hot with the Cardinals, going 10-19 with two home runs, two walks and two stolen bases so far this season. But even in a small sample size, this is an unexpectedly hot streak for a 27-year-old outfielder that was OPS-ing .644 at Double-A just last season. It’s hard not to like Hazelbaker after reading this story at Fox Sports, but can I just be happy for him and still mad at the Cardinals?
- On the flip side, some bad luck for the Cardinals, as young lefty Marco Gonzales is undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals’ pitching depth, already under strain from the loss of Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery, will be further pressed.
- If you have any interest in batted ball data (and you should), I highly encourage you to check out this fantastic article by Rob Arthur at FiveThirtyEight.com entitled The New Science of Hitting. Therein, Arthur examines the relationship between exit velocity (the speed of ball coming off the bat) and launch angle (the vertical direction of the ball coming off the bat). Unsurprisingly, hitters with the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle are among the best in the game. Now that MLB is making their Statcast data more readily available to the public, we may be entering yet another shift in statistic analysis and player valuation. Very, very cool stuff.
- The Red Sox and Pablo Sandoval have a good ole’ fashioned feud going on, where Sandoval reportedly wants to stay in Boston only if he can play every day and the Red Sox … uh, don’t want to play him everyday. Unfortunately (for Boston), moving Sandoval and the $75 million remaining on his contract is not going to be easy. Fortunately (again, for Boston) Sandoval just took a surprise trip to the disabled list, which is buying the Red Sox some time to explore the trade market or make a different decision. I hate ugly stuff like this and am grateful the Cubs have largely avoided such storylines for several years now. Obligatory link to the time last week when Sandoval’s belt broke on a swing.
- Pirates third baseman Jung-Ho Kang has been cleared to play in games after a lengthy rehab over the winter. If you recall, Kang fractured his tibia and tore his meniscus in a nasty (in terms of pain, not intentions) collision with former Cub Chris Coghlan at second base last year. Kang received surgery in September and has finally made it back to the field – playing on back-to-back days at the Pirate City training complex in Florida. Soon, Kang will begin an official Minor League rehab assignment – likely in AA Altoona or AAA Indianapolis – before rejoining the Pirates as the everyday third baseman.
- The Tampa Bay Rays are using a virtual reality system before a given game to experience the pitchers they are about to face. It is but another example of technology completely turning baseball on its head. And, as the future of VR begins to expand into the present, we’re going to continue to see it implemented in interesting, perhaps even unexpected ways (like freakin’ batting practice). I just LOVE the future.
- Corrine Landrey has written a decidedly poignant, timely, and refreshing piece on women’s place in baseball (and all of sports) over at the Hardball Times. “When the Sport Doesn’t Love You Back” is my favorite article of the week, and you really should consider reading it, no matter where you land on the issues related to things we discussed last week. The author’s self-awareness and restraint is so apparent and it makes her arguments far more impactful and digestible. And, her particular perspective as a life-long baseball fan and softball player add yet another layer and argument to her position.
- I’m not entirely sure about what to make of this ESPN story on Adam LaRoche and his “cinematic level of nonconformity,” that somehow managed to escape detection from the media throughout a very public 12-year career. Think I’m being dramatic? Here’s a quote directly from Tim Keown’s piece at ESPN: “LaRoche, along with Brewers pitcher Blaine Boyer, spent 10 days in November in Southeast Asian brothels, wearing a hidden camera and doing undercover work to help rescue underage sex slaves.” I honestly don’t know where to begin with that. Why LaRoche? Why MLB players, at all, in fact?
- But that’s not even what this story is about. Instead, Keown paints a more complete picture of LaRoche’s decision to retire and, in the end, provides us all with LaRoche’s perspective and thought process on his son Drake and his retirement. I’ve largely remained neutral on this, because I felt as though we didn’t have the entire story, but now that LaRoche’s had his chance to speak, I’m not quite sure he “gets it” as much as he seems to think. In one breath he admits that having his son Drake around might make other players want to bring their kids, too, and “obviously we can’t turn this into a day care.” But then, not but a moment later, he claims that “Drake was different,” and that he was “the exception to the rule.” That’s exactly everyone’s point: YOU might think your kid is the exception to the rule, but that doesn’t make it so. I hate to spend a third bullet point here recapping everything LaRoche has said in the wake of his retirement, so I won’t. Instead I’ll just urge you to follow this link and read the whole thing – it’s pretty fascinating and there’s much more in there about his Southeast Asian Brothel caper, too.
- Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor had some trouble, and then some fun, with the infamous Tropicana catwalk.
- Jon Miller is a seasoned, successful broadcaster – so when he goofs and calls the guy the wrong name on a homer, he has a perfectly smooth way to fix the problem. And then it becomes a bigger, even more fun thing.
- Brad Ziegler earned his #GettingZiggyWithIt hashtag:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) April 12, 2016
- And lastly, MLB is having some fun for the upcoming holidays:
— MLB (@MLB) April 13, 2016
… and Father’s Day. pic.twitter.com/Y7yyoMdDEJ
— MLB (@MLB) April 13, 2016
NL Central Father's Day uniforms are pretty cool, though some look better than others. pic.twitter.com/AiR5w2v2k7
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) April 13, 2016
Happy birthday, Greg!