The Cubs are amazing. Javy Baez and Kris Bryant are going to win co-MVP. Everything is awesome. The offense is fixed. Who’s Bryce Harper? I feel amazing. Baseball will never make me mad or sad again. Right?
In all seriousness, while things won’t feel this good all season long, there’s no reason to ignore the good vibes right now. Baseball is back and the Cubs started off strong. Enjoy it.
Javy Baez and Kris Bryant won’t have their 2019 season defined by one game in Texas on Opening Day, but with questions about regression and health facing each of them (respectively), it’s hard not to be pleased with their first day back. Another performance worth noting: Anthony Rizzo, who got on base four times yesterday with three walks and a single. If these three hitters, in particular, are performing as well as we know they can, the Cubs offense *will* be good, regardless of almost anything or anyone else. We’ll talk about this more later today.
In the meantime, elsewhere around baseball …
- As much as I like to see the Cardinals lose, I can’t say I was 100% thrilled to see the exciting way it happened yesterday, since it means a win for the Brewers:
- That’s Lorenzo Cain robbing Jose Martinez of a would-be, game-tying, ninth-inning home run with two outs in his home ballpark. I didn’t have a strong preference between the Cubs’ two biggest NL Central competitors yesterday – so the outcome is whatever – but I wish the Brewers didn’t have so much positivity to celebrate. They snatched the division right out from under the Cubs last year, and with an exciting finish like that, they stole some of the steam out of an Opening Day walloping, too. I know I can’t even begin to start caring what other teams are doing right now, so don’t get me wrong: this isn’t about the standings. I just want the Brewers to lose every game always and their fans to be miserable through the end of the year. Is that really so much to ask?
- That moment was “ranked” as the second best story of Opening Day, following the Dodgers setting a franchise single-game record with eight home runs against the Diamondbacks. Christian Yelich also got a shout out for starting another MVP campaign. The Cubs’ 12 runs and Baez’s two homers were not mentioned ….
- Speaking of those eight Dodger home runs, it was also a record for Opening Day in baseball, and you can read about it here. Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez each launched two of them, and they were joined by Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Austin Barnes. Justin Turner is a bum, clearly.
- Later today, Brewers reliever Corey Knebel will get a final diagnosis from three doctors and the team physician as to whether season-ending surgery will be necessary for his ailing elbow. Obviously, Knebel means a great deal to the Brewers, and losing him for a prolonged period is going to hurt that bullpen. Even if surgery isn’t necessary, mind you, Knebel will have a medium-length rehab ahead of him. He’d likely return this season, but probably not anytime soon.
- Marc Carig has a pretty weird (good-weird) story up at The Athletic about a literal championship belt the league passes around to the team that, basically, did the most to keep salaries down in arbitration. Like, it’s a real belt and they don’t deny its existence. In a statement, MLB acknowledged it as “an informal recognition of those club’s salary arbitration departments that did the best.”
MLB awards a cheap championship belt every year to the club that most successfully kept player salaries down in arbitration.
— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) March 29, 2019
- The optics of such a prize – in this contentious environment – are so unfathomably bad, I can’t believe the league didn’t torpedo this idea a year ago. For what it’s worth, Carig quotes one anonymous veteran player saying “I’d be ready to strike tomorrow.”
- Jeff Passan has more on the state of the sport and I hope you read it. I too often get the sense – including from serious baseball fans – that none of this is a big deal. I disagree. You don’t have to go out there and be some baseball activist, but you should be aware of the issues facing the sport, if you hope to see it survive and thrive.
The state of baseball in 2019 is … complicated. Incredible players amid an evolving game. Labor strife amid record revenues. And an existential threat that ties everything together. At ESPN, a deep dive on where the game stands and where it’s going next: https://t.co/sMdR3bTX1E pic.twitter.com/mVoKFo8sfm
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 29, 2019
- That piece is also worth reading for the story behind top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. (and to a lesser extent Chris Paddack) making the Padres right out of Spring Training. Apparently, Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer set up a dinner with team owner Ron Fowler to petition for Tatis to make the club right away. Both prospects did make the team and now the Padres will likely forgo an extra year of control over both – for doing the right (by the player), very aggressive thing. Hopefully, it pays off for them this season. I’m rooting for them in the NL West big time. And for what it’s worth, Tatis went 2-3 in the Padres’ win over the Giants, and Paddack is starting on Sunday.
- At ESPN, Rob Manfred discusses what he calls a distribution problem: i.e. players like Bryce Harper/Manny Machado/etc. getting big bucks, while aging veterans getting nothing at all. Instead of shaving a year off the six years of control teams have over players (a change he predicts would lead to a salary cap), it sounds like Manfred thinks the Harpers of the world should get less, so the 32-year-old veteran free agent can get more. Not sure how you effectuate that.
- Manfred went on to say how much he hates the word tanking and then described exactly what tanking is while trying to defend it: “They [teams] know analytically to go out and sign a $15 million-a-year free agent, that may give them one or two more wins, it’s just not worth the investment for those one or two wins. That player is not going to make a difference.” Fans of teams that have a remote chance of competing are saying, no, we actually want those extra wins. And players are saying, if everyone behaves that way, some deserving players are going to go without jobs (see Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel), and others will be grossly underpaid.
- Chris Sale, fresh off a meaty extension with the Red Sox, was absolutely wrecked by the Mariners on Opening Day: 3.0 IP, 6H, 7ER, 2BB, 4K, 3HRs. That’s a terrible start, but I don’t think we need to start asking questions like “Is Chris Sale’s dreadful opening day start a cause for Red Sox concern?” If he threw a no-hitter would the headline have been “Are we ready to start talking about the Hall of fame?” No. The velocity has always been something to watch with Sale, but one game of results is not.
- Shohei Ohtani took batting practice on the field for the first time since Tommy John surgery in Octber and reportedly felt good. From the sounds of it, he should be hitting again – in a big league game – around May, if all goes well. He won’t be pitching this season.