Apologies if you find this in poor taste, but since the news is inescapable, I keep getting reminded of one of my all-time favorite board games: Pandemic (available on Amazon #ad). It’s a cooperative board game in which all players work together to treat infectious diseases around the world to prevent outbreaks and epidemics. Uniquely – and appropriately? – you either all win as a team or all lose as a team (you play against “the game”), which is a fun twist. It’s also pretty easy to pick up.
I’m just saying, if you’re hosting a party soon and want to look #cool and #topical and #smart, you might consider grabbing a copy of Pandemic. As a pretty big board-gamer, I fully endorse it.
- Speaking of which …
MLB owners are holding a coronavirus conference call at 5 today. Limiting media access is on table. Not much talk about altering schedule … yet.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 9, 2020
- I very much hope the baseball season is not impacted by Coronavirus, but all professional sport competitions in Italy (one of the most impacted countries) have been cancelled until April. So, I really think we should be prepared for anything, since safety is going to be the primary concern.
- Two years ago, the MLB Players Association filed a grievance against the Pirates, A’s, Marlins, and Rays for not spending their revenue shared money appropriately (i.e. in accordance with the conditions of receiving the money in the first place) and Pittsburgh is already in trouble again. From 2017-2018 (when the first grievance was filed) the Pirates payroll dropped from $86.3M to $74.8M. This year, they boast a projected payroll of … $51M. That’s barely enough space for (former Pirates) Gerrit Cole ($36M) and Starling Marte ($11.5M), alone. The union has filed another grievance.
- Justin Verlander left his second spring start early over the weekend due to some triceps soreness, which was ultimately characterized as a mild lat strain, similar to the injury he had in 2015 (initially dubbed a triceps injury that turned out to be the lat):
Justin Verlander underwent an MRI this morning and the team is awaiting the results. Verlander told manager Dusty Baker he is "feeling better."
"He doesn't appear real worried," Baker said. "He says it doesn't feel nearly as bad this time as it did (in 2015)."
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) March 9, 2020
- He doesn’t seem overly concerned about the season as a whole, but was quoted saying that it would “probably take a miracle to be back before Opening Day,” which can’t have Astros fans feeling good:
Verlander said this is not the worst-case scenario but also said later in his interview session “It would probably take a miracle to be back before Opening Day. But I don’t want to take miracles off the table.” JV has a mild lat strain, similar to injury he had in 2015. pic.twitter.com/8RE2hXeGzm
— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) March 9, 2020
- I mean, first the league takes away their special buzzers and trash cans, and now this?! Okay, that was unfair. But still … go A’s or Angels or Rangers or (not likely) Mariners.
- [Brett: Meanwhile, the Astros’ rotation for Opening Day looks like Zack Greinke (36), Lance McCullers (returning from Tommy John), Jose Urquidy (144 total innings above High-A), and … uh … uh … some other guys? Inserts obligatory comment about them needing to trade for a short-term starter …. ]
- In other significant injury news, we finally know more about Aaron Judge, but it’s not great: “Aaron Judge has a broken rib and it’s not clear whether he’ll need surgery, leaving doubt when he’ll be back in the lineup,” according to the Associated Press. Judge is understandably frustrated given that this injury actually occurred at the end of last season, but all he can do now is wait and heal. The tests did show some positive signs, but surgery to remove the bone remains a possibility. Obviously, they all hope to avoid that.
- Here’s a random reminder that, since his monster 2017 season, Judge has been trending downward pretty much across the board. He’s still been extremely valuable, mind you (like, really really good), but there’s a huge difference between a 174 wRC+ and 8.3 WAR over 155 games and a 141 wRC+ and 4.6 WAR in 102 games. Obviously injuries have played into this, I just found it an interesting trend to highlight.
- Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun fractured his jaw after being hit in the mouth by a fastball thrown by Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Julio Urias. OUCH. There’s no timetable for his return.
- At The Athletic, Andrew Baggarly has a really interesting, unique, and frankly unexpected piece on Barry Bonds, who’s currently a week-long guest instructor at Giants camp this spring. What was meant to be a hitting philosophy story about Bonds’ perception of launch angle and strikeouts and whathaveyou turned into this tell-all of a former superstar who feels “like a ghost in a big empty house, just rattling around.” Bonds explains that he feels like he’s been given a “death sentence” and that is heart is “broken … really broken.” Like I said, not quite what you expected to be read, but very worth your time.
- Arguably the best stories of the spring (so far) have been the mic’d up moments across baseball. We were fortunate enough to have a front-row view for a few of the Cubs (Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Ian Happ), but Freddie Freeman and others have been delivering league-wide entertainment as well. And both the league and union have taken notice: “We’ve been involved in a number of experiments incorporating mic’d players over the years,” Tony Clark, head of the players union, responded in a statement released to ESPN, “including at the All-Star Game last year, and there’s no doubt players’ voices and the kinds of insights they can provide bring tremendous value to broadcasts.”
- By the tone of the article, you might expect to see more mic’d up players, even during the regular season, in the future – perhaps even as part of the next CBA negotiations. Olney makes a really good point on why it might be necessary, natural, and forward-thinking. I’d be on board, even if many players expectedly would not be.
- Managers have more thoughts on the new three-batter rule:
“There are going to be a lot of bad decisions."
The biggest myth about the new 3-batter rule is that it's going to kill strategy. In truth, it's going to change strategy – in more ways than you''d think.
I surveyed managers on all their new headaches!https://t.co/6LilLYSoHH
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) March 6, 2020
- Never have I been more convinced that the three-batter minimum is a good idea then hearing a bunch of veteran managers complain that they won’t be able to go batter-to-batter late in ball games like they’ve grown accustom. Like, yeah, bud … that’s *literally* the point. And I don’t say “Bud” condescendingly … Bud Black said “A team should be able to do what they want to do with their players.” While Terry Francona is concerned about what he’ll do when the Indians have a starter go 7 1/3 innings against the Padres in June, but then must face lefty Eric Hosmer and righty Manny Machado back-to-back. In the past, he knew exactly what to do – lefty Oliver Perez for Hosmer and righty Adam Cimber for Machado. But now, he’s worried he has only half an answer.
- So remember, when you hear what these guys want, an ideal world for someone like Francona would be to have his starter come out, warm up, get one out, have a second pitcher come out, warm up, get a second out, and then have a third pitcher come out, warm up, and try to get the third out. Even if everything goes *exactly* according to plan, that’s three warm ups and two pitching changes in the 7th inning. In June. Against the Padres. Give me a break. The article discusses all sorts of unexpected outcomes for the three-batter minimum, including something I’ve been vocal about: the resistance to go too quickly and too fully to lefty/righty/lefty no matter what.
- Also: kinda nice that David Ross isn’t too set in his ways, eh?
- As part of the newly expanded 26-man roster, MLB introduced limits on pitchers (13) with one notable exception: two-way players. Unfortunately, while the threshold for two-way players is relatively easily achievable in the American League, where there’s a DH spot available, the NL is having a hard time. Two teams, the Reds and Padres, have players who probably should qualify as two ways players, but technically wouldn’t have qualified last season by MLB’s new standards, because they don’t *start* games as position players. The league is working with both teams and it sure seems like adjustments will be made. And, of course, if/when the universal DH is implemented, the rules will be even easier to address.