Memorial Day is simultaneously viewed by many as a somber, reflective day, and also a day to gather with family and friends to greet the start of summer. That’s always felt a little incongruous to me. Not bad or problematic, mind you. Just kind of something that goes into the back of your head and makes you struggle a little to find the right tone for the day.
And that couldn’t possibly be more true than it is today, where you have not only the opportunity to reflect upon the lives lost in service and defense of our country, but also to be confronted by the lives lost here and now in this moment. Because that other part of Memorial Day – the friends, the family, the BBQ, the beer, the sports – is fundamentally reshaped this year by the pandemic. It’s a mix of thoughts and emotions that I’m not quite able to articulate well enough here, other than to note it. To all those who have lost loved ones, I’m thinking of you today. And to all, I wish you a safe, healthy, and yes, happy, day today.
• If and when Spring Training II begins in mid-June, players may have only a few weeks to ramp back up before the regular season begins. For position players, many of whom have long felt Spring Training was too long as it is, that’s probably going to be plenty. For pitchers, though, we already know what’s at stake. Yes, most have been able to keep their arms in at least late offseason shape, but there are miles between that level of throwing and competitive, max-it-out, pitch-with-conviction in the regular season. And that is to say nothing of the impact of the starting and stopping of the previous ramp up in February and March. And that is also to say nothing of guys trying to stay in top physical condition during a time of distancing and closures like this. We get to say this a lot right now, but it’s true: we’ve never seen anything like this before, and the risks to pitchers are unprecedented.
• Truly, I hope teams take a very, very cautious approach with their pitchers to make sure they aren’t trying to get themselves to maxing out on July 1. Yes, it sucks that you might not be exactly where you want to be when the regular season starts, but that’s a heckuva lot better than blowing out your elbow or even just tweaking it (or some other body part), and pitching poorly for the year. We saw with Craig Kimbrel last year, almost to a tee, what can happen in this situation. These guys are competitive humans, so I understand that there’s only so much you can do – and, everyone is different, so some guys might be really fine to push it right away. Still, communicating this stuff clearly, and holding onto those reins for a while, is going to be key to preserving health. Plus, you’re gonna have a 30-man roster, so that should help.
• Speaking of all of this, Alex Speier writes a great piece digging into how the Red Sox, for one team example, are trying to keep their guys in good throwing shape, and how they’re going to be flexible in ramping them up for a variety of roles during the season. It’s a reminder that, because of this weird year, and because of the short season, you might see some truly unorthodox pitching deployments – both for strategic reasons, and for simple player protection.
• One small bit of potential upside for the Cubs? You might remember that, where we were in Spring Training in mid-March, it was looking like the Cubs had more relievers that they really liked than they had spots to accommodate them *and* not all had the luxury of minor league options. Now the Cubs will be able to use a lot more of them right out of the gate, and that means the opportunity to see what those guys really have in a variety of roles (of course, you won’t have long to discern before you’ve blown too many games that matter … so good luck, rookie Ross!). I also like that the Cubs have some guys outside the starting rotation – Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, Jharel Cotton, and Duane Underwood come to mind – who might actually best served pitching multiple innings in a semi-regular “rotation.” That is to say, you’re gonna want to have a piggyback starter available almost every day, and, on paper, it’d be nice to throw Alzolay out there at a team that just adjusted to Jon Lester for three or four innings.
• Fanatics is 30% off site-wide today only, so make sure you check that out if you’re down for some shopping. Always appreciate you folks checking out the deals and such that we share in here, as it supports us keeping doing what we’re doing.
• I see you, Willson:
• Hmm, right down to the 108 diamonds, I feel like I’ve seen this before …
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 24, 2020
• Well this is just awesome:
Friends and family came together to surprise 107-year-old Grandma Laura with a Cubs-themed parade. https://t.co/TL1rOFkSL5
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) May 25, 2020