Although you should never say never*, it sounds like our Cubs postgame show “Outside the Ivy” on NBC Sports Chicago may not be happening this year. As you can imagine, Luis, Danny, and I are pretty bummed about that.
It was a humble show with little more than a rickety table, three chairs, and a green screen, but it was our humble show with little more than a rickety table, three chairs and a green screen. If we don’t get to do it this year, I will definitely miss it. Alas, COVID-19.
*Except when using this phrase.
Juan Soto Tests Positive
The 2020 Major League season kicks off later tonight, but one of the game’s biggest young stars, Juan Soto, will not be in left field for the Nationals:
Mike Rizzo says Juan is asymptomatic right now. Rizzo says he was tested two days ago and the results were received early this morning. Rizzo says no one else is inactive after contact tracing.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 23, 2020
From here, Soto go on the COVID IL, and he cannot return until he tests negative twice at least 24-hours apart. He will miss a chunk of the season, which is to say nothing of the potential toll the virus takes on his body. I wish him the best on a human level, of course, but I’ll add that baseball is better when he’s out there. So get well soon, Soto. The league needs you.
Hopefully, in the time between taking his test and getting his result, the Nationals engaged in the kinds of safety protocols necessary to dramatically reduce the risk of spread. That’s the thing: you don’t know when someone is an asymptomatic carrier, so even with all the testing, you still have to be safe.
Speaking of positive tests, this is good to hear, especially from Sean Doolittle, who’s thoughtful, considered, and honestly out-spoken (note that this is before word of Soto’s positive):
Doolittle on MLB testing: "It's gotten a lot better. And to give credit where credit is due, the testing turnaround and those protocols have been running really, really well. … That's something that has helped a lot of players feel a lot more comfortable. I know it has for me."
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) July 22, 2020
I guess we’ll see what the team-wide and league-wide impact is from Soto’s positive. We knew they would be coming, but a big star on day one opens your eyes.
Reds Rotation Takes a Hit, Potentially
After the Cubs won the division in 2017, the Brewers in 2018, and the Cardinals in 2019, some projections pick the Cincinnati Reds to take home the crown this year, largely on the strength of several additive moves and their reshuffled schedule, which gave them a bigger boost than any team in MLB. Theirs is also a really strong rotation, talented from top to bottom. If the Cubs want to win this year, they’ll have to beat the Reds early and often, including their four-game series in Cincinnati starting on Monday. And to that end, an important update: Anthony DeSclafani heads to the 10-Day IL.
Although the move is retroactive to Monday, DeSclafani (mild shoulder strain) is not likely to be ready by next week, when he was scheduled to face the Cubs. With every single game counting for roughly 2.7 games this year, that’s of material importance. So let’s briefly examine the impact.
For his career, DeSclafani is an average pitcher overall, though he’s been solidly better than average two of the last three years. He has a 3.91 ERA against the Cubs, with a .245/.302/.452 slash line against. Meanwhile, the presumptive replacement, Tyler Mahle, has a much better 3.64 ERA against the Cubs with a .217/.288/.443 slash line, though that’s heavily weighted down by his stronger performance 2018. Last year, the Cubs lit him up to the tune of 7 earned runs in 11.0 innings, including three doubles, three homers, and three walks. All thing considered, I think this change works in the Cubs favor (though you obviously do not wish injury on any player).
Marcus Stroman Hits the IL
Another team taking a hit to their rotation is the New York Mets (of course, the Cubs won’t actually play the Mets until the postseason this year). Marcus Stroman hits the injured list with a strained left calf and is nothing better than “week to week.” That’s obvious a huge blow to the Mets rotation, which already lost Noah Syndergaard for the year to Tommy John surgery (you you know it’s bad when a Mets article suggests re-signing Matt Harvey as one realistic option).
In any case, the rotation will begin with Jacob deGrom, followed by Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha, though their final starter (if they don’t go with bullpen games early on) has yet to be named.
It’s also worth remembering that Stroman, 29, is likely going to be one of the more highly sought-after free agents this offseason. So a strong finish here in 2020 could be important.
The Blue Jays Find Their Home … Maybe
After being denied permission by the Canadian government to play their games in Toronto, the Blue Jays went off looking for an MLB home in 2020. Initially, the Pirates offered PNC Park as a refuge, but the Pennsylvania government wasn’t interested in further risking the health of their citizens for baseball.
Now, with the season scheduled to start tonight, the Blue Jays are scrambling to get approval from the state of Maryland, after the Orioles expressed a willingness to grant them permission to use Camden Yards. Even if they get that permission, however, there are several issues to overcome, including somewhere for the Blue Jays to get dressed, because the Orioles home and visiting locker rooms would be off-limits:
Orioles willing to share Camden Yards with Blue Jays, but obstacles remain. Maryland government approval is required. And the construction of a makeshift clubhouse would be necessary. With @danconnolly2016: https://t.co/5OHUQaxzLK
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 23, 2020
According to Rosenthal, “no other major-league clubs are willing to provide extended assistance to the Jays.” Yikes. For more details on the timing and scheduling conflicts present even in their best-case-scenario plan with the Orioles, check out the full article.
MiLB to Meet with MLB Soon After the Season Begins
Well, it’s not much of an update, but it’s something (via Baseball America): “There are many issues that remain to be negotiated and resolved when the two sides meet, which is expected to happen not long after the MLB season gets going. But the biggest question across the minors right now is simple: Who is on (and off) the list of 120 teams that will be in affiliated ball in 2021 and beyond?”
Minor League Baseball as we knew it was already hanging on by a thread, but the combination of COVID-19 and the reduction from 160 to 120 teams is going to change the landscape of the minors dramatically and permanently. Whatever the future holds will begin with the negotiations set to occur within the next couple of weeks.