Another day, another slow-moving train wreck to follow. The Cardinals outbreak seems to be going the way of the Marlins, with the reported positives extending well beyond the initial two. We’ll just keep operating knowing that the season could be shut down at any moment. There are much greater concerns in the world when it comes to this virus, but I will admit, my mental/emotional capacity to live in this constant state of stress and uncertainty is brushing up against its limits. I am worried about the players and personnel. I’m worried about the workers (health and employment). I’m worried about businesses like ours. Just permeating every single moment over the past week, all while trying to be like, woo, I’m covering baseball, yay. The cognitive dissonance is turned up to 11, and, oh, by the way, that’s all taking place against the backdrop of a pandemic that threatens my own family daily. This all sucks. And I didn’t mention the frustrations that I’m not doing enough to help improve the effed up problems in our society, the pain we are having at home while dealing with various mental health challenges, and the looming threat of three kids and a teacher wife going back to school (or not) in a couple weeks. Seriously, I’m just venting in a stream of consciousness at this point because this is the place I have, but I’ll say it again: this all sucks. At what point do you no longer have to feel guilty for being overwhelmed?
Anyway. Bullets about baseball.
• That was another rough outing for Craig Kimbrel, albeit in a way that looked more like the rough ones last year, with a fastball that just sat there at the belt. Worse, he likely didn’t have the knuckle curve again (hard to tell if he was that, or if he simply threw it only twice because of the game situation), so it was belt-high fastball after belt-high fastball. If you throw only two pitches and the other team knows they don’t even have to bother thinking about swinging at the curveball, they’re just going to sit back and tee off on the fastball, ESPECIALLY if it’s belt high every time. Hence this:
Cubs win, and that is very swell. What is not swell is that every single ball hit off Kimbrel was absolutely smoked: pic.twitter.com/tFBTjgJpZi
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) August 1, 2020
• David Ross on Kimbrel’s outing (Cubs.com): “He’s still trying to find that breaking ball, it looks like a little bit. He’s still working through some stuff. He’s definitely not where he wants to be yet. But it was nice to give him a little bit of cushion there and have him work through some stuff …. He’s just got to get that breaking ball out front a little bit. It looks like he’s a little rotational in that. But, yeah, he’s working through some stuff. But he’s got to get the work.” I have no idea how you could justify putting him back out there in the next true save spot right now, given how critical every game is, but we’ve seen that the closer mentality can be fragile for some guys. I’m not saying whether that’s true or not for Kimbrel – I have no idea – but I’m saying we’ve seen that once the confidence is gone, and the team’s faith appears to be gone, some guys just can’t get it back. So if you bail on Kimbrel now and put him in middle relief to “work on things,” it’s pretty hard to imagine him getting the job back later this year, or maybe even not next year. The guy was a HALL-OF-FAME-TRAJECTORY closer for nearly a decade. What’s happened is stunning.
• Outside of Kimbrel and the bullpen, by the way, it’s crazy how good the Cubs have been so far through seven games. Rotation? Excellent. Bats? Excellent. Deployment of starting pitchers and position players by the manager? Excellent. If the Cubs played like this for the season, even if the bullpen turned out to be an irredeemable disaster, they probably still win 35+ games out of 60 and easily make the playoffs. (*IN* the playoffs, however, a terrible bullpen almost certainly sinks you in an early round.)
• How quickly this stuff can get stale – I mean, this was less than 24 hours ago:
Jed Hoyer is 'confident' MLB can safely move forward with its coronavirus-riddled season if it learns from Marlins' outbreak and everyone works together on protocols https://t.co/aJNeJlQwEw via @McNeil_Parkins pic.twitter.com/bBwxmydma0
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) July 31, 2020
• What concerns me in there is Hoyer saying that it seems MLB did not anticipate a situation where a team suffers a massive outbreak right away, like the Marlins. In hindsight, it’s now OBVIOUS that MLB did not anticipate that situation … which means, what now? It was a major, major oversight, and now we can see it’s probably already blasting the Cardinals, too. Even there, the league basically shut them down and quarantined them immediately after the positive tests, but they’re easily going to miss a week+ of action (which is absolutely what you have to do). How many teams can you actually do that with and still have a season? I don’t care how many seven-inning doubleheaders you try to have.
• Anthony Rizzo, summing it up:
Anthony Rizzo knows how fragile the Cubs' good start (5-2, zero positive player tests) is: "We come in today, we do our job. We hope tomorrow when we wake up the Cardinals (have) only two of their guys — and not six to eight — and it doesn’t spread there."https://t.co/wBO6uPbXhb
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) August 1, 2020
• OK, I can enjoy something fun from baseball for a minute while we still have it:
MOOKIE BETTS HOLY THROW pic.twitter.com/t1nVDRE5SA
— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) August 1, 2020
• A raging battle of heavyweights going back and forth:
Choo has been hit by a pitch 151 times in his career. He is the MLB active leader. One more than Anthony Rizzo
— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) August 1, 2020
• Also, this was about as easy as a double play opportunity gets (a little slow on the ground, but routine with no lateral movement), and yet it was not even CLOSE. Luis Robert is crazy fast:
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 1, 2020