I think this hiatus – three postponed games against the Cardinals plus an off day, today – has been a good lesson in baseball empathy. When the Cubs were playing every single day, I didn’t think much about how fans of the Marlins or Phillies or Yankees or Cardinals or Nationals or Blue Jays or Brewers or Tigers or Orioles felt about their postponements. The Cubs were playing, and playing well, and that’s all that mattered.
But now, I feel resentment toward every other team that gets to play while the Cubs are stuck sitting on the sidelines. Resentment due, in part, to fear that the season is going to come to an end sooner than later, in part to how easy it is for me to blame the Cardinals (deserved or not), and in part to an unearned sense of righteousness for how well the Cubs have apparently handled this challenge. And yet at the end of the day, there’s still a plain old lack of empathy underscoring it all. I just didn’t care until it affected me. I think I can be better than that.
Brett: Spot on, Michael. This moment in time sucks for all kinds of reasons, but I can also say that it sucks for a lot of Cardinals players and staff who did nothing wrong. And it sucks for Cardinals fans who waited this whole process out for baseball to return, only for this to happen. I might beef with all of them for any number of reasons, but on this? I mostly just feel bad for them.
In any case, MLB has had 24 total games postponed due to COVID-19 so far this season, including a total of 10 different teams (all listed above). You can check out their original dates and MLB plans for adjustment right here.
A’s Astros Drama
In case you missed the drama over the weekend, the A’s and Astros got into an all-out brawl on the field, after Ramón Laureano was hit by a pitch (his third of the weekend) and subsequently chirped by Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron, who reportedly said something about Laureano’s mother.
Personally, I think the content of the comments is less important than the source. We don’t need a hitting COACH starting beef in the middle of a pandemic. Stay in your lane, even if your manager, Dusty Baker, has your back: “Who chirped first? I chirped before at players myself. Guys always say is it inappropriate for a coach to chirp at a guy, but are you supposed to just sit there and take it, too?”
Yeah, Dusty. You are.
As for the ramifications, it seems the general rumor out there is that both Laureano and Cintron are staring at 10-game (or more) suspensions, which is substantial for a 60-game season, but not without reason. The league is trying to be excessive. It’s a deterrent and if that’s what it takes to get guys to wise up then that’s what it takes. There also happens to be language in the 2020 protocols that specifically state, “Violations of these rules will result in severe discipline consistent with past precedent, which discipline shall not be reduced or prorated based on the length of the season.”
Zach Plesac Apologizes
On Saturday night, Indians pitcher Zach Plesac left his hotel in Chicago to go out with some friends, which broke the recently heightened MLB protocols and ticked off his teammates and the staff. Plesac was sent home to Cleveland after the team found out, where he’ll be quarantined for 72 hours and tested daily. The Cubs are scheduled to play the Indians tomorrow, so we must now hope that Plesac didn’t risk exposing any of his teammates potentially affecting them before hosting the Cubs at Progressive Field.
In the meantime, Plesac offers an apology:
Statement from Zach Plesac: pic.twitter.com/lq5J6NTDQL
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) August 10, 2020
Madison Bumgarner’s Rough Start, Injury
Over the offseason, Madison Bumgarner signed a 5-year, $85 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it’s been a rough start so far. Over his first three starts of the season, Bumgarner surrendered 12 earned runs in 15.1 innings pitched. But yesterday, things got a lot worse.
After feeling some discomfort in his back overnight but ultimately disregarding it, Bumgarner went out for his fourth start of the year on Sunday and was absolutely torched. Across just two innings, Bumgarner was tagged for 6 runs on 4 homers as his fastball sat roughly 4 MPH slower than usual:
Madison Bumgarner's four seam fastball averaged 87.1 MPH vs the #Padres today. The lowest average velocity of his career for that pitch. Last year his four seamer averaged 91.4 MPH. pic.twitter.com/WhlDXnB8jW
— Daren Willman (@darenw) August 9, 2020
What’s worse is that in-between a rough first inning and a rough second inning, Bumgarner convinced manager Torey Lovullo to keep him in the game, a decision Lovullo now regrets:
“I kind of liked what I heard from him,” Lovullo said of the first-inning conversation. “I thought it was good enough to go back out there, and, obviously, that wasn’t the case. I’m going to wear that one a little bit.
“I’m still getting to know Bum. I love his makeup and his aggressive mentality. I’ll have to think twice about it if it comes up again. I wish I had made a different decision. It’s the one I made, and I’ve got to live with it.”
This is the problem I’ve always had with praising player “toughness” without more context. Sometimes, being tough isn’t the right thing to do, and you never want to force a manager to interpret your words. Just be honest. Give your team a chance to back you up if something’s not physically right. It’s not all about you.
Mike Moustakas to the IL
Reds infielder Mike Moustakas went through something similar recently, trying to play through a sore leg that began on Monday, but the team didn’t sit him down until Thursday (when his 10-day IL stint officially began). Moustakas also missed three days because of the COVID-19 health protocols, but is otherwise hitting .238/.333/.524 (136 wRC+) this season.
The Reds (7-9) are going to need him back and healthy as soon as possible if they want to turn their season around.
More Pitchers Are Getting Hurt This Season
An alarming early trend noted at The Athletic reveals that nearly three times as many pitchers were placed on the IL through the first 11 days of the season this year than last year and more than twice as much as any of the previous ten seasons. And this list *excludes* IL trips that happened on Opening Day, avoiding training camp injuries, as well as any COVID-19 IL trips.
In other words, these are regular old pitcher injuries and they’re happening 2-3x more than we’ve ever seen.
As far as explanations go, everyone has an idea, from the short ramp-up period, to two ramp-up periods, to more players on the roster, to an overused bullpen with starters going fewer innings early on, and so forth. You can read all about it – including quotes from executives around the league – right here at The Athletic. And don’t sleep on this issue, keeping pitchers healthy is going to be a major challenge of 2020.
What About School Starting Up?
One issue I hadn’t seriously considered: If students to return to school this fall, are MLB players with kids in those schools going to be at a greater risk of contracting the virus in September? Seems like the answer has to be at least some level of yes, right? And that’s a risk the New York Post examines right here. This is another additional layer in these complex considerations, which applies not only to MLB, but to any families with any jobs that have returned to work so far. We might end up seeing even more people out of work with the virus once their kids return to school, to say nothing of any additional risks the kids and their teachers/staff would face.
After all, MLB has strict protocols and guidelines, top health experts, near-daily testing, and, for some teams, every other possible health-related convenience money can buy … and there are STILL major outbreaks happening every single week. Why, exactly, do we think schools – with kids who are inherently adhering to protocols less strictly than adults – are going to proceed smoothly? I don’t intend to soapbox here on the broader issue, because it’s extremely complicated. I’m saying only that, yeah, there are likely to be extended consequences from the return to school, and it turns out it might even impact MLB.
Odds and Ends
• Fernando Tatis Jr. is bringing the joy back to baseball. Well, he’s not the only one, but he’s certainly one of the guys doing so. Let’s get more of them.
• In the latest MLB power rankings, the Cubs have moved up to #5 in MLB, behind only the Dodgers in the National League! It feels like 2016-2017 all over again.
• Derek Dietrich’s new team is the Texas Rangers, because the back-and-forth pipeline between the two orgs remains strong.
• Jo Adell pulled a Jose Canseco last night, letting a should-be fly out bounce off his glove and over the outfield wall for a home run … LOL:
Oh No Jo Adell … At Least It Wasn’t Off His Headhttps://t.co/yGd4hgxN9t
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 9, 2020