I can’t tell if today is a well-timed off-day for the Cubs or a terribly-timed one. I can only say that I’m finding it challenging to find my footing this morning.
• As for the team’s decision not to sit out with Jason Heyward last night, this is the best – both fair and appropriately critical – read I’ve seen on the topic so far:
Did the Cubs do right by Jason Heyward last night? It’s the one question that was truly important after the game. https://t.co/QpiqZ4SqZg
— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) August 27, 2020
• Things happened very quickly last night before the game, and it’s hard for me to jump down the throat of humans who were dealing with a completely unexpected, new situation with little time to consider deeply all the ramifications. I didn’t like the way it seemed like it played out, but I also confess there’s so much I’ll never know. It sounds like some Cubs players did not want to play without Heyward, but they took him at his word that he was making a choice for himself, and he wanted his teammates to go play. I’d be an arrogant prick if I said I knew for absolute certain how I would have proceeded last night, since I’m not in that clubhouse. I don’t have a relationship with Heyward. I don’t know the depths of those personal interactions and how they inform behavior. I do know that there’s a lot of genuine love and care and support in that clubhouse.
• That said, it’s pretty clear now that Heyward’s teammates and his manager were faced with a choice last night: follow Jason Heyward’s words and play the game, or follow Jason Heyward’s lead and take a stand on their own to join him. To be honest, I think taking the stand would’ve been a powerful statement – as it was for the Dodgers and Mookie Betts – and I suspect Heyward would have been more than OK with it. I also think I can understand how the relationships in that clubhouse are such that at least some of the players felt they were actually doing the more “right” thing by playing, because Heyward encouraged them to. I hope this element, too, becomes part of an ongoing conversation on how athletes (among others) can best show their support and aid in change.
• There was a Cubs baseball game last night, but I’ll admit that I had trouble focusing on it and following along with everything else that was happening. One thing I did notice in the data was a pretty extreme version of rough hitting luck for the Cubs. Their contact data at Statcast showed that they were hitting rockets all night, and yet they had six balls in play with a 50% or better chance of becoming a hit that turned into outs. Three of those were barrels that had a better than 70% chance of being hits (and barrels tend to become the most impactful kinds of hits).
• One of those barrels was a 424-foot(!) blast by Anthony Rizzo in the 9th that would’ve given the Cubs the lead … but Comerica Park:
#Cubs Anthony Rizzo hit a sacrifice fly to the wall in Comerica Park, it traveled a projected distance of 424 feet (420 feet in center) — the farthest hit out by any player this season, and the deepest out since Salvador Perez on June 27, 2017 (also 424 feet at Comerica Park).
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) August 27, 2020
• The Cubs actually had six balls hit at least 359 feet last night and FOUR of them turned into outs, and only one of them left the park. Obviously the bullpen and the defense combined to crap the bed, but we should keep the batted ball stuff in mind when considering the loss.
• But it was a loss. And it was a series loss to a Tigers team that the Cubs really should be beating. That, in turn, followed a series loss the White Sox. Even with the series win against the Cardinals in there, the Cubs are now just 5-9 in their last 14 games. Good thing they got off to that scorching hot start, eh?
• The Cubs released reliever Kelvin Herrera from their alternate site yesterday, bringing the 60-man pool down to 57. A spot open for Pedro Strop?
• It’s been a while since there has been a significant development in the COVID-19 world that merited mention here because of the potential impact on sports, but even epidemiologists agree that this is a really big deal:
Some Great news!!
Terrific news from @AbbottNews and a MASSIVE step forward towards widescale cheap, simple, rapid tests. This is the type of test that not only will diagnose ppl – but can stop transmission chains.
What makes this different?
— Michael Mina (@michaelmina_lab) August 27, 2020
• Accurate, cheap, rapid antigen tests in widespread availability are something we’ve wanted for a very long time, because they eliminate the testing delays involved in the current form of testing. Rapid tests have been around for a few months now, but (1) they are not widely available, and (2) they have been reportedly only about 85-90% accurate. These ones are very cheap, going to be produced in the tens of millions, and are 97-98% accurate. For now, these are limited to point-of-care doctor use, but it’s a step on the way toward home testing (which, if it were available today, could pretty much change everything). The potential impact on – for example – attendance at sporting events next year is enormous. These tests could be in wide deployment as soon as next month (though, realistically, I’m looking at this as hopefully a huge step for the winter and beyond).