Whatever your fandom or lack thereof, you have to admit it was pretty funny to see Ohio State dust Clemson after Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney ranked the Buckeyes 11th.
• The Cubs and Padres reportedly were discussing name possibilities in a Yu Darvish trade as far back as a month, but one name that never seriously came up was big league utility man Jake Cronenworth, per The Athletic. I still think it’s really odd that the Padres added Ha-Seong Kim to an otherwise full outfield and outfield mix without thinking they might move someone else, but maybe you just credit them for doing the thing we wish the Cubs would do more often: add talent when it’s available, figure out the rest later.
• As for no Cronenworth for the Cubs, that part doesn’t really bug me that much (me bringing him up a lot last week was more about the Kim thing and him seeming like a low-cost Cubs “type”, rather than me being convinced that he definitely broke out at age 26 in a short big league season). That said, no surprise here: I really want the Cubs to bring in a second baseman this offseason, and if he’s versatile, all the better. That way, you’re covered at second so that you don’t *have* to make Nico Hoerner or David Bote the starter there if you would like them in other roles (Hoerner at Iowa, Bote in a utility role). But then you also have the flexibility to move that guy off second if Hoerner becomes ready, or Bote is breaking out. And if not a versatile guy, I guess a reunion with Jason Kipnis wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He was perfectly fine in a platoon role, pairing an average bat with average defense. It’s not sexy, but it’d be “fine.” Just sayin’.
• This is really the only way for MLB to proceed on the vaccine front, as they are like any other business operation:
MLB has announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed only when government officials approve.
Players in good health will not be vaccinated before most frontline workers and the elderly, based on known guidelines.
— The Athletic MLB (@TheAthleticMLB) December 30, 2020
• Until and unless the vaccine is available without priority guidelines in place, then there’s just no ethical way for MLB to justify getting the vaccine to otherwise young and healthy players before other groups (though those other groups could include older staff members and/or high-risk players). The hope at present is that the vaccine will start to be available to non-at-risk people at some point in April.
• … which, of course, reiterates the weird timeline baseball is up against. With Spring Training scheduled to begin next month, the league and players could decide to proceed, for now, with extreme safety protocols in place – last season showed, for the most part, that it can be done successfully – and then vaccinate in-season when available. Or, the league and players could decide to push things back a bit to get closer to that vaccine timeline. As we’ve discussed, though, I tend to think that would be met with opposition from players unless it means there is still a full 162-game season. And in response, owners will say they can’t push the season too far back into the fall/winter, so the best solution is to push the season back to sometime in May, and then shorten it (which, frankly, is more about maximizing fan attendance than the vaccine for the players). Either way, this stuff needs to be sorted out now, even as both sides are waiting for some magical answer to arrive from the government or health officials.
• In 10 games in Puerto Rico, among his other silly stats, Miguel Amaya has been hit by a pitch SEVEN times. Stop it, pitchers. As I look around that league – only four teams are actively playing right now – I can maybe see why it’s happened (and also reason not to put too much stock in the numbers), at least in part. One of the four teams appears to be comprised almost entirely of guys 21 and younger, and their results so far have been atrocious, as you’d expect. I’m wondering if that’s maybe some kind of local showcase team? So they get a chance to play against older, more competitive players, but their penance is getting whipped every night (they’re 2-16 on the season). In those 18 games, their pitchers have hit 29(!) batters.
• Baseball ratings at the local level were up slightly this year, though national broadcasts in the postseason were down in a big way. Sounds like that was par for the national course:
2020 Prime-time viewership
CBS: down 32%
Fox: down 28%
NBC: down 25%
ABC: down 7% https://t.co/M3tyoBBPwg
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) December 31, 2020
Red Sox to hire Bianca Smith as minor-league coach, making her first Black woman to coach in pro baseball history https://t.co/OxF6HgdsFX
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) December 31, 2020
• I am two parts trolling, one part hopeful:
In 2021, the Chicago Cubs are going to win the NL Central with a 79-83 record, and then they're going to win every single postseason game and a World Series just to piss everyone off.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 1, 2021
• Our friends are doing a huge giveaway: