MLBits: The Sticky Era Ends(?) Tonight, Franco Gets the Call, the Cardinals Prefer Rain, More

I’m going to tonight’s game between the Cubs and Indians at Wrigley Field, and I’m excited for a whole host of obvious reason: Adbert Alzolay is making his return from the IL, it’s my first live Cubs game in almost two years now, I’ll be in the bleachers, the Cubs are in first, etc.

But I’m also really interested to see how the umpires will change their behavior with respect to the sticky stuff crackdown (which begins tonight). Fortunately, ESPN has a FAQ style guide to what we might see and expect, which I’ll encourage you to check out.

Sticky Impact

The short version of how it’ll actually play out? Pitchers will be checked after innings and/or when they come out of a game, but they CAN be checked during an appearance, as well. Closers, by contrast, will be checked as they come into the game, so there’s not awkward walk-off moments. Position players can also be checked if the umpires think they’re handing sticky stuff off to a pitcher. But boy, if you’re going that far to hide what you’re doing at this point, that sure feels like legitimate cheating.

If a pitcher is caught with sticky stuff, he will be immediately ejected from the game, suspended for 10 days (with pay), and his team will NOT be able to replace him on the roster – they’ll play a man short (can you imagine the impact of playing multiple men down?).

There’s much more at ESPN, including expectations, comments from pitchers and position players, alike, and more. I don’t think we’ll see many ejections right away given how much attention is on the issue, HOWEVER, perhaps we could see lower velocity (pitchers trying to reclaim control lost by the lack of sticky stuff), lower spin rates, and more balls in play. That would actually be a very good thing, given the earlier-season sentiment about how the game has been trending.

The one thing you obviously DON’T want to see is injuries, either to pitchers who’ve adjusted their grip or mechanics, or batters who get plunked because a pitcher got wild.

Wander Franco

The No. 1 prospect in MLB, Wander Franco, is debuting this week, and here he is finding out the big news in front of his entire team:

Franco, 20, is a switch-hitting shortstop who posted wRC+(s) of 159 in rookie ball, 155 in A-Ball, 157 in High-A, and 148 in Triple-A (he skipped Double-A entirely), all while being extremely young for his level. Some scouts believe he might be the best switch-hitter of his generation, with great instincts at the plate as well as actual physical talent. Even in an era loaded with extremely impressive young players, Franco has a shot to stand out. It’s going to be fun to watch.

The Cardinals Need a Vacation

I don’t want to derive too much pleasure out of the Cardinals misfortune, because the Cubs are also struggling to both score and prevent runs (let alone win) at the sort of pace they enjoyed in May, HOWEVER … a little Scardenfreude never hurt anyone:

“I think right now, honestly, getting rained out is probably not the worst thing in the world for this club, and it allows us to take a timeout or break because right now we’re not playing great baseball,” said [John] Mozeliak, the club’s president of baseball operations….”

The Cardinals president prefers a rain out, because that’s how little he believes the healthy part of his team can win a game. I just … come on. I know there’s a reasonable message in there, but I’m choosing to take it the worst and most embarrassing way I can, because it’s the Cardinals and I owe them nothing.

Mozeliak continued: “We are at a little bit of a stress point right now.”

The Cardinals lost 12 games in April and 12 games in May, but they’ve already lost 12 June games here on June 21st. An alternative fun fact for that one annoying Cardinals fan friend you have: St. Louis has a winning overall record (individually) against only the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins, and Pirates this season. Oh, and here’s my personal favorite: They’re 1-5 against the Cubs.

Steve Cohen Speaks

Eminently-available Mets owner Steve Cohen was interviewed by the New York Post over the weekend and hit on a lot of good stuff, including the Trade Deadline. My favorite part was his response to whether or not he’d consider mid-season acquisition(s) that would take his team over the luxury tax threshold of $210M.

“It’s something to think about because there is a price to pay if you go over [the threshold] for the following year or the year after,” Cohen said before the Mets faced the Nationals. “I am not going to go over for a million or two million. That’s stupid, so if you are going to do it you are going to do it, so we’ll see what’s available.”

The Mets are currently about $10M away from the luxury tax threshold, so on the one hand, there is room to improve, but on the other hand … does this mean he’d go WAY over or not at all? That seems like a pretty convenient and wisely worded cop out, doesn’t it? Meant to make him look like he’d go way over if he could, but oh darn there wasn’t enough to go way over, so we’ll sit back and remain under $210M. How about you just do what it takes for your team to succeed – and what your baseball operations department suggests – and worry about the escalating penalties (that could be erased by the new CBA this offseason) later? You’re a first place team with a very good looking playoff-type roster – this year counts, yes?

Cohen has done plenty for the Mets already – so this is not a criticism of him, individually – I just really hate when there are preemptive excuses that can be easily picked apart.

Cohen also discussed a potential extension for Jacob deGrom, who can opt-out after 2022, as well as Marcus Stroman (free agent at the end of the year), but pretty much stuck with the understandably cagey responses (in this case, I think that’s OK): “I like Marcus, he is a good guy and he is pitching great, too,” Cohen said. “You have got to love it. These are all big decisions. No one has an unlimited amount of money. … You have got to be disciplined. We’ll figure it out when we get there.”

Stroman could be a good Cubs target after this season. And don’t even get me dreaming on deGrom.

By the way: despite leaving his last two starts early with arm issues (including last time out against the Cubs), deGrom is once again starting tonight on regular rest.

Odds and Ends

•   The Rangers wound up getting Tyson Miller through waivers, so that’s that. Good luck to him on whatever comes this year, and then he can hit minor league free agency after the season if he’s not put back on the 40-man roster.

•   How about a triple play to end a one-run game in the 9th? Heartbreaking for the A’s, better than a run-of-the-mill walk-off for the Yankees. By the way, Chapman, 33, has a 1.98 ERA. His lowest since the year he was on the Cubs.

From now until game time, you can get $5 off the ADBERT ALZOLAY IS NASTY shirt by clicking the link in that tweet. Or going right here. And adding the code CERAMISHOP at checkout.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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