MLBits: Theo’s Still Fixing Baseball, Maybe There Won’t Be a Strike, Vogelbach’s Weird Injury, More

I did point out that Cody Bellinger would be in the lineup against the Cubs tonight in the Series Preview, but I do think it’s worth explaining why that’s even notable. Bellinger, 25, missed most of spring training as he continued to rehab after offseason shoulder surgery. Then, five games into the regular season, he suffered a left leg (fibula) fracture trying to beat out an infield single. He returned in late May, but went down AGAIN with a left hamstring injury trying to get out of the way of a pitch.

So overall, he’s taken just 75 plate appearances this season, and hasn’t really locked in yet: .219/.333/.313 (91 wRC+). Tonight will be his second game back from the hamstring injury, though, and I wouldn’t take him for granted. You can read more about his return and expectations right here at MLB.com. After that, we’re going to get into some other stuff from around the league.

Fixing Baseball

Another day, another article about fixing baseball. But for however rote these stories are, they’re no less true. At ESPN, Jesse Rogers framed his story with the 31-strikeout matchup between the Mets (Jacob deGrom) and the Padres (Joe Musgrove) earlier this month, and what it means in context.

And this certainly caught my eye:

 There have already been 10 games this season with 30 or more strikeouts — including three this month as MLB implements a crackdown on foreign substances for pitchers. For comparison, in all of 2014, there were only 13 such games.

As expected, Theo Epstein chimes in with some comments about fixing the game while preserving its essence, and about how they’re trying to listen to fans. And to an extent, I get that. But to an even greater extent, if you allow yourself some space to honestly self-reflect … preserving the essence of the game and/or listening to fans stands in pretty stark contrast to actually fixing the game. We finally have someone we (or, at least, I) trust in a position of relative power in the game – Theo Epstein – and I want him to feel free to make whatever changes are NECESSARY, not whatever changes will please the most existing fans.

We are hardcore baseball lovers. We’re going to like it no matter what (depending on the state of the Cubs bullpen that week …). But that’s not necessarily the best thing for the life of the sport, and that’s what I’m trying to keep an eye on as we move forward.

Other stuff in this article: info on moving the mound back, regulating the shift, robot umps, and how they’re testing everything they can at the minor league and amateur levels.

Status of the Labor Fight

The funny thing is, Theo Epstein might fix baseball just in time for a work stoppage for the first time in decades. We’ve got another familiar story (and another one from ESPN, this time for Jeff Passan) about the “dysfunctional, unfortunate, unnecessary” labor fight threatening MLB’s future.

… except maybe not? All of those words above were used to describe the relationship status between MLB and the union, however, maybe we were thinking about this too narrowly. This, for example, was as optimistic as I’ve heard anyone in a few years:

“If the state of labor in baseball is only judged by is there or is there not a work stoppage that causes games to be missed, I think this will have a good ending,” one longtime official said. “I don’t think any baseball games in 2022 are going to be missed.”

Apparently most others agree on that point.

Will it be frustrating for those involved – and tiring for those covering/reading about it? Uh, yeah, absolutely. But if we’re ACTUALLY at a place where we can expect zero games to be missed next year, I’m feeling great. And this does actually track with some of the latest rumors, which implied that the money lost last season due to COVID-19 will actually press both sides into an agreement quicker/easier than without it.

As for some notable specifics, Passan mentions that a “grand reimagining of the sport’s economic structure” is probably not on the table, at least not this time around. And that the union is going to prioritize getting more money to younger players, as teams steer away from aging veteran free agents. The league, meanwhile, will want to see which on-field changes they can implement with the union, to potentially focus on the long-term health of the game.

There’s MUCH more in here, so take a look.

Vogelbach’s Weird Injury

Former Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach, now with Milwaukee, was injured on this extremely weird play. Watch as he rounds third base and then almost walks straight into the dugout before hobbling home. It was so unusual that the Diamondbacks didn’t even make a throw to the plate despite the catcher screaming for the ball. It’s obvious they could’ve gotten him out, but the weirdness just caught everyone off guard:

It’s a left hamstring strain for Vogelbach (the Cubs are familiar with those, eh?) and Keston Hiura, he of the absurd struggles at the big league level, was called back up to take Vogelbach’s place.

Odds and Ends

•   Did you ever wonder why Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer often clash and have a bit of a rivalry? It all started at UCLA, where the college aces would literally footrace each other for some stray sense of supremacy (well, and much more than that). It’s a long read at The Athletic, if you’re into that sort of thing: “If Gerrit pitched on Friday night and struck out 11,” Pearse says, “you’d better believe Trevor wanted to come back on Saturday and strike out 12.”

•   The Reds have a starting pitching prospect (No. 55 overall according to MLB Pipeline) named Hunter Greene, who just won the first Triple-A game of his career. Oh, also, more notably, he throws between 102-104 MPH. As a starting pitcher. So, we’ve got that to look forward to next year, I presume. Dang guy even seems smart: “I couldn’t care less about how hard I’m throwing,” Greene said after the game. “If I’m getting guys out with offspeed stuff and all my pitches, it’s great. You can’t get by in this game with just a hard fastball.”

•   Speaking of velocity, FanGraphs has a good article on how/why extension – in your delivery – matters in this respect, with the clever and instructive title: “When 92 Is Actually 95”

•   Indians starter Aaron Civale came out of his last start against the Cubs on Tuesday (after 4.2 scoreless innings) because of a sprain in his middle finger. Just updating you on why it happened. The Cubs did not score a run the rest of the way.

•   Would you like to see and learn about the consensus “Worst Baseball Card of All-Time“?

•   This is good:

•   The All-Star gear is out:

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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