If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that nothing is ever easy. Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear sneaks up on you from behind, wallops you with a big ol’ bear paw and knocks you to the ground, only for you to realize as you’re lying ass-backwards in the rain that you left your car windows down. You know what I mean?
The dog days of August are in full swing, and although the baseball season is less than four weeks old, teams are starting to feel the familiar drag. Except, of course, that there’s nothing familiar about this season. In this week’s MLB Roundup, we’re talking about the coronavirus reaching the Reds’ clubhouse, a league-wide slew of pitching injuries, and… the Buffalo Blue Jays? Happy Sunday!
COVID Hits Home
For a brief moment, things seemed to be cooling down on the MLB/COVID-19 front. No players had tested positive in almost a week, and yesterday, the Cardinals finally played their first games post-outbreak. But alas, we just can’t have nice things these days. Late Friday night, news broke that a positive test was registered by a player on the Cincinnati Reds, the team’s first since the season began. As a precaution, both remaining games vs. the Pirates this weekend were postponed.
What does this mean for the Reds and MLB going forward? Once again, it’s hard to say at this juncture. It could be no big deal, or it could escalate and put the whole season in jeopardy again. The biggest factor will be how quickly the spread can be contained; if more than 2-3 positive tests are confirmed in the next few days, the Redlegs are in trouble. Otherwise, you can expect to see a double-header or two on the schedule next week to make up for the time off. As the die-hard Reds groupies that we are, KSR will be monitoring the situation very closely.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals appear to be recovering from their own disaster. They swept both ends of their twin-bill vs. the White Sox on Saturday, in the team’s first on-field appearance since July 29. However, they will pay the price for their transgressions by going through a double-header gauntlet from hell: 53 games in 44 days. The journey began this weekend, with help from 41 rental cars. Someone get them Matt’s road trip playlist ASAP!
In other COVID news, MLB has reportedly had “preliminary discussions” about creating a playoff bubble for postseason play. Our sources say the Arizona Diamondbacks have signed a deep-ranged rookie named “Bevin Dooker” to fortify their roster in preparation.
Tracking the Arms Shortage
If you’ve been following the headlines in the MLB world recently (which of course you don’t have to, because you have us!) you’ve probably noticed a disheartening trend: injuries have been piling up at an alarming rate this year, especially among pitchers. The list of high-profile hurlers that have gone down with various maladies already includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Mike Soroka, Clayton Kershaw and Shohei Ohtani, and it’s growing by the day. According to The Ringer, there were 30 arm injuries alone among pitchers in the first 10 days of the season.
The latest such report comes from Washington, where World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg was placed on the 10-day IL this week with a nerve issue in his pitching hand. Strasburg, who is in the first year of his record-breaking 7-year, $245 million contract signed this offseason, has pitched a total of five innings and given up six runs between two starts in 2020. Given the circumstances, it’s unlikely he’ll be back soon.
So what’s causing this league-wide arms shortage?
It can largely be attributed to the start-and-stop nature of the hastily-assembled season restart, according to this article from the Washington Post. Throwing a baseball at 90+ miles per hour is not an easy thing to do on a regular basis, and winding up over a series of months only to quit for four months does not do pitchers’ bodily mechanics any favors. The article quotes Strasburg’s manager, Davey Martinez, who says his main priority is making sure it ends with this season:
“I really need to know if they’re hurting, because we have to think of the future of this organization, too. I don’t want to get somebody hurt right now knowing these guys are part of our future moving forward. So if they need to be shut down, they have to be shut down.”
It’s hard to blame him. As much as this season represents an opportunity for the little guy to make a run, for the long-term contenders, making a full-blown effort may not be worth the cost in player health. With many managers coming to this conclusion, it’s probably no coincidence that there have been over 100 new players make their MLB debuts in the first four weeks of the season (I can only assume this is a record for one month, too). Welcome to 2020, kids!
Introducing: The Buffalo Blue Jays
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a wayward Major League Baseball team gets lost and winds up spending a few magical weeks staying with a kind and caring small-market city. The unlikely pair fall in love, and both emerge from the experience humbled and reluctant to part. Then just as the teary-eyed Major League Baseball team is boarding a plane at the end to fly back home, the small-market city appears running through the crowd, and as the music swells they—
Wait, am I reading too much into this? My bad.
Anyway, in case you missed it, the Toronto Blue Jays are playing its home games in Buffalo this year. It started when the Canadian government denied their request to travel to-and-from the U.S. as part of MLB’s restart proposal, and was exacerbated when their entreaties to share space for two months were rejected by both the Orioles and Pirates. Finally they settled on Buffalo, the home of their triple-A affiliate.
The team’s first “home stand” was this week against the Marlins and Rays, and unlike anything else in 2020, it actually seems to be going rather well so far. The Buffalo ‘Jays won two of their first three at the freshly revamped Sahlen Field (Saturday’s game was suspended due to rain), and according to the team and media members, it’s really quite homey.
Been to 5 MLB ballparks so far in this most unusual of seasons. I will fight anyone who tells me this isn’t a big league ballpark. By far the best set up I’ve seen! Incredible work by the @BlueJays @BuffaloBisons and Buffalo setting up Sahlen Field for the “home opener” tonight! pic.twitter.com/TlplQWlcpf
— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) August 11, 2020
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Bo Bichette is absolutely mashing. Keep an eye on those young bucks in Buffalo, I tell ya. They’ll break your heart!
Reds Update: Get Ready to Wait
As mentioned above, the week ahead could be a long one for the Reds (9-11) as they wait until it’s safe to play again. The timing is unfortunate, considering the team had won two of four this week against the Royals and Pirates before the stoppage behind strong starts from Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. In the last two (including Friday’s 8-1 victory), they even got strong performances from the much-maligned bullpen: a total of 9 1/3rd innings with zero runs allowed. Hey, progress is progress!
Fans may also have to wait to find out how exactly the positive test came about, as no names have been released (and as the last few weeks have taught us, these things are messy). But if they are able to resume play this week, we should be able to surmise based on who’s absent from the lineup.
In lieu of actual games, I recommend watching this catch by Shogo Akiyama on repeat. It’s that good.
Highlight of the Week: Mookie Again (and Again)
The best player in baseball in Mike Trout. The second best is Mookie Betts, who hit three home runs in his first three at-bats on Thursday for the third time in his career. He’s 27 years old. How in Babe Ruth’s name did the Red Sox let this guy go?
It took 813 games for @MookieBetts to tie the record for the most 3-HR games.
The 2nd-fastest did it in 1,598 games. ?
— MLB (@MLB) August 14, 2020
- Weird New Rules Dept: after free runner Chris Taylor stole third last night, Max Muncy hit the first lead-off sacrifice fly in MLB history.
- Despite the no-fans mandate, someone still managed to get ejected from the stands on Thursday. It was Stephen Strasburg, on his day off.
- If there was any doubt that the Oakland A’s have devil magic on their side, it’s been erased since they came back to win after being down 3+ runs in the ninth for the second day in a row. Billy Beane’s club has won 12 of their last 14.
- Last Sunday, the Nats’ grounds crew fought a tarp. They lost.
- Randy Dobnak! Randy Dobnak! Randy Dobnak!
- GOING: Indians’ SPs Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac – Sent down to alternate training site for violating team rules by leaving their hotels on a road trip last week. The Cleveland Baseball Club isn’t messing around.
- GOING: A’s OF Ramon Laureano – Suspended four games for trying to single-handedly fight the whole Astros team last Sunday, à la Amir Garrett. Understandable, but y’know, maybe not the best idea during a pandemic.