Welcome back, friends and family! I’m pleased to report that as of yet, the 2020 baseball season is in fact still happening. In this week’s edition of the MLB Roundup, we’re covering the miraculous recovery of the fightin’ “minor league” Miami Marlins, an update on the Cardinals’ coronavirus outbreak, and of course another round of “strange but true.” Plus, we’re a quarter of the way through the season and Mike Trout is entering zero-dad-30. Let’s dig into it.
New Fish in the Sea
This time last week, the Miami Marlins were inactive for the seventh consecutive day as the team reeled from a massive COVID-19 outbreak in the clubhouse that saw 18 players and two staffers test positive in one weekend. Facilities were shut down, every player was quarantined, and games were canceled for a whole week. It was Major League Baseball’s first real test in proving that the pandemic-altered season could still be viable: what happens when an entire team goes down?
Well, as it turns out, it was as simple as “next man up.” The Marlins returned to action this week for a three-game set of make-up games against the Orioles; but with half their team laid due to the ‘rona, they had to make a few roster tweaks first:
The Marlins' transactions list from the last week alone looks like a CVS receipt. ?
— The Athletic MLB (@TheAthleticMLB) August 7, 2020
That’s right: what you’re looking at is a list of roster moves from just one week. Since last Sunday, the Marlins have made a total of 40 transactions in order to keep their depleted roster in game shape. Most of the additions have been mid-tier minor leaguers and washed-up veterans, plus a few oddities like “switch-pitcher” Pat Venditte (do yourself a favor and look him up). Nine players have made their major league debut for the team already this season, which is cool considering they had 10 of those all of last season. I don’t even think Marlins Man could keep track of this roster.
And how has the misfit school of fish fared so far? Only by winning their first four games back, sweeping that series with the Orioles in the process. As of Sunday morning, they lead the NL East with a 7-1 record on the year, the best in MLB by percentage. Granted it’s a small sample size, and the Orioles aren’t exactly juggernauts. But who saw this coming?
Don’t Meet Me in St. Louis
While the Marlins are trending up, the opposite is true for the other team afflicted most heavily by the coronavirus this year, the St. Louis Cardinals. The club hasn’t played a game since July 29, and they don’t appear close to returning. Three more positive tests were recorded on Friday, prompting the postponement of their series against the Cubs this weekend and reportedly jeopardizing the following week’s games as well. The total number of infections within the team stands at 16, including nine players and seven staffers.
While the names of those infected were not initially released, several have come to light regardless. Among those is long-time catcher Yadier Molina, who posted the following on his Instagram Tuesday:
“I am saddened to have tested positive for COVID-19, even after following the prevention recommendations. I will do everything in my power to return as soon as possible for fans of the Cardinals, the city of St. Louis and my teammates. As I recover, I request that my privacy and that of my family be respected during my absence from the team. Blessings!”
The Cardinals are scheduled to resume play against the Pirates on Monday. However, according to Mark Saxon of The Athletic, that’s looking more unlikely by the day*. If the series is called off, that will make a total of 13 games—22% of the season—that has to be made up in the next two months in order to play a full schedule. The league has already begun the process of re-working the schedule to accommodate missed games, and (spoiler alert) it involves a lot of double-headers.
Meanwhile, questions are once again being asked about the origin of the outbreak. One unconfirmed report traces it back to a possible casino visit. Another theory links the spread to an individual who worked for one of the players. The problem continues to dishearten much of the league, including Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who summed up his frustrations to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark:
“We followed all of the health and safety protocols. We knew that was important. We understood that’s what we needed to do to be able to play this game. And we did everything right. And we paid for it.” [Bleacher Report]
For its part, MLB announced a new round of safety regulations on Wednesday, with a greater emphasis on enforcing the rules for all clubhouse personnel. The situation is touch-and-go, but Commissioner Rob Manfred remains committed to playing the season, so it looks like we’re just going to have to wait it out.
*(UPDATE: It has been officially canceled)
Watch out world: Mike Trout just got even stronger. Last weekend, he took a few days off to be there for the birth of his first child. Since then, baseball’s premier superstar has gone on a rampage. Over three games against the Mariners last week, three of Trout’s four hits left the park—including one in his first at-bat back. And the best part? He did it all while looking like this:
I love you Mike Trout but can you please leave my favorite baseball team alone ??????? pic.twitter.com/sp3wP78kMe
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 6, 2020
Yeah, that’s a brand-new-dad beard if I’ve ever seen one. But he didn’t stop there. Friday happened to be Trout’s 29th birthday, and, well, he likes hitting on his birthday. This one was no different, as he launched this 444-foot, 109-mph moonshot in the first inning against Texas to make it four homers on the week and five on the year, good for 3rd in the American League despite his absence. So in summary, the only difference between Mike Trout and the average dad is about 1,600 feet of dingers!
Meanwhile, in other Angels news, a familiar story is playing out so far: a lot of flash but not a lot of wins. The Halos sit in 4th place at 5-10, Anthony Rendon is slumping and, to my disappointment, it was announced this week that Shohei Ohtani is likely to be shut down from pitching this season once again. They also finally pulled the trigger by promoting super-prospect Jo Adell, only for the rookie to pull a Canseco in his third game. Ugh.
Reds Update: Big Stick Nick!
It was another mediocre week for the Reds, winning this weekend’s series with the Brewers but dropping 3 of 4 against Cleveland before that. After today’s loss, their record stands at 7-9, which would *technically* still put them in line for the playoffs in the expanded format—but there are some kinks to work out, particularly with the bullpen.
However, one consistent bright spot has been the new acquisition of Nick Castellanos. Big Nick has produced a torrid .293/.379/1.103 slash line so far, and his seven home runs are second in the NL. He even managed to hit one out against Indians’ right-hander Shane Bieber, a feat no one else in baseball has managed so far this season. As the season moves on, Castellanos is certainly the name to watch.
The Reds are now batting .200 as a team. That places them 29th in Major League Baseball.
Nick Castellanos is batting .315 w/ 7 HRs & 16 RBI. Of players with at least 20 At-Bats, no other Red is batting above .238 on the season.
The Reds are tied for 6th in MLB w/ 21 Home Runs.
— Brandon Ramsey (@BRamseyKSR) August 9, 2020
Highlight of the Week: Brotherly Love
It was a special moment for the Heineman family last weekend when brothers Tyler (C, Giants) and Scott (OF, Rangers) faced off against each other in the Big Leagues for the first time. Before the game, both teams’ managers arranged for the two players to exchange the lineup cards. Afterward, they did a jersey swap (pictured above).
“It’s something that we’re never going to forget,” said Tyler, who started the game on Sunday for an injured Buster Posey.
In the 7th inning, Scott came up to bat and did this with his brother sitting behind the plate just a few feet away:
Scott Heineman – Texas Rangers (1) Solo
Distance: 337 ft
Exit Velocity: 92.9 mph
Launch Angle: 33°pic.twitter.com/HlkXQdKWfC
— MLB Home Runs (@HomeRunVideos) August 2, 2020
According to Jayson Stark, it’s just the third time in MLB history that a player hit a home run on a pitch called by his brother. You can’t make this stuff up!
[Full Story: CBS San Francisco]
Strange but True:
- Last week, Rays outfielder Manuel Margot became party to the first 2-up, 3-down inning in Major League History (aren’t those new rules fun?)
- Remember all those new guys that made it this week with the Marlins? One of them was once an Olympic medalist… in speedskating
- Last night, former Reds hurler Johnny Cueto had a no-hitter going through five frames. Then this happened. Oof.
- Two weeks ago, Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes became part-owner of the Kansas City Royals. Since then, they’ve already lost more games (8) than Mahomes has in his entire three-year NFL career (7). Bigger Oof.
- COMING: Jo Adell (promoted); Joey Votto (activated, IL)
- GOING: Mike Soroka (60-day IL, torn Achilles); Giancarlo Stanton (10-day IL, hamstring strain); Yadier Molina (10-day IL, COVID-19)