Well, that escalated quickly. After just one week and a half, the biggest news of the 2020 MLB season is that it may be almost over. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
As long as there’s baseball on TV, the MLB Roundup perseveres, and the first full week of action was well worth the price of admission… which was nothing, because there were no fans. But there was a fight, some huge comebacks and plenty of firsts. So stay for that, if you’re so inclined. Might as well enjoy it while we’ve got it!
Coronavirus Hits the Clubhouse
Like many regrettable things, it all started with a bad night in Miami. Or technically, Philadelphia. And possibly Atlanta. All we know for sure is that as of last Sunday morning, multiple players had tested positive for COVID-19. They played a game that day anyway. Now, the total number of infections on the team is said to be at 20—including a staggering 18 players. The team hasn’t played in a week.
One theory as to the cause of the spread is the Atlanta bar scene, which was reportedly visited by multiple players during their exhibition series in the city the previous week. The biggest problem, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, was the pattern of interaction between team members sans-masks in their hotel. Regardless, it led to a string of postponed games affecting not only the Marlins, but also their opponent that day, the Phillies; their next opponent, the Orioles; their weekend opponent, the Nationals; and the Phillies’ next opponent, the Yankees.
If that wasn’t bad enough, news broke on Friday morning that a second outbreak had been identified among the St. Louis Cardinals. As of the publication of this article, three Cardinals players have tested positive, along with three staffers, and their entire weekend series in Milwaukee has been postponed as well. If you’re keeping track, that means that six teams, or 20% of the league, is out of action right now. The baseball world collectively began to wonder, at what point is this all still worth it?
Fears were stoked on Friday night, when it was reported that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told Players’ Association reps that the season could be canceled if they couldn’t get the virus under control. Then yesterday, he played down that likelihood with this quote:
Comissioner Rob Manfred tells me “We are playing. The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”
— Karl Ravech (@karlravechespn) August 1, 2020
So where does that leave us? It’s unclear. But on the positive side, the Marlins team remains safely quarantined, and the Phillies have had no positive tests among players in the last week. As long as the Cardinals’ outbreak is contained, the season is safe for the time being. But for as long as it does, the COVID cloud is not going away.
Heated Feelings in Houston
In the least surprising turn of events of the year, tensions boiled over on Tuesday as the Astros faced off against the Dodgers in Houston for the first time since the 2017 World Series. No team has a greater grievance against Houston for their sign-stealing gambit than the Dodgers, after all. So when reliever Joe Kelly threw a 3-0 fastball behind the head of third baseman Alex Bregman, he may as well have just shouted “let’s do this.”
Three hitters later, shortstop Carlos Correa stepped into the batters box. The first pitch was a curveball that dropped him to the seat of his pants. He went on to strike out, but not without offering some choice words to Kelly as he left the mound. His reaction made him an instant Twitter celebrity:
Joe Kelly is 32 years old, going on 12 pic.twitter.com/ZvTqG2UU2l
— SportsTalk 790 (@SportsTalk790) July 29, 2020
Needless to say, the benches cleared, and some more choice words were exchanged. When the dust settled, Kelly was suspended for eight games, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts for one, and Astros Manager Dusty Baker received a fine for yelling at Kelly to “just get on the mound, little f*****.” Oh Dusty, never change.
How would the Cleveland Indians replace the loss of two Cy Young-contending aces in Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer? Just by letting loose Shane Bieber, it would seem. The 25-year-old righthander, whom you may remember as “Not Justin,” put the baseball world on notice this week with his second consecutive start of 13+ strikeouts to open the year—a Major League record. To sum it up:
Shane Bieber tonight:
8 IP, 13 K, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 H
Shane Bieber on the season:
14 IP, 27 K, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 H
ABSOLUTE. STUD. pic.twitter.com/vf1zMbot4K
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) July 31, 2020
Frankly, the only way he could look better right now would be in a Spiders jersey. I’m sure long-lost cousin Justin would agree.
Reds Update: Not Great, Bob
If you’ve been looking for a spot on the Reds bandwagon, you’re in luck, because it’s emptying fast. Their start to the 2020 season has been, in a word, lousy. The club sits at 2-5 on the year after losing 2 of 3 to the Cubs and 3 of 4 to the Tigers. The offense has shown some pop, but the team batting average is 24th in MLB and the bullpen ERA is 28th. In other words, there’s room for improvement.
One bright spot has been Joey Votto, who is steadfastly refusing to strike out this year. But then again, he was placed on the 10-day injured list today with what could be coronavirus symptoms. Meanwhile, third-ranked rookie prospect Tyler Stephenson made his debut this week in style, joining the illustrious likes of Aaron Judge, Jason Heyward and Kevin Kouzmanoff by hitting a homer in his first at-bat. There’s hope for the future!
Even if you’re burnt out on the Reds for crushing your hopes and dreams yet again, you might want to tune in today for the first 7-inning double-header in MLB history, courtesy of bad weather and a new temporary rule. After a brief rain delay, game one is ongoing at the time this story was published, with game two to follow later Sunday afternoon.
Cats in the Pros: Another Shot for Rusin
In case you missed it, the UK/MLB ranks just gained another member with reliever Chris Rusin‘s call-up to the Atlanta Braves.
Rusin is hoping to bounce back from a rough 2018 and ’19 with Colorado, and figures to play a decent role as a lefty weapon in the deep Braves bullpen. He becomes the seventh former Cat currently on an active roster, joining James Paxton, Trevor Gott, Luke Maile, J.T. Riddle, Taylor Rogers and Evan White.
Highlight of the Week: Mookie’s Hose
Don’t run on that guy, eh?
Strange but True:
- The Cubs turned the first triple play of the season against the Reds this week. The only problem is, it was fake
- White Sox dinger machine Yermin Mercedes finally got his call-up after 9 years in the pros
- The Braves came back from back from down six runs to beat the Mets 11-10 on Friday. Closer Chris Martin shut the door in the ninth, and he didn’t even know it was the ninth
- The Padres are in first place
- COMING: Juan Soto, Aroldis Chapman (activated, COVID-19); Clayton Kershaw (activated from injury); Nick Markakis (opted into season)
- GOING: Justin Verlander (10-day IL, forearm strain); Mike Trout (paternity leave); Lorenzo Cain (opted out of season)