What began as an awesome day faded into uncertainty and then disappointment in a hurry. Given all the moving parts and the logistics of having to move a playoff game, I’m still amazed that they didn’t simply push the start time for Game 3 up to, say, 1 p.m. CT. Oh well.
The vibe in the ballpark was just so odd, primarily due to the impending rain and the knowledge that they were likely going to bang the game. Hiding behind that was the idea that a delay would help the Nationals, who would surely start Stephen Strasburg on regular rest Wednesday.
Spirits were already dampened by the time everyone started walking out in rain that was only beginning. Fans were rearranging their plans or slogging through the knowledge that they wouldn’t be able to return for the rescheduled game. Or maybe they were texting bosses and spouses to say that they were not going to be coming back to work or home that evening or the next day.
However, a little bit of news revealed in one of the aborted game’s pressers injected a little excitement into the mix.
As I was walking through the rain, I got a call from CI’s own Corey Freedman telling me that Dusty Baker had opted to stick with Tanner Roark as his starter. Wait, what?!
According to Baker, Strasburg was “feeling under the weather,” which was why he wouldn’t be starting. That might not be too curious an explanation in and of itself, but Baker went on to say that he and most of the rest of the team was feeling similarly punkish. The former Cubs manager cited the change in weather, air conditioning in the hotel, air conditioning in the clubhouse, and the time of year for mold in Chicago as reasons for their questionable health.
So does that mean they won’t be able to field a lineup?
Hardly, though moving Jayson Werth to the two-hole says that they might not field as good a lineup as they have been. That’s a whole different ball of wax, so let’s get back to Strasburg, who threw a bullpen on Tuesday. You know, the same session he normally throws two or three days before a scheduled start. Now we’ve got all manner of new questions.
If Strasburg was really under the weather, why have him throwing at all? Knowing that a postponement would allow the Game 1 starter — who has performed a little better on the road this season — to go Wednesday on normal rest, why was he throwing a ‘pen? Why even use health as an excuse, unless this is some effort at further gamesmanship from Baker?
The conclusion I’ve come to is that either Strasburg was never going to go Wednesday under any circumstances or that Baker erred badly in having him throw on the side Tuesday. The latter would mean that the Nats were confident Game 4 would be played, which would have been an egregious error in judgment.
The former is quite a bit more plausible and assumes that the Nats feel good about Roark taking the bump against the team he cheered for growing up. It also means setting Strasburg up for a potential Game 5. While it’s a big step down in terms of talent, it’d be unwise to overloook Roark or the Nats lineup in this game.
As with all managerial decisions, this one is going to be either praised or eviscerated depending on how the game plays out. But I will continue to question Baker’s explanation no matter what, as I just don’t buy it. Okay, that’s disingenuous; I’m going to forget all about this in a couple days. For now, though, it’s super weird.
Either yesterday’s rhetoric was a smokescreen or Dusty had a change of heart, because Strasburg is indeed starting. Buckle up.
More news and notes
- John Farrell will not return as Boston’s manager after failing to advance beyond the ALDS for the second straight season. This is a look at the expectations bred by success; the Red Sox have won the division two years in a row, but that’s no longer the benchmark for a team used to winning big. Not necessarily a portent of things to come in Chicago, but the general sense of requiring big wins is the same.
- It could perhaps be a total coincidence with zero impact on future events, but you may recall that the Cubs recently acquired pitcher Luke Farrell, John’s son. The Cubs also have a bench coach who’s been a candidate for managerial jobs over the last few seasons. Maybe those dots all get connected.
- MLB Trade Rumors has a pretty accurate model when it comes to predicting arbitration raises, and they’ve got a few Cubs set to make a little more money. Among the notable figures, Addison Russell is projected at $2.3M, Kyle Hendricks at $4.9M, and Kris Bryant at $8.9M. While that latter mark is more than eight times what KB makes now, it’s a steal for the man who’s second in cumulative fWAR since his debut in 2015. I think it might even be a little low, given Bryant’s value and his representation, not to mention the Cubs’ willingness to do right by the man who could easily go down as their best player ever.