Who knew that COVID-19 would ultimately lead to the most significant divisive force in the history of baseball? Players and owners have been fighting over prorated pay and the number of games that should be played in empty stadiums since March. Fans debate the merits and championship-worthiness of a shortened season. The game’s social media following, largely a left-leaning, has gone conservative when it comes to changes deemed too radical for their tastes, like the universal DH or expanded playoffs.
I’m so aggressively excited about the DH coming to the NL that when I see people who claim not to be I just assume it’s a bit.
— Ryan Thomure (@RyanThomure) June 18, 2020
Can’t we all just get along?
Let me quickly address each point as others here at Cubs Insider, myself included, and bloggers all over the internet, have helped to bludgeon each topic to death:
- The players deserve full prorated pay in 2020 because that’s what was originally negotiated in March, and for the sake of the fans, the league should allow as many regular season and playoff games as possible this year.
- Flags fly forever, no matter the path taken to get to a championship, and a shortened season makes no difference if every team is playing the same amount of games. Some records, such as if a player finishes the season with a batting average of .400 or better, should come with the notation that the accomplishment was aided by a truncated season, but the league requires a minimum of 502 plate appearances for any hitting records, so baseball has already accounted for such a circumstance. The same goes for pitching records. In short, asterisks are not required.
- The universal DH changes the dynamics of the National League game, but we’ve known it’s been coming for years, and frankly, baseball could use the jolt of excitement that comes with keeping pitchers away from the bat racks. Sure, we’ll be deprived of laughable-but-inspiring moments like this stirring home run by aging, overweight pitcher Bartolo Colon, but are we really going to miss that? Wouldn’t you rather see a player like Victor Caratini or Steven Souza Jr. get an opportunity to play regularly? Baseball should not be a sideshow one of every nine plate appearances.
- Expanded playoffs, especially in which a number eight seed has an opportunity to knock off a number one seed, is great for baseball. If it means a playoff schedule that lasts an extra week, fine, cut the regular season back to 154 games or play the World Series a week into November. The playoff races will be tighter, the trade deadline will have more significance, and watching a team like the Angels knocking off the Astros would be the highlight of any season. Wouldn’t you rather see Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani playing postseason baseball instead of those eight meaningless regular season games?
Maybe I’m just not intrinsically understanding (whatever that means) the problem with allowing marginal teams into the postseason, and perhaps I’m a party-pooper because I don’t want to watch Jon Lester struggle to hit .150, but why do we feel the need to keep some aspects of baseball in the dark ages? Pitchers do not hit anywhere in organized baseball except the National League.
As far as diluting the playoffs, it’s not like I’m stumping for a 50-win team to win the World Series. In fact, the best argument for expanded playoffs is that it will go a long way toward eliminating teams that purposely tank.
Cubs News & Notes
- New Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis is pretty amped up to play for his hometown team.
- Willson Contreras has tempered expectations and remains skeptical that the owners and players will actually reach an agreement.
- Who’s going to be the guy big enough and tough enough to tell left fielder Kyle Schwarber he’ll be the team’s DH this year and next, with the outfielder just two seasons away from free agency?
- Dan Kantrovitz expects that all of the Cubs draft picks will sign and that all are excited to start their professional careers.
Find Your Inner Hero
Should it be Ron Manfred and Tony Clark? Before you start softening on baseball’s sitting commissioner, remember that owner concessions usually come with a hidden agenda. So before we start glorifying the power of social media or a unified front by union members, try thinking like an owner for a few minutes. They’ve never been afraid to play the heavy during public negotiations, so acquiescing to the union on prorated pay probably means they’ve set some sort of trap ahead of 2021 CBA negotiations. Also, nothing is set in stone on rebooting this season, though it seems like only a moron or two could derail efforts at this point. Then again, we are talking about Manfred and Clark.
Another thing to keep an eye on: MLB’s desire for the union to waive any potential grievance, with a possible $1 billion more in additional salary liability at stake, is a gigantic part of reaching an agreement to play.
Apropos of Nothing
Removing a pitcher who is lights-out just to try to squeeze in a run during the 6th inning is one of the more exasperating parts of baseball fandom. It’s quadrupled during the playoffs.
For those who believe the universal DH takes away some of the strategy of managing a baseball game, I simply ask how many times you’ve shelled out the required $100-150 it costs to attend a game these days just to watch a guy like Joe Maddon over-manage with an endless series of double switches? My freshman algebra teacher used to call that the “switchy-switchy thing.” Don’t be a stick in the mud; check yourselves, please and thank you.
Side note: That teacher used to assign us to mathematically analyze one Cubs or White Sox game every week to help us understand algebraic equations. We’d even sometimes watch in class. How cool is that?
Odds & Sods
Slow the engines, there could be an obstruction on the tracks.
Sources: MLB players want more than 60 games https://t.co/gPhaNAbDqm
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) June 18, 2020
MLB News & Notes
We are at a place where resuming the 2020 season seems highly possible because Manfred and Clark decided to get together and put the good of the game ahead of the stubbornness of both sides.
That said, union was quick to issue a six-word response amid breathless reports of progress and imminent accord: “Reports of an agreement are false.”
Both sides have much work to do to reach an agreement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that MLB should “avoid” playing into October because of increased risk of a second wave of the novel coronavirus anticipated this fall.
The MLB Players Trust has committed $1 million to help minor league players who have been financially hurt by the pandemic.
A little trivia in case you ever have the chance to win a free drink someday. Imagine if the Nationals had lost the World Series because batting Sean Doolittle was the only option available to manager Davey Martinez.
We may have witnessed the final pitcher AB in MLB history in Game 5 of the World Series: Top 7th, Gerrit Cole struck out vs Sean Doolittle. https://t.co/BtHGSoHrUE
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) June 18, 2020
Sliding Into Home
Though no agreement is certain, it finally feels like summer is arriving. Keep your eyes on the owners as games begin to be played. Because cities and states are entering their final phases of reopening, you can bet your asses that 30 baseball executives are going to lobby heavily for fans to return to stadiums. It may be smaller crowds at first, but I’d bet by September, barring any significant jump in COVID-related hospitalizations, ballparks will start to fill up with fans. Maybe they’ll put up Enter at Your Own Risk signs, just like the haunted houses at carnivals.
They Said It
- “I didn’t fully understand [the impact of signing with the Cubs] until it was announced and my phone started blowing up, and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life, and how many people, friends and family, still live in Chicago. It’s going to be exciting.” – Jason Kipnis
- “[Kipnis] has a great resume. I’m a fan from playing against him and seeing him on the other side. It’s exciting to get veteran big leaguers that have been in big situations, put up good numbers.” – David Ross
Thursday Walk Up Song
Something in the Air by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – A great remake of the classic Thunderclap Newman hit from 1969. Change…it happens. Adapt or die. 2020 has taught us that much, at least.