The Rundown: Baseball is Back, Cubs Will Face Just 9 Teams, Dodgers and Yankees World Series Favorites

Hey Hey, holy mackerel, no doubt about it…the Cubs are on their way to playing baseball in 2020. Players are expected to report within a week.

Well, at least there is an agreement in place to play baseball, and with one month until the season starts, players will have to avoid COVID-19 like the plague. Yes, I’m aware that is akin to sitting in a sauna and saying “It’s like a sauna in here.” It’s the truth, though.

Both the players and owners have done everything humanly possible to sabotage the season since mid-March, but the coronavirus is warming up out there in the ‘pen like Mariano Rivera, ready to shut it down and finish the job neither side could complete. The next four weeks should be interesting as players get ready to resume playing baseball. Teams will train in their home facilities, though I haven’t heard any word on exhibition games to prepare players for the season.

That could make for some interesting baseball once the season begins. The league and players have reportedly agreed on some changes, mostly to minimize injury risk, and navigating baseball’s temporary normal may result in some laughable moments without a dress rehearsal or two. That’s italicized because I believe the new rules changes will be standard fare whenever baseball returns to a traditional schedule.

So strap it on, friends. I can’t wait to see Dan Vogelbach or Albert Pujols as the required designated runners in extra innings. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Joe Maddon navigates the three-batter minimum for pitchers. He could be the first field general to intentionally walk three hitters just to get to the better matchup. Way to set up that force at home, Joe.

The universal DH rule should help the Cubs, who have more outfielders and middle infielders than anybody else, though it sure would have been nice to have retained Nick Castellanos for that role. Perhaps Jason Kipnis or Steven Souza Jr. will offer similar excitement and professional at-bats.

The trade deadline has been pushed back to August 31, which should give Theo Epstein sufficient time to get below the luxury tax threshold. Warranted or not, expect those Kris Bryant trade rumors to fire up immediately. In fact, there may not be a better time than now for the front office to conduct a fire sale, and that will be the subject of tomorrow’s column.

Cubs News & Notes

Find Your Inner Hero

Information technology professionals, always working behind the scenes, have been the unsung heroes of the current pandemic.

Odds & Sods

If it is ever invented, perhaps time travel won’t quite meet the general hype.

Apropos of Nothing

I watched a special on the Expos yesterday and believe more than ever that Rob Manfred should do whatever he can to bring baseball back to Montreal. If you haven’t seen it, you can catch The Colourful Montreal Expos,” narrated by William Shatner, on YouTube.

MLB News & Notes

Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com provides the syllabus for the shortened 2020 season.

Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon is one of three Rockies who have tested positive for COVID-19.

How many wins should it take to reach the playoffs this year? I’d bet 33 is probably the minimum. One thing is certain, and that’s that any team could sneak in. There could be a few surprise postseason entrants, but fans of the Pirates, Tigers, and Orioles should temper any misguided expectations.

Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres should be the early favorite for AL MVP because the slugging shortstop will play one-sixth of his games against Baltimore. Torres slashed .394/.467/1.045 with 13 homers in 75 plate appearances versus the O’s last season.

The White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Reds look like the teams to beat in a 60-game season.

In fact, the Yankees and Dodgers are co-favorites to win the World Series. That makes just two months of Mookie Betts well worth it for Los Angeles.

Despite three months of finger pointing, over-the-top drama, and radical changes to the game, fans will likely fall in love with baseball again.

Extra Innings

Which player do you think has the best chance of having a hot streak like the one Ichiro Suzuki had in 2004? I’m going to go with Cody Bellinger.

Sliding Into Home

I got some more challenging news from the doctor yesterday, and you can read the full update on my GoFundMe page. The Cliff’s Notes are as follows:

  1. I have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, a sickness that is debilitating to nerves and muscles; and
  2. I have a tumor in my right armpit that will be removed and biopsied on Monday afternoon. That means I will be absent from this column on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. I don’t like taking days off because writing for Cubs Insider and interacting with our readers is therapeutic for me.

Due to extreme budget constraints I’ve had to cancel a lot of my subscription services, including streaming music platforms Spotify and Tidal. If you have CDs just taking up space in your homes, I’m your huckleberry. Contact me for details. Most of you know my tastes in music by now. I’ll gladly love those Old 97’s and R.E.M. CDs, and anything else you send me, with all my heart.

Out of Left Field

I can neither confirm nor deny that the Earth is among the 36 intelligent civilizations scattered throughout the Milky Way. I guess Richard Dreyfuss is somewhat of a prophet.

 

They Said It

  • “Excited as anyone to finally get back on the field!! But there’s gonna be a lot of positive tests (reported?) when players start reporting next week… part of the plan? Accounted for? Nail in the coffin? Who knows, so strap in…” – Jason Kipnis
  • “I think we’re well positioned. The coaching staff, the support staff and our players have done a really good job of staying ready and staying flexible and staying in communication.” – Theo Epstein

Wednesday Walk Up Song

David Duchovny (The Reboot) by Bree Sharp – Aliens and extraterrestrials? Where’s Mulder and Scully when we really need them?

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