Some thoughts on the opening week of Cubs’ pandemic baseball.
Kyle Hendricks was magnificent on opening night. I know, hardly groundbreaking analysis when he came within four pitches of a Maddux (a complete game shutout in under 100 pitches). Unfortunately, with the DH in effect, he was unable to buck for a Gibson as well. Speaking of which, my prediction from last May that Noah Syndergaard threw the last Gibson in history is looking more and more accurate. Orlando Arcia was the only Brewer to reach base as Hendricks pitched a perfect game against the remaining eight members of the Brew-crew.
It was hard to tell if it was Hendricks’ brisk tempo or the lack of a crowd, but my impression was that batters were stepping out of the box less frequently. That’s a good thing. It sped up the game and also spared the camera operators who had less to work with between pitches. No crowd shots, no pretty ladies, no cut-backs to the guy who just caught the foul ball, etc. Relatedly, the weirdest thing for me was watching foul balls bounce around the empty seats.
I barely noticed the piped-in crowd noise, but that may be because they were keeping the volume down. Len Kasper commented that the fake crowd was getting louder in anticipation of a win, but from my vantage point it was more akin to a bored 5th inning level. The crowd seemed even softer during the FOX broadcast on Saturday, which was odd given that they were projecting an artificial crowd on-screen. I will have to monitor this over the season.
Speaking of those artificial fans, please make it stop. No one is being fooled and the broadcast didn’t place any animation in the first four row. A majority of the broadcast featured empty seats down low with a fringe of fake crowd on the top of the shot. It was disconcerting. If FOX really wants to shake things up, shoot from behind the plate.
David Ross failed a in one of his first managerial tests against the Reds Monday when he let Craig Kimbrel pitch to a fourth batter. Kimbrel’s outing went: BB, out, BB, BB, HBP, BB. How does Ross justify leaving Kimbrel in to even face the fifth batter, let alone the sixth, in a 60-game season? I’m glad the Cubs escaped with a win, but still.
God it is nice to see baseball again.