I’m having some trouble digesting the new rules implemented specifically for this year’s Cactus and Grapefruit League games. I know they are intended to mitigate COVID exposure and prevent overuse and potential injury, but it just seems a little unsettling to me for some reason.
That the Cubs and Mariners played to an 8-8 tie yesterday no longer seems bizarre. A full game appeases those in attendance and with no loser, the players can enjoy a postgame beer and some fresh deli from the clubhouse spread. Though neither team actually recorded 27 outs in spite of the game’s duration, the deadlock was a nice way to cap a beautiful Arizona afternoon and Cubs fans got to see some fireworks from Joc Pederson, Anthony Rizzo, and Michael Hermosillo.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 3, 2021
Still, as the game paced itself toward its neutral outcome, I couldn’t help but wonder if managers David Ross or Scott Servais might invoke one of the spring’s new dictums. Might Servais end an inning before recording three outs, say in the 4th inning of yesterday’s game when Vinny Nittoli allowed a walk and three hits, including this mammoth blast by Rizzo? By rule, once Nitolli exceeded 20 pitches, Servais could halt the damage, and he did. The inning ended with just one out recorded, the first of four times the in-game mulligan was used by either team during yesterday’s game.
Anyway, the new rules got me thinking about some things baseball could do during the regular season to extend the niceties available to managers to abruptly stop an offensive onslaught. A tried and true method is a slaughter rule, popular among 16″ softball leagues throughout Chicago. That could be an election if teams open up a 15-run lead or more at the completion of four innings. Sure, fans might be upset, but they’d have already gotten their 3+ hours at Wrigley Field and some of the local outposts like Murphy’s Bleachers might be a little more appealing at that point.
But why stop with sparing pitching staffs or eliminating the unwelcome sight of seeing a position player take the mound? Perhaps the league should implement rules to build enthusiasm for some of the league’s more wretched teams.
For instance, MLB could decide to implement non-monetary bonuses for teams that achieve one of several win benchmarks during the season, something that may swing certain CBA variables in the favor of team owners. Don’t laugh. The game may be on the precipice of a catastrophic shutdown, but the players association has shown a penchant for accepting perks and amenities over real dollars in the past.
- At 60 wins, the Weenie Wagon (TM) enters stadiums, parks just outside the infield, and each player on the team that earned its 60th win of the season gets a free hot dog and a root beer.
- At 70 wins, teams get a $1500 food and beverage card and an additional $1000 worth of tokens at the local Dave & Busters for an after-hours team-building exercise.
- Once a team reaches 81 wins, the manager and his coaching staff get a weekend package at one of these Las Vegas destinations, including an unlimited buffet and a $500 marker for Keno. Players would receive a weekend golf and spa package at Pebble Beach.
- For the few teams that reach 90 wins, league perks should honor that commitment to excellence with one or more of the following: The option to use the home team’s clubhouse during any away series, an extra $100 per diem the following season, and the right to refuse entry of all Cardinals fans into their home stadiums.
- Once teams reach 100 wins, they are guaranteed a postseason bye until the league championship series, no matter how far MLB eventually expands its playoff format.
Does baseball really need a “mercy rule?” Each organization starts camp with as many as 75 players in uniform. For the love of Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown, just let the kids play.
Cubs News & Notes
- Zach Davies was sharp in his Cubs debut yesterday. The veteran righty struck out two batters over two innings without allowing a hit.
- The Cubs have agreed to a minor-league deal with infielder Eric Sogard. He gives the Ross another option in this spring’s second base battle and would platoon nicely with David Bote if the team decides Nico Hoerner needs a little more minor league seasoning.
- That said, with MLB reportedly suspending AAA games for at least a month, the young second baseman would be better served heading North as the team’s regular starter.
- Pedro Strop is excited to be back with the Cubs.
- Strop dropped 20 pounds over the winter and is truly in the best shape of his life.
- Adbert Alzolay is ready to shed the “prospect” label he has been carrying the past 4-5 seasons.
- Jon “Boog” Sciambi made his Marquee debut Tuesday, pairing nicely with Jim Deshaies.
- The return of fans to Wrigley Field should provide the organization with enough revenues for Jed Hoyer to improve the team at the trade deadline.
- Pederson is sporting number 24 on his Cubs jersey as a tribute to late NBA star Kobe Bryant.
Odds & Sods
The world has changed quite a bit in the last 12 months, but this new novelty just might make my head explode.
Hershey is releasing a version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with a peanut butter-flavored shell instead of chocolate. https://t.co/mLM0DjHgjp
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 3, 2021
Spring Training News & Notes
The universal DH and expanded playoffs for 2021 are “dead issues.”
Cardinals president of baseball operations Jon Mozeliak said that alternate sites are detrimental to the development of young players.
Nationals starter Jon Lester will have his thyroid gland surgically removed on Friday. The veteran lefthander has been plagued with fatigue for much of the offseason and early spring. He’s expected to miss no more than a week.
Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos refuted rumors that the organization will be leaving Baltimore.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa indicated he may keep three catchers on the roster to start the season. Zack Collins, Jonathan Lucroy, Seby Zavala, and Carlos Pérez are all competing to back up starter Yasmani Grandal.
Despite being just 5-foot-9 and barely weighing 180 pounds, Sal Frelick of Boston College has opened a lot of eyes as a potential mid-to-late round draft pick.
“This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around. No time for dancing, or lovey-dovey, I ain’t got time for that now.” – David Byrne
What a time to be a Milwaukeean.
The Bucks’ hand sanitizer cam is certainly a creative approach to fan engagement.
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) March 4, 2021
They Said It
- “Man, it’s always fun when you go home. That’s what I consider the Cubs. This is my home. This is my house.” – Pedro Strop
- “If we play well and do the things we need to do as a team, then I’m confident we’ll be able to [add players at the deadline]… In general we’ll also learn more about the budget over the next few months as far as fans coming into the stands and things like that. That makes a huge difference, obviously, to the finances.” – Jed Hoyer
- “Talking to [Kobe Bryant] about how he viewed basketball and the details that went into practice and film, it was pretty eye-opening. Even competing in practice and his demeanor towards that, I understand why he was as good as he was and maximized his ability.” – Joc Pederson
Thursday Walk Up Song
Complicated Shadows by Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Is it just me, or is a baseball game a difficult thing to follow with some of the new options?