Why eradicating COVID-19 might not mean returning to normal for MLB


There’s a tendency to talk about how strange it all was, how jarring those first five days of Pandem-o-ball have been. Uncertainty over meaning of failed tests, Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles postponing tonight’s game after COVID-19 outbreak at former clubhouse – 14+, already potential playoff injury altering the image of Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros, and the issue I would be sharp on if I were a professional athlete this morning: Eduardo Rodriguez of the Boston Red Sox being told he had developed myocarditis as a result of the capture of COVID-19 weeks ago. He is expected to resume the pitch on Thursday.

Rodriguez’s status indicates in some ways the ultimate risk that this or any other professional sport will attempt to play at a time when the United States is still struggling with a rambling response to COVID-19: the possibility of long-term damage with a real health and, yes, possible economic consequences. The Marlins’ problem is a reminder of the challenge baseball faces in requiring its players to travel frequently given the lack of appetite for a bubble concept that management and players deem impractical. Five days later, we’ll quickly find out how or if baseball can handle the most serious consequence of its short restart, of course, serious illness or hospitalization.

And while it stands to reason that this oddity is due to the impact of the coronavirus, and that its eradication should lead to a return to normal, I’m not sure what changes baseball has put in place for this shortened season. will not be there. for real. I’m thinking specifically of the extended playoffs, the use of the designated hitter in the National League, and the new rule that a base runner is second to start extra innings.

You know, of course, that the Toronto Blue Jays lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 6-5 in 10 innings on Sunday, the first time either team experienced the new rule and the second time ‘it has been used since the start of the season on Thursday. It provided quite a drama – the Blue Jays ‘Santiago Espinal stole third place with a go-ahead against Chaz Roe, scoring on a sacrificed fly, and the Rays taking advantage of the Blue Jays’ Shun Yamaguchi for a nonstop delivered victory. . by a triple from Kevin Kiermaier.

I didn’t want to like this new rule, because I’m that rare person who doesn’t mind extra innings. Extra baseball? Sign me up. But it’s hard to forget the fact that baseball is the only sport where paying customers leave before overtime. I mean, pick a stadium – including places like Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium where everyone is, you know, a true baseball fan or at least feels like one. The moans as the 10th round becomes the 11th, 11th, 12th, completion of work or school the next day or an unfavorable transit schedule sets in. Basketball? Hockey? OT is awesome. Frantic. Spectacular. Added value.

I was thinking on the resumption of play that the 10th round was perhaps too early to place the runner second. Maybe wait until 11. But I’m sold now – start on 10. Just as there is a growing awareness that the new three-hitting minimum rule has changed strategy instead of removing it – something something Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez detailed well on Sunday’s telecast – there’s a very strategic element to starting the runner second.

Bunt right away, you say? Not if you are the visiting team, necessarily. Depending on the health of your paddock, the availability and reliability of your rapper (not to mention your opponents), playing for two innings seems to make more sense than just giving yourself a cushion of a run. What about walking the first batter, setting up a potential double play and possibly knocking the bat out of the hands of a hot batter? Sunday’s result seemed inevitable, anyway, Ken Giles’ second injured player stopped cheating home plate umpire Vic Carapazza with his cursor. But in the meantime, Espinal’s brilliant derring-do and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s SAC robbery and then the return of the Rays? It seemed like a good and conclusive way to end it.

This rule change seems to reward aggression, which is rarely a bad thing.

But will that remain part of the game? It will have to be part of collective bargaining and things are still left on the cutting room floor, but they were used in the World Baseball Classic. But let’s wait and see how it goes in the post-season; let’s wait and see how it is digested by the chatty classes. Right now, I guess it survives, just like the extended playoffs are going to be a tough genius to put back in the bottle. Some crises are too good to be wasted.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for where this Marlins story goes for the rest of the day.


• Excellent ESPN statistic: for the first time since 1954 – when there were only 16 teams – there is no Major League team with a 3-0 record four days after the start of the season.

• Steve Stone, Fox Sports Chicago analyst and former Cy Young Award winner, wonders if baseball shouldn’t have changed the rule for awarding starting pitchers in this pandemic shortened season because five innings could be an early reach for many newbies. I bet we’re seeing some awesome Cy Young votes this season.

• I watched a few games to get a feel for Fox’s placement on “virtual” fans. I really wanted to hate it, but after a while I was okay with it and found it less intrusive than the placement of those silly cardboard cutouts. As for the noise of the crowd? I liked the broadcasts of the Jays-Red Sox exhibition game, where the noise seemed to be mostly the constant whispers and subtle sounds associated with an afternoon at the baseball stadium. I don’t need to turn up the volume every time the home team does something because the timing is never good. And kudos to the A’s, who added the voice of local kid Tom Hanks as a stadium salesperson to their background noise.

• There is a tendency to view Rays manager Kevin Cash as a sort of ‘handyman’, but don’t overlook the fact that he also knows when to stay on the sidelines, which is a hallmark of premier coaches. order in all sports. . Why wouldn’t he let Kevin Kiermaier play in the 10th inning instead of hardening up or trying to reinvent the game? The Jays had just put a pitcher in the game that Cash knew his counterpart Charlie Montoyo wanted to steer clear of, a pitcher afraid to pitch his best pitch with a fastball that came straight from BP. So he let Kiermaier walk away and take it. A day after running twice for his No.9 hitter and scoring them both, one from first base on a double – burning two receivers in the process, which was OK because he was carrying three – Cash a let his guys win for him. Kiermaier was 0 for 11 at that point and 0 for 5 with runners in goal position. “Twenty-nine other managers would probably have had cavities over there,” Kiermaier told reporters.

• OK, so it was only the Royals, but it’s still remarkable that the Indians managed 40 strikeouts in their first three games, two far from the club’s record for a three-game streak set by the Indians. Indians of 1966 and their greatest number since three. series of games against the White Sox in 2018. Carlos Carrasco’s exit on Sunday was arguably duly noted by the Twins and White Sox. This AL Central race will be a bear.

• The best bodies emerging from the pandemic: Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees and Yadier Molina of the Cardinals. Stanton is expected to be a beast in 2020.

• All it took was a pandemic for Angels’ Mike Trout to hit a 3-0 home run, which he did on Sunday – the first of his 286 career bombs to come. on this account and only the sixth time ball in play on 3-0. It was his second hit in 211 home plate appearances in which the count was 3-0. He walked on 203 of those occasions.

• It was nice of Montoyo to point out in his post-game press conference on Sunday that reliever Brian Moran should have been faster in the first on Brandon Lowe’s tying game in the 10th. But, come on: it was Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s decision to dive for a ball with Cavan Biggio behind him that ruined this game. Vlady goes first and the game is done. It’s part of the learning curve for him; overall he was pretty good defensively in the first three games and showed some nice quick hands. Hard to tell a guy who’s been a third baseman not to dive after a ball he thinks he can get, though. And spare me the nonsense of playing defense for him. You and I wanted it at first? We got it at the start. Aspire.

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Ken Giles, cripes. Where do we start? Think back to last season when Giles, the closest Blue Jays, needed a cortisone shot in his right elbow at the trade deadline after suffering a nerve irritation from a massage Giles received. during the star break. Giles needed an MRI – the second of the season, it turned out – after landing on his elbow to chase a foul ball. Giles only appeared four times between the all-star break and the trade deadline, and although the story is that the Yankees ran out of time on the Blue Jays before coming back on a deal, the injury went without any doubt affected its value.

Now comes his start on Sunday with what the team calls a pain in his right elbow. Giles put out the first two hitters he faced, then lost it, giving up a pair of steps after a brace. The Blue Jays said they noticed a drop in his speed in addition to a lack of control over his cursor. Truth be told, he wasn’t too shaken up in his first appearance of the season on Friday either, throwing just three fastballs, topping 95. But here’s the problem: given how bad all this summer camp has been. been wasted, it It stands to reason that not all pitchers are ready to go. We saw that with the Rays and Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, who were pushed back and placed on pitch limits because they are not physically ready to commit.

Much like last year’s issue with Giles, I’m not sure if we’ll fully understand what happened on the mound on Sunday. Was Giles – who is eligible for free agency and for a contract in uncertain times – being truthful when pitching coach Pete Walker paid a visit? Surely he has earned the right to “overcome” minor discomfort. You might like to see this as one of those things that happens in uncharted waters, but for sure we’ve been here before, haven’t we?

Jeff Blair hosts Baseball Central with Kevin Barker from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET and Writers Bloc with Stephen Brunt and Richard Deitsch from 3 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 590 / The Fan. He also co-hosts A Kick In The Grass, Canada’s only national soccer show, with Dan Riccio Monday nights on Sportsnet radio.


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