The week in baseball: 5/29/20

From the Increasingly Nocturnal Department:

  • I haven’t found it productive to follow each new return-to-play proposal for the 2020 MLB season in any detail, but public comments this week, especially from players including Max Scherzer and Trevor Bauer, point to the very real possibility that the entire season will be lost due to the inability of the owners and players union to reach final agreement on compensation arrangements for the year in a timely fashion. Although the calendar has not yet turned to June, keep in mind that any start date will need to allow a few weeks of lead time for pitchers to stretch out, undoubtedly among other logistical considerations. The viability of opening the season on or around July 4 therefore depends on what the sides can accomplish over the next couple of days. Of all the things Rob Manfred has screwed up in his brief tenure as MLB commissioner, the complete absence of baseball in America should other professional sports leagues find a workable way to resume action would be one of the most memorable.
  • Meanwhile, the 2020 Minor League Baseball season effectively ended this week following the announcement that teams are expected to begin releasing large numbers of players shortly. Some big-league veterans, including  Shin-Soo Choo and David Price, have responded by personally paying all of the monthly stipends of all of the minor-league players in their respective teams’ farm systems.
  • The CPBL and KBO seasons are rolling on, though a recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in South Korea has delayed the expected return of fans to KBO stadiums. ESPN is continuing live telecasts of KBO games, often with replays on ESPN2 later in the afternoon.
  • The KBO appears to have earned itself a celebrity fan in Adam Eget, trusty sidekick of Norm Macdonald and manager of the world-famous Comedy Store, who said as much on a recent episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast. He and Rogan also discussed cults and Charles Manson, so listen at your own risk.
  • Japan’s professional baseball league, NPB, announced it will begin an abridged season on June 19. The prevalent view among those who follow foreign baseball leagues is that the NPB is the league that comes closest to MLB in terms of talent and competition levels.
  • Facing the prospect of the complete absence of MLB games this year, I’ve begun posting daily baseball landmarks that occurred on that day on ALDLAND’s twitter account. Some from the past week in baseball history, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:
    • 1904 – Dan McGann steals 5 bases in a game, a feat not matched until 1974 (Davey Lopes) or bested until 1991 (Otis Nixon, 6)
    • 1922 – Supreme Court rules baseball not subject to antitrust laws, interstate commerce regulations
    • 1925 – Ty Cobb becomes 1st major leaguer with 1,000 career extra-base hits
    • 1946 – 1st night game at Yankee Stadium
    • 1951 – Willie Mays gets his first hit, a home run off Warren Spahn
    • 1952 – Hank Aaron, then of the Indianapolis Clowns, signs with the Boston Braves
    • 1959 – Harvey Haddix pitches 12 perfect innings before an error in the 13th (“there has been never been anything like it” = more from Tim Kurkjian here)
    • 1968 – NL announces expansion to Montreal, San Diego
    • 1969 – Aaron becomes the 3rd major leaguer with 500 HR + 500 2B
    • 1976 – Pitcher Joe Niekro, batting against his brother, Phil, hit his only career home run
    • 1990 – Rickey Henderson breaks Cobb’s AL stolen-base record
    • 2004 – Mariano Rivera earns his 300th save
    • 2006 – Barry Bonds hits 715th home run
    • 2008 – Pedro Martinez, making a Single-A rehab start for the St. Lucie Mets, faces off against then-recent top pick David Price, then of the Vero Beach Devil Rays. (Price and the Rays win 2-0.) Price would make his major-league debut that September and his World-Series debut the following month.
    • 2010 – Roy Halladay pitches perfect game (ESPN is airing a program on Halladay’s career and too-short life tonight at 7:00 pm)
  • Whatever happens with baseball this year, Jersey City brewery Departed Soles wants to make sure we don’t forget what happened in the recent past, and therefore has released its newest beer, Trash Can Banger, a session IPA with a can styled after the Houston Astros’ classic 1970s uniforms. For now, the beer only is available in New Jersey.
  • Did the Astros cheat? They did. Did their cheating help? Running counter both to fan intuition and the public statements on the subject by professional pitchers, the latest look at that question, like some others before it, concludes that it didn’t make much of a difference. This analysis also set out to test Commissioner Manfred’s assertion that the Astros didn’t cheat in 2019 but was unable to reach a conclusion on that question.

The week in “sports”: 5/8/20

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From the Be The Ball, Danny Department:

Rob Gronkowski retired to avoid a trade to the Detroit Lions

We’re trying our best to bring you positive news from the sports world during these times that also are trying, but it’s tough to find the energy to put a positive spin on this one. As penance, the group’s laughter at the end should be the Lions’ new fight song for at least as long as it takes them to win a playoff game.

(HT: Fredi The PizzaMan)

The week in “sports”: 4/17/20

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From the Got To Admit It’s Getting Better Department:

  • Baseball is back: Not everything is getting better, of course, and circumstances are continuing to worsen for many people in many places. For sports fans this week, though, a bright spot was the return of professional, regular-season baseball. The Chinese Professional Baseball League opened Wednesday with the Rakuten Monkeys hosting the Unilions (more formally, it seems, the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions) in Taiwan. The game went into extra innings and ended with a walk-off solo homer (sound on) in the bottom of the twelfth to claim the Monkeys’ first win under their current ownership. The game was played without fans in attendance, though you may recall the Monkeys as the team that promised to fill its stands during this period with robot supporters (one of whom I think can be seen in the game-winning clip linked above). All that considered, the game atmosphere didn’t feel too sterile, though, thanks to the home team’s decision to pump in plenty of crowd noise, including chants and songs. There also were a half-dozen Monkeys cheerleaders– surely real humans and not Westworld hosts, even if we recently learned (minor spoiler alert) that the Delos park property likely is located on an island in the South China Sea– on hand to celebrate their team’s on-field achievements. It remains to be seen whether the CBPL season will continue as planned (the Monkeys beat the Lions again on Thursday, 15-3 in regulation) and eventually phase fans back into the seats, and it of course is unknown how they will respond if a player tests positive for COVID-19. For now, though, we can enjoy this moment of quasi-normalcy and hope that it proves to be a model adaptable to sports in North America in the near future.
  • iNoLongerRacing: After shouting a racial slur at one of his teammates during a live stream of a virtual race, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson quickly lost most of his sponsors, and then his team dumped him.
  • Golf’s precolonial study: We’re not talking literary criticism, although I tend to be critical of placing any weight on announcements that postponed events will occur at a future date given how little we understand about this disease and instead prefer to wait until the events, like the above-referenced CPBL opening day, actually happen. Even so, I am linking to this story about the PGA’s current plan to resume its season– sans fans– at Colonial Country Club on June 8 for three reasons: 1) of all sports, golf seems the easiest to play while abiding social-distancing requirements; 2) I needed another bullet point for this post; and 3) we’re still pretty desperate for good news in the sports world.
  • Eat your betting ticket: Major League Eating (a thing!) is taking wagers on a special eating contest featuring Joey Chestnut and seven other top competitive eaters to raise money for charity, and that’s all I feel like writing about that.
  • Coming up/Odd Odds: Speaking of large men and gambling, I’d wager it’s more likely than not that Marshawn Lynch is back on Westworld this Sunday, though I’ll leave it to the professional bookmakers to set the line on the number of different emotions that will be illuminated on his sweatshirt during the episode.

cpbl fans

The week in “sports”: 4/10/20

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From the Hey, We’re Trying Department:

  • Sports were cancelled again: Amidst alternatively gloomy and pie-in-the-sky loony outlooks shared on the prospect of the near-term return of anything not horse racing and NASCAR videogaming, the best hope– really– this week was UFC don Dana White’s proposal to stage MMA fights on a mysterious private island. Promptly after that story broke, the UFC announced the cancellation of its next round of scheduled fights. It also turns out White & Co. don’t actually own that island just yet. Meanwhile, plenty of viral bluster from a couple of college football’s biggest mouths, Mike “I’m a Man” Gundy and Dabo “Dabo” Swinney; NASCAR’s iRacing coverage insists on consistently using a very annoying term with regard to Bubba Wallace (not going to link that one); and MLB’s floated plan to play its 2020 season in the summer in the desert with lots of players and staff but no fans and no player or staff family members hits some too-obvious roadblocks. Also, Al Kaline died. More on him in a forthcoming post, but if you feel like just packing it in and trying again for sports in 2021, I won’t blame you.
  • A college basketball champion was crowned: The 2020 NCAA men’s basketball national championship game would have been Monday night, and the young cyborgs at FiveThirtyEight determined that, had it been played, it would have featured Michigan State and Kansas, with the Spartans prevailing to claim their third national championship in program history. (I couldn’t bear to read that article, so I’m sorry if it’s the wrong link.) In case you have the desire to empty an entire bag of Morton System Saver salt into your March Madness wound, here’s the site’s full projected 2020 bracket.
  • Other news: Chris Johnson maybe had two guys killed? And the Masters twitter account is posting pretty pictures and video highlights in memory of what would have been Masters week 2020.
  • Coming up: Previews indicate that Marshawn Lynch will return in Sunday night’s episode of Westworld.

MLB 2020 Opening Day

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On what everyone knows should be Opening Day for the 2020 Major League Baseball season, we instead find ourselves in a world without sports. Indeed, it’s a world without public assembly of any corporeal sort. The main thing now is to do everything we can to make sure we, our family members and friends, and everyone in our communities remain healthy. That’s the only way to hasten a return to the sort of joyful living we’re supposed to be doing on days like this.

To help encourage everyone to stay in and as a sort of balm for the pains of the present reality, MLB has planned a slate of “Opening Day at Home” programming that includes a full-game stream of one memorable game– a victory, naturally– from each team beginning at 9:00 am on MLB’s social media platforms, plus a slew of classic Opening Day games starting at 1:00 pm on MLB Network.

Stay safe and be responsible, everyone.

Sonny Rollins knows life is a solo trip (via NYT)

Sonny Rollins is, by any reasonable estimation, a genius. He is jazz’s greatest living improviser, able to imbue his solos with wry humor, surprise, brilliant logical form and profound emotion. Time and time again, he created something miraculous out of thin air, and he did it until he could do it no longer. The 89-year-old played his last concert in 2012, and in 2014, he stopped playing saxophone altogether, a result of pulmonary fibrosis. That doesn’t mean we’ll never hear music from him again — Resonance Records will release a set of previously unissued performances this fall — but it does mean that Rollins’s colossal record as a musician is a thing of the past. I wanted to know how a musician whose playing was always attuned to the present has forged a new life in the shadow of that stark fact. “‘Happy’ is not the word,” said Rollins, seated on a couch under a large painting of Buddha at his rambling home in Woodstock, N.Y., “but I am the most content I’ve ever been. I have most things figured out.” … Read More

(via NYT)

HT: Derek and Susan

RKB: 2020 Detroit Tigers Season Preview – Payroll Ed.

For 2020, our season preview for the Detroit Tigers will proceed, like a rebuilding project, in piecemeal fashion. The machines have completed their work, and it’s time for the humans to step to the plate.

The first subject I’d like to cover for this year is payroll. When a team is in deep rebuild mode, it’s almost pointless to spend time thinking about payroll. We know that rebuilding teams, essentially as a rule, are trying to shed payroll– usually with a focus on reducing a small number of large commitments to aging players– while gearing up for the next round of competitive action. This accounting-department aspect of baseball isn’t exciting, and it isn’t something even close observers monitor on a regular basis. Particularly with resetting teams, like the Tigers, that are very unlikely to add a high-priced free agent or sign a current player to a pricey extension, the payroll landscape changes only at a relatively glacial pace as years tick off old contracts.

Team payrolls are back in the news these days, though, thanks to the Boston Red Sox’s [Yeah, I don’t know either, man. -ed.] much-maligned decision to trade Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. However you cook it up or boil it down, Boston gave up two of its best players without receiving a commensurate return because the team wanted to cut payroll costs, apparently with the hope of creating the financial flexibility to maybe replace Betts or Price at an unspecified future time.

Detroit, on the other hand, has quite a bit of financial flexibility, and the team didn’t have to do anything to generate it but wait around. Safely assuming you haven’t checked in a while, how do the books look?

Barring drastic changes, the Tigers will open the season with a payroll of about $95 million, which places them on the high side of the bottom third of all teams this year. That’s a stark change from the days when Chris Ilitch’s father was holding the purse: Detroit had a top-five payroll as recently as 2017. In 2020, only two Tigers– Miguel Cabrera ($30 million) and Jordan Zimmermann ($25 million)– have salaries in the double-digit millions. Cabrera has three more seasons to go after this one, and he’s scheduled for a raise after next season. Zimmermann, on the other hand, is done (and maybe done done) after this year.

How quickly do things fall off after Cabrera and Zimmermann? Newcomers Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron and their matching one-year, $6.1 million contracts are next up. And if you thought that was a big drop, consider the fact that those four are, on an individual basis, the only players the Tigers are paying more in 2020 than Prince Fielder ($6 million).

Next in line is the only other notable mention in this conversation: Matthew Boyd ($5.3 million). The twenty-nine-year-old lefty probably is the team’s best player right now, and he still has two arbitration years remaining. Many people have said many things about whether the Tigers should trade or extend Boyd. The most-likely outcome probably is that they do neither and hope to avoid a repeat of the Michael Fulmer Experience.

What does this mean for you? Not much, really, except that we’re almost finished with our regimen of eating extra Little Caesars Hot-N-Readys to pay off the fun Prince Fielder days. Still worth it, in my opinion.

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Previously
RKB: 2020 Detroit Tigers Season Preview – PECOTA Ed.
RKB: How does new Detroit Tiger Austin Romine relate to his teammates?
RKB: An unprecedented offseason move?
RKB: Detroit’s long, municipal nightmare is over, as Al Avila has solved the Tigers’ bullpen woes
RKB: Brief 2019 Recapitulation