“Distracted from distraction by distraction.” – T.S. Eliot
The time and tide of sports news is a constant stream of the highest highs and lowest lows, one good or bad distraction after another, always embedded into the social media news feeds that so many of us cling to like veritable lifelines. Of course T.S. Eliot didn’t have Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and that’s probably a good thing because he was equally loved and hated while often accused of bigotry and antisemitism. And, since he was born in St. Louis, he may have been a Cardinals (nee Browns) fan, pity his poor soul.
Trying to keep up with where sports is heading as states slowly soften their stay-at-home requirements is pure folly, mostly because concrete plans for the future remain in flux, as malleable as a lump of moist, gray clay. Yesterday we heard that wheels are in motion for a potential restart of the MLB season, pending acceptance by the player’s union, though many hurdles remain.
Max Scherzer is the union rep for the Nationals, and if Sean Doolittle is effectively bending his ear regarding any plans to reopen the sport, things may not look as hopeful tomorrow as they do today.
“We’ve all seen the way a common cold goes through a clubhouse,” Doolittle said recently on the Starkville Podcast with Doug Glanville and Jayson Stark. “We’re in such close proximity, it’s impossible to enforce social-distancing measures when you’re trying to play a Major League Baseball season.”
If you think Doolittle may waiver just a little bit on his stance, you should hear what his wife, Eireann Dolan, had to say about baseball and the coronavirus. Dolan suffers from a chronic lung condition and is therefore high risk. She would likely have to avoid her husband once the sport resumes, for fear he could potentially come in contact with the virus and give it to her.
That’s something that baseball’s higher powers may have to genuinely consider. What if the league and union agree to resume the season, but some players conscientiously object? Clayton Kershaw is another player who has had reservations about jump-starting the 2020 season.
“You just lose the product on the field because guys aren’t in their natural element,” the three-time Cy Young Award winner said last month. “We’re all ready to take drastic measures to make sure this season happens, but there’s also certain things that will affect the product on the field, and that’s what you have to be careful about.”
Kris Bryant recently became a father, and Mike Trout and his wife are expecting in August. How anxious do you think they are to put their children at risk? That’s the rub. While decision-makers on both sides try to leapfrog any remaining obstacles in their attempts to restart the season, how much of a voice do individual players have in an agreement that will be ratified via collective bargaining?
Like any other negotiation between two powerful groups, just being heard is likely the extent of it. As the union goes, so go its members. Despite exorbitant salaries, baseball operates almost like a blue collar job, one that lacks the white collar choices of opting out or working from home while the rest of the country remains sequestered.
Cubs News & Notes
- The coronavirus pandemic has put contract extension talks between All-Star shortstop Javier Báez and the front office on hold, though Báez indicated the conversations were amicable.
- Bryce Harper reiterated once again that he’s glad the Phillies didn’t trade any of their top prospects for Bryant.
- Harper also raved about his meeting with the White Sox when he was a free agent.
- Anthony Rizzo said that hitting against Dodgers pitchers is basically mind over matter.
- Michael Jordan invited Kerry Wood to Game 2 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals after his 20-strikeout performance.
- You can catch The Boys of Zimmer, the story of the 1989 team led by Don Zimmer that lost to the Giants 4-1 in the NLCS, on YouTube. Mark Grace was electrifying in that playoff series.
- This is my favorite Cubs season retrospective of all time, if only for the faux-Sugarhill Gang rap “The Cubbies Are Rockin’.”
- Watching Andre Dawson score from first on a bad peg when Luis Salazar hit a game-winning, early September double in ’89 — against the Cardinals no less — is still chills-inducing.
- The Cubs-Indians 2016 World Series was ranked the 12th greatest Fall Classic of all time by ESPN.
Find Your Inner Hero
A campaign called Pledge My Stimulus launched by two moms in Maine has raised about $90,000 for community members suffering financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The movement encourages people to donate part or all of their stimulus checks to a nonprofit, local business, or neighborhood artist in order to help boost their local economies.
Odds & Sods
Although yesterday was the anniversary of Wood’s 20K game, it was also an anniversary of sorts for a less esteemed former Cubs pitcher. Heading into a game against the Pirates on May 6, 1994, Anthony Young had a 7.27 ERA and a 29-start winless streak. That day he was good enough to beat the Bucs though, ending his three season stretch of mediocrity. “Embarrassing,” Pirates manager Jim Leyland said after the game.
Though he had won a game in relief the previous season, Young’s previous win as a starter was April 9, 1992, when he played for the Mets. “I was trying to prove something to myself,” Young was quoted at the time, “and I knew if I did, then I’d be proving something to my teammates. It sure felt good.”
Apropos of Nothing
If you are following me on social media, I’m taking a temporary mental health break. I can’t continue to listen to people, many whom I greatly respect, command (and judge) others to stay at home, mask up in public, and obey social distancing precautions while embracing the notion that it’s okay for baseball to resume its season. I never thought I had an emotional trigger, but it turns out I do. Hypocrisy and moral ambiguity be thy names. In my eyes, you are either all in or completely out, and though I am not in protest against any safety precautions, I do have a genuine disdain for duplicity.
It’s all just “a distraction from distraction by distraction” anyway.
MLB News & Notes
Scott Boras would like MLB to resume its season immediately.
Red Sox pitcher Collin McHugh expressed cautious optimism that MLB can formulate a plan that would allow baseball to safely return. However, he doesn’t necessarily believe there’s a magic pill that will ease everyone’s minds. “We’re in a situation right now where you can’t make this mandatory, “McHugh said. “You can’t tell a guy you have to come play or else your roster spot is not going to be here when you come back.”
Taiwan baseball is going to allow up to 1,000 fans per game back into their ballparks.
According to a report, Cleveland has asked its players to start preparing for a season that will begin July 1.
The BBWAA developed a pretty atrocious track record while picking its award winners during the 1990’s.
We all suspected it was the A’s at the time, and Harper let us know our intuitions were correct. The Astros and Indians were also allegedly interested in the superstar outfielder at the 2018 trade deadline.
— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 6, 2020
They Said It
- “I’m very happy in Chicago. I believe it’s one of the best organizations in the major leagues. We had several conversations but never focused on a deadline. They were very amicable conversations where we communicated well with each other.” – Javier Báez
- “This isn’t just baseball, it’s kind of the message that we’re sending about where we are in the pandemic, and our response to it.” – Sean Doolittle
Thursday Walk Up Song
Don’t Drink the Water by the Dave Matthews Band – An epic live performance from their Central Park show in 2003 showcases Dave and his band at the top of their game. Don’t forget, you always have the option to think for yourself rather than being simply led to slaughter. Yes I used the outdated word “epic.” Don’t judge.