Hello Everyone! Sorry for the delay in getting this out, so let’s get to it!
- In the AL East, as expected, the Yankees are putting everyone else in their rear view mirror. Gerrit Cole has been dominant, Judge and Stanton are healthy and locked in; The Rays are not hitting but they got their leadoff hitter and CF Austin Meadows back yesterday so that should help; the surprise team is the Orioles, led by breakout star 2B Hanser Alberto; Toronto has been a big disappointment for me in that none of their legacy players (Biggio, Guerrero Jr, Bichette) are hitting;
- The AL Central is so far also going according to plan: The Twins have picked up right where they left off from last year, with OF Max Keppler setting the table and the ageless one, 40-yr old Nelson Cruz, driving in runs in bunches. FA 3B Josh Donaldson is off to a slow start but he will pick it up; Cleveland has had a horrible time scoring runs but they’re in the hunt thanks to the solid starting pitching of Shane Bieber and Carlos Carrasco; Detroit is a surprising .500 and the Royals are committing too many errors (thirteen so far) to make up for their mediocre starting pitching but I like how they are bringing up the kids.
- The AL West was set up to be a dog fight between the A’s and Astros, but the AL defending Astros have been decimated by injuries to their pitching staff and hurt by a slow start at the plate; last week the team received news that Opening Day starter Justin Verlander would spend at least two weeks resting his throwing arm; soon after, RP Chris Devinski and now Closer Roberto Osuna joined the ranks of the IL. Osuna, the latest blow, may actually be the biggest as he was supposed to provide much needed stability to the back end of the pen; the team is also still waiting on Urquidy and Pressly to come off the COVID-19 restricted list. Their struggles at the plate or no less concerning: Springer, Altuve, Bregman and Tucker before Tuesday’s game against the D-back were a combined .187 average with 5 HR and 24RBI, including 45Ks; currently they are only 0.5 of front running Oakland, but things could get worse if they don’t start hitting.
- The NL East looks like a crime scene, with Miami and Philly at the top and bottom of the standings yet each playing only four games as of today. The Marlins had to suspend their season after playing the Phillies July 26th when twenty one of their traveling squad (18 players, 3 coaches) came down with COVID; this forced the Phillies (who reported three “false positives”) to also postpone their season and the suspension and re-alignment of several other teams (Orioles, Yankees, Nationals); an internal investigation found that several Marlins players ventured out to establishments outside of their hotels after the exhibition series with the Braves before the season began. Only last night were they able to cobble together enough players to add to their player pool and active roster to resume play; meanwhile, the Braves welcomed back OF Nick Markakis, the first player to “opt in”, yet lost SP Mike Soroka for the season with a torn Achilles; the defending champ Nats finally get CF Juan Soto back but lost ace Stephen Strasburg to a nerve issue in his pitching hand. But no team will out do the New York Mets in the drama department! After striking out 15 times in his first 33 plate appearances, OF/DH Yoenis Cespedes decided to “opt out” for the rest of the 2020 season; failing to tell any of his teammates or his Manager Luis Rojas, the truculent Cespedes packed up his belongings and vacated his hotel in Atlanta. Only after contacting his agent did the Mets brass become aware of Cespedes’ whereabouts. Let’s face it: player and team haven’t been on the same page for at least a couple of years and a divorce like this was in the cards. Before the 2017 season, the Mets signed Cespedes to a 4 year, $110 million contract and he never lived up to the deal, spending over a whopping 430 days on the disabled list for various lower body injuries. Before the 2019 season NY filed a grievance against Cespedes alleging he sustained injuries to his ankles and feet doing activities at his ranch prohibited in his contract, and arrived at a settlement shaving nearly $40 million off of his deal. 2020 was the last year of the deal and Yoenis has been paid most handsomely, making his decision to opt out an easy one. The Mets finally are rid of this injury prone player and will not be responsible for the rest of this year’s salary other than what he already earned. Good riddance.
- The NL Central Cubs are doing it with mirrors: neither Baez, Bryant nor Rizzo are hitting much, but their starting pitching has been amazing, with a combined 7-1 record, 1.89 ERA and 0.789 WHIP. The Brewers woes start with the absence of Ryan Braun and the struggles of NL MVP Yelich (0.89 AVG); The Reds have the early NL MVP in Nick Castellanos and the resurgent Sonny Gray (3-0, 0.96 ERA) and the ever entertaining Trevor Bauer, so don’t count them out! The Cardinals were the second team to get hit with COVID, losing seven players, including SP Carlos Martinez, SS Paul DeJong and their leader, Catcher Yadier Molina.
- NL West: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so the Padres may be for real after all! Come see me in September, especially after their nine-game road trip through LA, AZ and Texas (Rangers); Hosmer is set to come back from Gastritis, but he’s yet to prove his fat contract and Manny Machado has yet to start hitting. They’re still looking up at the all-mighty Dodgers and the surprising Colorado Rockies who have gotten great pitching from their starters (none with an ERA above 2.50!) The real surprise, and not in a good way, is the Arizona Diamondbacks. Prized FA SP Madison Bumgarner has only one quality start in his first three, and last night’s outing was not encouraging: 4.1IP, 7H, 7ER, 2HR and 3 HBP! More telling was that his fast ball topped out at 89 MPH; could all those innings in the post season for the Giants in the previous decade finally be taking a toll on him?
- Many fans and members of the media are questioning whether Baseball should continue in the wake of the recent outbreak of COVID-19 that took over the clubhouses of the Marlins and Cards. I am not one of them! MLB and its Players knew an outbreak was a possibility, they put plans in place to deal with it and they are getting through this. We saw players and coaches being pretty lax in following the protocols during and after games, and this is the result; consider it a wakeup call. Since the outbreak, we’ve seen more personnel wearing masks (properly, I might add!); curbing the celebrations and practicing social distancing. For those who want Baseball to throw in the towel at the first sign of adversity, I hope you never get put in a position of leadership in which you have to make hard decisions and face long odds of success! I feel sorry for those that would have to work for you!
- Rookie Watch: Chicago White Sox highly touted prospect Nick Madrigal made his debut on Tuesday only to leave early when he jammed his shoulder; KC starter Brady Singer continues to impress; yes, his ERA is a little high at 4.80, but that’s primarily due to the 4 HRs he’s allowed in his three starts; his WHIP is a very respectable 1.27 and he has a solid 3:1 K:BB ratio; Seattle is losing ground fast but at least Mariners fans have CF Kyle Lewis to be excited about, hitting .375/.423/.583 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG). He needs to cut down on the strikeouts but his .577 BABIP is solid; no one has more upside than my pick to win AL ROY, Jesus Lozardo. Whatever “IT” is, he’s got it! After two relief appearances to start the season the 22-year old made his first start against the Rangers, spinning five innings of two-hit ball while striking out five with a 97 mph heater and a devastating slider.
- Bitter Mike’s “Giant” Rants: on a positive note, my boys by the Bay are making solid contact and hitting with men in scoring position, something they haven’t done since 2016; even Evan Longoria, whom I waste no time in ripping, is making me eat my words. After going 1-4 in his return from the IL July 30th, he’s making solid contact and playing respectable defense. Hopefully, his achy legs will hold up, because they need him. 1B Brandon Belt once again looks lost at the plate and Brandon Crawford’s efforts at the dish keep finding gloves in the field. The other bright spots in the lineup are Wilson Ramos and Donovan Solano (“Donny Barrels”), who’s currently leading the NL in hitting. But none of this will matter if they continue to play horrific defense. With three errors last night against the Rockies, they now lead the majors with 16; no other team in the NL has more than nine; Catcher Tyler Heineman already has committed THREE Catcher interferences and he and Chadwick Tromp have made some mental errors in their attempt to replace future HOFer Buster Posey. Further, their starters continue to struggle; only twice has a starting pitcher seen the sixth inning and one of them was Jeff Samardzija, who gave up 5 ER in that outing Sunday against the Rockies in 5.2 IP and is now sporting a God-awful 9.31 ERA. When I think of the Shark the only positive thing that comes to mind is that this is the final year of that terrible deal!