As baseball is set to get started (finally) on July 23rd (or the 24th for most of the league), we take one tiny step back towards normal. While there won’t be any fans in the stands. The season is only 60 games long. The awful DH will be in the National league. The schedule is unbalanced. Extra inning start with a runner on 2nd. And given how this year has gone, it’s probably not going to finish. But at least for now, for today, we can look forward to Major League Baseball playing again.
While the Cubs might not have quite the hype and buzz that they had entering into the 2016 season that they have been chasing ever since erasing that 108 year World Series drought. They will look to see if getting rid of a fantastic manager of Joe Maddon with a fantastic player of David Ross is going to get things going back in the direction they are going. The NL Central is considered to be one of the more open divisions with the Reds, Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals all having strong reasons to believe they will walk away the winner. It should make for an interesting, if odd, season to watch.
The Cubs will have to make the decision on to commit to their core of Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez and the hundreds of millions of dollars that is going to take or if Theo and the Ricketts believe they can strike gold twice and look to rebuild another great core for another great run. It will be interesting to see how David Ross handles being a manager. Grandpa Ross as he made himself a household name in Chicago with his excellent game calling as a catcher, his strong arm gunning out would be runners, his endearing personality, and not to mention that home run in game 7 of the World Series. The belief is that he is expected to be the yes man that Maddon couldn’t be. To listen to the Analytics guys and follow in line what Theo Epstein wants. The talent is there with Contreras, Rizzo, Javy, Bote, KB, Schwarber, Hendricks, Lester, Darvish, and Kimbrel. Not to mention players like Almora, Happ, and J-Hey. Too similar to last year, the bullpen does leave some concerns. Perhaps the shorter season will help with the lack of depth in the bullpen.
Beyond the quest to find out who will be the Covid Series Champions, there is that lingering issue of the Astros cheating scandal. Without fans in attendance the Astros players will get off a little easier without being subject to boos across the league as they play. But perhaps more importantly is the fans belief that this was an issue isolated to just the Astros. As the news broke the players reaction initially wasn’t outrage at cheating…but outrage at the player who outted his former teammates for cheating. Players like Tucker Barnhart in an interview with Pat McAfee talked about how it’s not cheating, it’s just part of the game. While the Astros were getting all the headlines, the Boston Red Sox were also punished for a similar scandal. This one involving Apple watches to signal players instead of the Astros Trash cans and other alleged tools. Ultimately MLB, and Rob Manfred Especially. Handled the entire situation about as poorly as they can. With their insistence that the cheating didn’t occur in the post season and that it isn’t more wide spread despite the players reactions and with Manfred calling the World Series “just a piece of metal”. It left no one really satisfied. The punishment was light, the investigation didn’t go very deep, and it made it’s way to all the headlines to remind people that cheating and baseball go hand in hand. As baseball still struggles to move past the Steroid Era and the perception it puts on the league. So we’ll see, did the extended break and will the lack of fans let the story be swept under the rug. Or will the return of the season bring the story back the front of everyone’s minds.
But no matter what is to come, if it’s a few weeks of baseball or the full shortened season. Today, we look forward to baseball returnning. And for that, I’m happy and hopeful.
Go Cubs Go.