Baseball’s Back…or is it?

MLB Season slowly makes its return…

So, we will finally have some baseball soon. After the painful back and forth between the MLB Owners and the MLBPA which cast doubt on a potential season, I am glad they finally found a way to make it happen even if it wasn’t the product of an amiable agreement. 

Coronavirus continues to present itself as a factor which could create havoc for the restructured shortened season. Friday saw the largest single day increase of the virus (with over 45,000 new cases) as states continue reopening. The numbers since this pandemic started have been staggering. 2.4 million cases reported and over 125,000 deaths. Notable baseball players, such as Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies, have been diagnosed with the virus. I heard a news report that for every person diagnosed, there are ten undiagnosed people who have been infected which shows the reason for fear.

SNY’s Andy Martino reported this week about the amended language added to the March agreement the MLB Owners executed and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred placed into force that gives the Commissioner the right to stop the season if necessary. Based on Manfred’s decisions in the Commissioner’s office up to this point, this type of power does not exactly inspire confidence. Per Martino, this paragraph was added:

“The Commissioner retains the right to suspend or cancel the 2020 championship season or postseason, or any games therein, in the event that (i) restrictions on travel throughout the United States are imposed; (ii) there is a material change in circumstances such that the Commissioner determines, after consultation with recognized medical experts and the Players Association, that it poses an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games, even without fans in attendance; or (III) The number of players who are unavailable to perform services due to COVID-19 is so great that the competitive integrity of the season is undermined.”

Martino referenced the first two covenants were agreed to by the two parties during their back and forth negotiations. The third covenant is the newly added wording that empowers Manfred to throw in the towel if the coronavirus threatens the integrity of the season. No doubt, while we hope for the best, we need to prepare for the worst. 

Setting the threat of doom and gloom aside, I am happy there soon will be baseball activity. Next  week we’ll see the players begin reporting to their home stadiums for the start of “summer” training. The images of players throwing, catching and hitting will be a very welcome sight. I still find it humorous Aaron Hicks will be ready for the rescheduled Opening Day after his off-season Tommy John surgery. While I do not know if that’s ever happened before (I don’t think it has), it’s certainly a first for the Yankees. Listening to the R2C2 podcast this week, I enjoyed CC Sabathia’s observation that if you beat Hicks in a game, he wants to keep playing until he figures out how to beat you. The perfect mindset for a Major League baseball player.

I am not sure what to think about the 60-game schedule which will see the Yankees play 10 games against each of their division rivals, and unbalanced games against NL East teams for the remaining 20 games (making the Mets the most frequent opponent for those games). It will be a season of reunions with Dellin Betances (Mets), Didi Gregorius (Phillies), Starlin Castro (Nationals), and Joe Girardi (Phillies manager), among others. I get keeping the Yankees in the Eastern time zone to limit travel. It’s kind of nice there will be no West Coast games and their late starts but I am a little saddened it also means there will be no visit to the Bronx by the Houston Cheaters…at least not until October if the paths of the two teams cross. I am glad the Astros will have to play in Los Angeles against the Dodgers but a Bronx crowd would be harder on Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and company than the laid-back, seventh-inning departing sunny Southern CA crowd…if fans are even allowed to come into the stadiums. For the Astros, the coronavirus is probably the best thing that could have happened for them to deflect the deserved Bronx cheer they undoubtedly would have experienced across the country from normal, fan-filled stadiums. At least the Red Sox have to come to New York, but it’s not quite the same since their level of cheating didn’t broach the heights of the Astros scandal. 

Although the MLB trading deadline will be pushed to August 31st, it is doubtful there will be much trading activity this year. There’s a part of me that kind of hopes the game stoppage has impacted the Cleveland Indians to the point that they need to unload shortstop Francisco Lindor. I know, that’s mean. Sorry Terry Francona. But Lindor would look awfully good in Pinstripes. 

Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images


I like the new extra inning rule, even if it is temporary, that puts a runner on second (the last out of the ninth inning or a designated runner) to start the tenth inning of extra inning games. Hello Tyler Wade. I am not a fan of those long extended inning games and prefer conclusion sooner rather than later. The obvious downside is giving the visiting team the advantage as it forces the home team to play catch-up if the runner scores. Mike Axisa mentioned the likelihood teams would sacrifice the runner to third and the next batter would be potentially walked to create the double-play possibility. Axisa’s suggestion was to cut to the chase, eliminate the extra time, and simply put runners at the corners. Makes sense to me. Axisa also mentioned the home team should bat first to gain the advantage. Another strong point. I am kind of hoping there is some success with the interim rule so that we’ll see some permanent form in the future.  Baseball is not meant to be played at midnight or 1 am, in my opinion.

Congratulations to the newest Yank, catcher Austin Wells, the first round selection of the Yankees in the recent shortened MLB draft. I was getting a little concerned when so much time had passed without news of his signing while other teams were locking up multiple draft picks. Fortunately, the Yankees finally got the signature of the former Boston Red Sox fan on the dotted line by paying him slightly more than the $2,493,900 recommended slot value. 

I haven’t seen any news about the other two draftees, Trevor Hauver and Beck May, but hopefully they’ll sign soon.

I’ve watched as people moan about the Yankees taking another catcher (they took two high level catchers in the 2018 draft, the year Wells was selected in the 35th round, in Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux). According to MLB.com, Seigler is currently ranked as the 15th best prospect in the Yankees organization and Breaux comes in at 23. 2018 international free agent signee Antonio Gomez, only 18, sits a spot ahead of Breaux, which gives the Yankees three catchers in their top 25. Heck, I still miss Luis Torrens, the young catcher the Yankees lost to the San Diego Padres a few years ago in the Rule 5 draft. 

Primarily, I believe you can never have enough good catchers. Not every one will pan out and catching tends to be a high position of need for many teams, creating valuable trade chips.  There is no assurance Wells will even remain at the position. His bat will play regardless of position and there has been talk he is a future first baseman or left fielder. Regardless of what the future holds, I am glad the Bishop Gorman high school product (Las Vegas) and University of Arizona Wildcat is a Yankee. Homers are always welcome and Wells’ bat intends to be heard. Welcome to the Yankees family, Austin!

Spring training participant Chad Bettis, the former Colorado Rockies hurler and cancer survivor, has retired. I was doubtful he would make the Yankees but it’s hard not to root for a guy like him. There was a time when he was among the best starting pitchers with the Rockies but it’s been a tough road for him the last several years. The Yankees released him from his minor league contract after the retirement announcement. I do wish Bettis the best for whatever the future holds for him and I hope it is a happy and healthy life moving forward. 

I am fearful Gerrit Cole will decide to opt out of the season as a high risk athlete with a pregnant wife at home. His recent workouts at Yankee Stadium seem to imply he is “all in” but until he’s officially wearing Pinstripes, staring down Major League hitting opponents, nothing’s for sure. If he opted out, I would be very disappointed, as I am sure you would be too, but conversely, it would be hard to find fault with his decision. He has to do what makes the most sense for him and his family. If that means no baseball in 2020, I’d respect his decision (while quietly crying inside). 

I’d love to see some positive news about the health of Aaron Judge. I guess we’ll soon see when training camp resumes but Judge has clearly been the off-season mystery at least from a health perspective. Nothing against Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, or even Giancarlo Stanton, but I want to see Judge in right field on Opening Day.  Hopefully I am not asking for too much.

I am glad we can start talking about baseball again. This has been a very trying and painful year for so many reasons. The Yankees give us an exciting distraction from the brutal realities of life.  Who knows how this year will conclude but early predictions have the Yankees emerging as the World Series champion. A weird year to win a championship, sure, but ultimately a championship is a championship and I’d gladly embrace it without a caveat. 

As always, Go Yankees!

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