Monday, July 27, 2020

Ten weekly random thoughts week 1 - April 20-26

Here's something I never thought I would be saying in 2020 (then again I never thought I would get living through a pandemic), Blue Jays baseball is back this week. The Blue Jays opened the 2020 regular season with a weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays, in Florida, the worst states to be in with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the week leading up to the series, the state of Florida had been reporting daily  increases of 10,000+ cases of COVID-19. Have I mentioned yet that the MLB is nuts to even try playing baseball in the midst of a pandemic, without using the hub city approach as the NHL, NBA, and MLS are doing? All sports essentially stopped when NBA player Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with COVID-19. In the ensuing weeks and months, all leagues worked to try and come up with plans to restart is there sports. Meanwhile, in the MLB, players and owners were fighting over money and in particular, player compensation for the 2020 season with the owners trying to pay, of course, the least amount of money. Another point of difference between the players and the owners was number of games played. The owners wanted as few as 50 games and the players wanted as many as 120 games. The baseball season is supposed to be 162 games but of course, that was going to be unfeasible without  the season into December, and then you would be contending with issues and you would see more injuries next season because players would have a much shorter off-season to recover from this season. Here are 10 random thoughts from Week 1 of the MLB.

1. Let's kick off my first random thoughts post of 2020 with the big elephant in the room. When the first pitch of the was thrown on Thursday, the Blue Jays did not yet have a home stadium to play in. Blue Jays management arrogantly decided not to look for a contingency plan in case any of the three levels of government in Canada decided not to allow the Blue Jays to play in Toronto. The team reached an agreement with the federal government to allow them to have their training camp in Toronto, with everyone being housed in the Blue Jays stadium complex with the hotel attached to the Rogers Centre serving as their temporary homes, but that was it. They did not come up with an agreement beyond the end of training camp. Just before the Blue Jays were set to travel to Boston for a pair of exhibition games, the federal government rejected the Blue Jays proposal, citing concerns over teams travelling back and forth over the Canadian / US border and not following the 14-day quarantine that everyone else has to follow. Another point to consider, is the Blue Jays are playing in a division that includes the Miami Marlins are the Tampa Bay Rays, both of whom would have played every other team the Blue Jays will be facing this season, as well as the Blue Jays. Not to mention the Marlins and Rays both play in the State of Florida, ground zero for COVID-19. The risk of someone passing the virus on to a hotel employee or a stadium worker was just too great. Canada has worked too hard hour of COVID-19 to almost zero. Also, the border is supposed to be closeD to all but essential services until August 21st, and I'm sorry, but baseball is not essential. After being rejected by Pittsburgh health officials to share PNC Park with the Pirates, the Blue Jays finally decided to use Buffalo as their home stadium for 2020, after their minor league facility undergoes necessary alterations (they will move in August 11). They will serve as the home team July 28-29 in Washington, then travel to Philadelphia for three more days as the designated home team while playing on the road. I have no sympathy for the Blue Jays plight. The Blue Jays knew a good month before training camps began that there was going to be a season. A contingency plan should have been in place a long time ago.

2. One player the Blue Jays may not face is former Blue Jays Marcus Stroman, who tore his calf after getting hit by a line drive on Tuesday. At this point, he will not require surgery, but he is considered week-to-week and is expected to miss several weeks. Stroman was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for prospects David Pederson and Anthony Kay, the latter made the 2020 Blue Jays roster. Stroman was in a good position to be a key part of the Mets rotation with Noah Syndergaard out for the year with Tommy John surgery. The Blue Jays are not slated to face the Mets until September 11-13, so it is possible that Stroman will heal fast enough to face his former team

3. Three Blue Jays to keep an eye on this season:

  • Nate Pearson- in part to manipulate your service time, Pearson will start the season on the taxi squad for the Blue Jays. The big righty has looked progressive in training camp, hitting 100mph on radar gun with ease. He was roughed up in the first inning of the first of two exhibition games in Boston this week. However, he's settled down and looked sharp against potent Red Sox lineup. Considered the top Blue Jays prospect, he could well become the first Blue Jays since the deceased Roy Halladay to win some Cy young Awards.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu - the Japanese import was the big offseason acquisition for the Blue Jays. Ryu was second in Cy Young voting last season. he posted an impressive 14 and 5 record with an NL leading 2.32ERA  over 29 starts. Ryu looked pretty sharp Friday, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits, while walking 3 and striking out 4 over 4.2 innings
  • Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - entering his first full season in the bigs, Guerrero Jr is switching positions from third base to first base and will play some games serving as the DH. Guerrero Jr will be looking to build on his rookie campaign where he hit .252 with 15HR and 69RBI in 123 games played. Vlad was the first of three BlueJjay prospects to graduate from the minors full-time major league players (the others being Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette.). The fathers of guerrero Jr, Bichette  and Biggio all played in and starred in the  majors.

4. Like the NHL, the MLB is implementing a number of rule changes for the 2020 regular season and playoffs. The biggest rule change is the universal DH. The MLB is also combining both leagues for this season only so the AL East teams will only face the NL east teams, NL Central teams will only face the AL Central teams be AL West teams will only face the NL West teams., the Blue Jays were supposed to play the NL Central teams in interleague play but that will not be happening. Another significant rule change for the regular season only is during extra innings, a runner will be placed on second base to start each half inning. A baseball purist like me hates this rule. The Blue Jays lost in extra innings Sunday, scoring the runner in the top of the 10th, but allowing 2 runs in the bottom half of the inning, walking the leadoff hitter and allowing a 2-run triple. Opening day 2012, the Blue Jays were involved in a marathon 16-inning game with the Cleveland Indians where position players pitched. This rule prevents that . The injury list minimal times have also been reduced 10 days in 45 days respectively. A separate COVID-19 list has been created no minimum or maximum time frame. Players or coaches who approach either umpires or opposing players argue a call risk getting ejected and supplementary discipline by the MLB if they get closer than 6 ft apart. Pitchers  are not allowed to lick their fingers. Instead, they must bring a wet cloth if they need to wet their fingers. They also must bring their own rosin bags and have their designated supply of balls during Bullpen sessions. At the end of an inning, runners on base must collect their own gloves, sunglasses, and baseball caps. Fieders are encouraged to stand behind the runners.

5. The Blue Jays have a few players they will be keeping a close eye in terms of injuries. First and foremost will be starting pitcher Ryan Borucki, who has already undergone one Tommy John surgery and had his 2019 campaign wiped out by elbow issues. Can Borucki and his elbow handle the stress of being a starting pitcher or will he have to convert to being a reliever? Matt Schumaker, who tore his ACL in his fifth game last season, will be looking to repeat the dominant season he was having before the injury. There shouldn't be many restrictions on him beyond the pitch counts that every picture will be experiencing this season. Guerrero Jr  is another player the Blue Jays will be keeping a close eye on. Because of his body type, his joints are put under greater stress and there is question of whether he can handle the rigors of a full season. Look for him to get some games where he is the DH.

6. Unlike the NFL, the MLB is fully embracing the black lives matter (BLM) movement prior to the anthems being played, the Yankees and the Nationals  knelt in support of the BLM movement. The pitching mound has also been adorned by a black lives matter stencil. I think it's a good thing that the MLB is embracing this movement because there are black players that play in the MLB, including Guerrero Jr, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, Wilmer Font, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Rafael Dolis and Teoscar Hernandez, on your  2020 Toronto Blue Jays. In order to make real change on this important topic , it's going to take celebrities, athletes and the general public to get behind this movement and force the political representatives to change how police act when it comes to dealing with black citizens.

7. Some predictions for 2020 season:
- an unbreakable record will be broken this year and it will be either a batter averaging over .400 or Joe DiMaggio 56-game hitting streak
AL MVP: Jose Altuve
NL MVP Joc Pederson
AL Cy Young : Gerrit Cole
NL Cy Young: Jack Flaherty
AL ROY: John Adelaide
NL ROY:  Gavin Lux
AL playoff teams: Yankees, Rangers,  Astros twins, indians, blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox
NL playoff teams Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers dodgers, Rockies, Phillies  Braves, Pirates

8. Apparently the TV broadcasts are playing fake crowd noise. I don't like this at all.  The MLB has a unique opportunity to allow fans to hear the banter between players and maybe even the conversations in mound visits that you wouldn't normally hear.  Besides,  to me, by playing fake crowd noise, the MLB is turning the game into a glorified video game.  If you really want crowd noise, stopping least do it through virtual fans watching from home so it's realistic and doesn't appear forced.

9. Finally,  I wonder how many baseballs will be used by the time the season is done. On top of the balls being replaced when the ball goes out of play or hits the dirt, the balls are being replaced when touched by multiple fielders  (so essentially after every play). Why not just replace balls after every pitch? Two players are touching the baseball every pitch (pitcher and catcher.

10. Blue Jay of the week: Cavan Biggio. The second-year 2nd baseman had a strong first series of 2020, going 5-13 with 1 walk, 2 runs scored and 3RBI. His 3-run HR Friday carried the Blue Jays to their first win of the season