The Rundown: Astros Tie Series, Impatiently Waiting on Hot Stove, Sunday Baseball Notes, Top 10 Songs of ’79

I’m particularly annoyed that the Astros have made a series of it against the Nationals. My heart sides with neither team, though after watching Houston morph into baseball’s version of the New England Patriots over the past few seasons, I wouldn’t mind Washington emerging as the champion for 2019. I have a more selfish reason, however — I just want this series to end so we can start hot stove season.

Now that the Cubs have David Ross signed, I want to see how Theo Epstein builds next season’s roster. In winning 8-1 last night and tying the World Series at two apiece, the Astros are successfully extending a baseball season that climaxed for me at the end of September. Now the series will go at least six games and I just don’t have the wherewithal to patiently wait until one team wins.

And though you probably don’t want to hear this, I fully expect free agency to drag on until after pitchers and catchers report, with the bigger name free agents holding out as long as humanly possible to decide. This will be the third straight season that owners and agents will stare each other down, and in the end, the top names will get the money they want and the owners will have simply wasted our time waiting for agents to cave. That also means, in all likelihood, trades are going to be slow to develop, too.

I do think Nicholas Castellanos will sign pretty quickly, however, so keep an eye on that story. Will he come back to the Cubs? I have no way of knowing that but I’d bet that will be predicated on Epstein moving some of his surplus redundancy first.

The Cubs need and probably want to make several moves before spring training. And though I initially believed that the front office would be major players this winter in both the trade and free agent market, with Ross inked to his three-year deal, and with potential revenue issues, I fully expect another winter of marginal changes only.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Kris Bryant had his grievance against the Cubs heard by an arbitrator, but a decision could be months away. Expect Bryant to lose, and then expect service time to be a major point of contention in the next CBA negotiations. I’d assume with everything else going on, especially with free agency, that will play right into the owners’ hands.
  • The Cubs farm system was recently ranked 29 of 30 by Baseball America, but the Cubs have some intriguing names that could have a significant impact on the organization in 2020.

Updates on Nine

  1. I don’t suppose Joe Girardi is awfully disappointed that he didn’t get the Cubs job, but I wonder what was talked about during the lengthy interview he had with Chicago’s front office. On Thursday, Girardi agreed to become the next manager of the Phillies, who have staggered through eight consecutive seasons without a winning record. He will try to lead the Phillies to their third World Series title and has a decent shot of winning in Philadelphia, which will likely be among baseball’s biggest spenders again this winter.
  2. According to MLB Network insider Joel Sherman, the Mets’ next manager is likely to come from a quartet of candidates that includes Carlos Beltrán, Tim Bogar, Eduardo Pérez, and Derek Shelton. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted on Friday that Pérez “has emerged as the clear front runner.”
  3. When Alex Bregman hit a grand slam in the 7th inning of last night’s game, he became the first third sacker to go yard with the bases full since Ken Boyer did it for the Cardinals against the Yankees in the 1964 World Series (yes, that’s Harry Caray on the call). The last grand slam in a World Series game occurred in 2016, when Addison Russell did it in Game 6 of that year’s Fall Classic.
  4. Russell was also the last player prior to Bregman to plate at least five RBI in a World Series game. The last AL player to drive in that many runs was Hideki Matsui, who drove home six for the Yanks in Game 6 of the 2009 series to seal his World Series MVP award.
  5. If you want to win a free drink on a trivia bet, here’s something you may not know: Game 5 of the 1920 series between the Cleveland Indians and Brooklyn Robins featured the first grand slam in World Series history, as well as the Fall Classic’s first home run hit by a pitcher, and its first (and only) triple play. Cleveland outfielder Elmer Smith hit the grand slam; his teammate and starting pitcher Jim Bagby, Sr. was the hurler who left the park; and Indians second baseman Bill Wambsganss was credited with the unassisted triple play. Cleveland won the series five games to two.
  6. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one pitcher in the Divisional Era had previously made his first career postseason start a scoreless one in the World Series before Houston’s José Urquidy did it last night. Jon Lester had a scoreless outing at Coors Field in Game 4 of a championship-clinching game for the Red Sox in 2007.
  7. If you can’t afford to shop in the free agent section marked “best pitcher on the planet” this winter but would like a reasonable facsimile of Astros ace Gerrit Cole, you might want to see what Zack Wheeler of the Mets will cost. When considering speed and movement on a scale from zero to one, no starting pitcher rated higher than Wheeler and Cole (both 0.94), both slightly ahead of Nathan Eovaldi (0.92) and Brandon Woodruff (0.90). Smart front offices (nudges Epstein) will see Wheeler as more capable than his past results, just as Cole was when the Astros acquired him from the Pirates two years ago.
  8. Chaim Bloom, the Rays’ senior vice president of baseball operations since 2016, has finalized a deal with the Red Sox to be their head of baseball operations. Bloom’s official title will be chief baseball officer, while Brian O’Halloran will be named the team’s GM.
  9. Boston team president Sam Kennedy recently acknowledged there is a way the Red Sox could keep star players J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts in 2020, but it would be “difficult” to roster both. Martinez has until five days after the World Series to opt out of a contract which pays him $23.375 million in 2020, and Betts enters his final year of arbitration projected to earn north of $27 million. Bloom’s first order of business may be trading Betts for the highest return he can get.

Apropos of Nothing

Going back to Game 4 of the 2018 World Series, road clubs have now won six straight. The last time there was a streak that long was from 1949-50. Obviously when baseball’s top two teams meet, home/road splits can sometimes skew opposite the norm.

This Week’s Baseball Trivia

Sunday Morning Flashback

Aside from being the year that gave us Willie Stargell leading the Pirates to their most recent World Series championship, 1979 was one of the most eclectic years in the history of modern music. In fact, you’d have to go back to the early 1950’s to find similar pop crossover of so many different genres. Here’s a top 10 list from ’79 to start your day.

  1. My Life by Billy Joel
  2. Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits
  3. Local Girls by Graham Parker & The Rumour
  4. Heart of Glass by Blondie
  5. Life During Wartime by Talking Heads
  6. Train in Vain by The Clash
  7. My Sharona by The Knack
  8. Stay in Time by Off Broadway
  9. Run Like Hell by Pink Floyd
  10. Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang

Extra Innings

They Said It

  • “I’m honored by this opportunity to be the next manager of the Chicago Cubs. My time with this organization has been special since the day I joined, so to continue with the club in this role is a blessing for which I’m so very thankful. We have accomplished so much together since 2015, and my desire to lead this organization to another World Series championship could not be any stronger.” – David Ross

Sunday Walk Up Song

Bright Side of the Road by Van Morrison – Hot stove season finally starts this week. Interested to see the roster that Epstein gives Ross for his inaugural season. Do you have high hopes?

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