The Rundown: Marquee Televises Intrasquad Tilt, Báez Goes Deep, Contreras Talks Matchups, Blue Jays Still Homeless

The Cubs televised yesterday’s intrasquad game to fans in the team’s viewing market who have access to Marquee Sports Network, and Javier Báez swinging his boomstick sure was a sight for sore eyes. Comcast subscribers are still not invited to the party, by the way.

I’m not one to sound alarm bells, but without a Comcast agreement in place, and with the White Sox predicted by many to be on the verge of greatness, the last thing team executives are going to want to see is casual fans shifting their allegiance eight miles south.

If you are a Cubs fan in Iowa, or basically a fan of any team, I am not sure how you even watch baseball. The blackout restrictions are impossible for me to figure out, but I suppose Iowans are probably pretty chipper that ESPN is broadcasting Pacific Rim baseball this season.

Selfishly speaking, I live in the Brewers market and subscribe to MLB Extra Innings, so I get to watch all the Cubs games. My penance is being forced to listen to awful Milwaukee announcer Brian Anderson when Chicago plays the Brewers, but I can circumvent that by listening to Pat Hughes call the game on satellite radio. You’ve got to love modern conveniences, unless of course your ability to watch the North Siders is tied to your Comcast contract.

Subscribers were told a deal “could come soon” about three weeks ago, but perhaps “someday” might have been a better target. Still, a decent chunk of fans had access to the game, which was a nice treat. Most of us haven’t seen meaningful baseball since March — if you count exhibition games and intrasquad tilts as significant, that is — so it was more than a little surreal to finally see our baseball heroes in action.

The intrasquad tuneups are necessary because the Cubs will open their season against the Brewers in nine days and baseball’s version of a NASCAR sprint will quickly separate the pretenders and contenders. I’m not sure how Joe Maddon is going to handle a Meatloaf in Anaheim, but I’m sure hoping that will be an unacceptable outcome for David Ross and his 2020 squad.

Though two wins in any three game series is always better than two losses, the Cubs can’t rely on the Maddon-ingrained complacency that they can win when they need to. That strategy was an epic failure in 2018 and ’19, and in a 60-game season you must always be mindful of going for the jugular. If Ross is not of the mindset that the Cubs should try to sweep every series, why was he hired?

The Cubs and their new manager can make a strong statement by sweeping the Brewers at Wrigley Field to start the season, a very real possibility based on pitching matchups alone. The Cubs are likely to throw Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester at Milwaukee, who will counter with Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, and former Cub Brett Anderson. Last season the Brewers rotation was 14th in MLB in ERA (4.40), 16th in FIP (4.59), 17th in strikeouts per nine innings (8.4), and 25th in innings pitched (788.2).

There will be no throwaway games in 2020 and it will be interesting to see how Ross navigates the next two months with 40 of 60 games against divisional opponents and just a few days off. But hey, we are talking about pitching matchups for the first time in 10 months. How cool is that?

Cubs News & Notes

Find Your Inner Hero

Comet Neowise, you are this NASA geek’s hero this morning. This is breathtaking.

Apropos of Nothing

If this is true, someone should be auditing all pandemic medical reporting. No matter which side of the debate you support, as a nation we are entitled to accurate test reporting. Nothing frustrates me more, and Florida has been nothing but a shitshow when it comes to anything related to COVID-19.

Sliding Into Home

Those of you who are regular readers know of my strong affinity for the Grateful Dead and the significance in my life of the band’s bohemian culture. Each July, I create a 31 Days of the Dead live music playlist and blog a little about it. If you are a fan, play along. If not, move along.

Odds & Sods

I cannot stress this enough, but athletes who violate safety requirements are going to shut down professional sports. First, there were allegations of an MLB party in Florida, of all places, and now this from the NBA camp, also in Florida. Don’t pop the bubble. Maybe we need a t-shirt or a bumper sticker.

MLB News & Notes

Players are going to have to decide on their own whether to wear a mask or not while playing. With the speed of the game, anything that might impair one’s vision could have dangerous implications.

MLB and the Dodgers have engaged in discussions with the L.A. County Department of Public Health about the team receiving an exemption on local quarantine restrictions. Any individual known to come in contact with an infected person must be isolated for 14 days per L.A. county ordinance. If a Dodger player tests positive, the entire team could be sequestered, theoretically.

The Blue Jays are a week away from the start of the season and they still do not have a home.

I say MLB should rename the Blue Jays the Bingo Long’s Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings and market the shit out of it. Those are some slick unis.

Free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig has agreed to a one-year contract to play for the Braves.

Juan Soto and Víctor Robles are close to rejoining the Nationals at their summer camp. Both have been quarantined for possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Mets starter Jacob deGrom is dealing with lower back tightness and was forced to leave camp.

Yankees relievers aren’t digging the game’s new extra inning rule.

Extra Innings

Well…it’s not back for everybody.

They Said It

  • “Victor [Caratini] is catching Darvish, because there’s only 60 games and Darvish did really well with Victor last year. That’s one thing that I don’t mind. I think they did really good and I think I put myself in that situation when I started catching Lester. So it’s the same situation. I’m not mad. We are teammates. We want to do really good and we’re here to win. That’s the most important thing.” – Willson Contreras

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Standing on the Moon by the Grateful Dead – My dad used to say you can’t tell your roof needs reshingling until you step outside your house and look at it. Or you can wait until you have to start using buckets to catch the water. I wonder how we would all see the Earth if we could just step outside for a minute or two?

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