The Rundown: Cubs Return to Wrigley, Trout Questions League Return, Health Update on Dear Friend, Sunday Baseball Notes

Baseball is back (for now) and so is the Sunday Rundown! If you haven’t seen some of the videos of the initial Wrigley Field workouts, lead writer Jon Strong has the CI scoop.

Hopefully you will never again see these words in print, but Kyle Hendricks made Kris Bryant look silly in yesterday’s intrasquad scrimmage. The pitchers are obviously a little ahead of the hitters as Hendricks and Yu Darvish dueled to a 0-0 tie, with Darvish registering 97 mph on the gun. I would have thought they’d go to extras so David Ross could start the challenge inning™ with Ian Miller on second base. Putting your fastest player in scoring position would be a great way to prepare for one of the quirkier rules changes of 2020.

Leading Off

The Sunday baseball column, inspired by the late Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, has always been my favorite and I’ve been doing it for about a year now. The first one was done on a whim, but a favorable response from reader Scott Crandall and others in the following weeks pushed me into making it a permanent fixture.

ALWAYS do the Sunday column, and 5 or 6 the rest of the week. Your stuff is the best.” – Scott

Even I am not above catering to my few but distinguished fans, and though you all mean a great deal to me, Scott has been granted permanent residence within my heart. With that in mind, I thought I’d dedicate today’s column to him, and I have an update for you, which was provided to me in my good friend’s weekly email update:

  • “I had my prognosis (post-6 chemo sessions), and it was not good: by all measures the cancer is continuing to grow, and it was unfazed by the chemo. So, that was quite a shock. My doctor said we’ll go next to a ‘more aggressive’ chemo regimen: only two poisons rather than 4, but stronger (more focused) and I’ll get it once a week for the next three weeks, and then a week off for measures and prognosis. He said lots of people can’t do the three weeks in a row (because of the side effects), so they’ll delay by a week.  I’m hoping I can do the three-in-a-row.”
  • “So, the good news is: no chemo today. A week off!”
  • “If these new poisons don’t work, we didn’t get into what (if anything) is next. I did ask about ‘the elephant in the room.’ He said if nothings works I have 4 to 6 months (but don’t take those numbers to the bank).”

Please keep Scott in your thoughts and prayers. He has the heart of a giant.

I had given up on buying a car, but I am going to try to scrape up an additional $2500 (donations accepted and thank you) so that I can purchase the one I was offered, title and license it, and do the brakes and tires. Because my doctors won’t allow me to fly, and I am assuming a train or bus trip is similarly out of the question, I want to take a road trip to South Carolina before summer ends to visit Scott. Maybe he and I can do a video together for a future column or join Danny, Evan and Jon on The Rant Live.

I can probably drive 6-8 hours a day tops due to my own heath, so it will be a nice 2-3 day adventure each way.

Cubs News & Notes

Apropos of Nothing

The only thing I did not like about Cafardo is that he never forgave Epstein for bolting to the Cubs. I imagine if the president of baseball operations leaves Chicago at the end of his contract I’ll better understand, though I’m hoping Epstein stays with the organization. What a difference he’s made to the entire organization since arriving in 2011. These are the glory years for the franchise, all led by Epstein, and one day soon we’ll be playing “what if” and “remember when” if the Cubs are forced to restructure their front office.

Odds & Sods

I truly hope ESPN doesn’t kick Pacific Rim baseball to the curb now that MLB is back. The games have been a fun and crazy diversion since May, and has attracted a swath of American fans.

Updates on Nine

  1. As I mentioned, Cafardo was the inspiration behind the Sunday Rundown, and the well-regarded Sunday Baseball Notes column at the Globe provides the template of sorts for my daily. Cafardo passed away last February and his final Sunday post ranked baseball’s best managers heading into the 2019 season. Joe Maddon was sixth on his list, and Epstein was mentioned, too. “We wonder how long Theo Epstein will put up with the Ricketts ownership after racist emails were discovered and published emanating from Joe Ricketts, the patriarch of the Cubs’ ownership group. There was some pretty raunchy and unseemly stuff in those emails that must have disgusted Epstein.”
  2. Ozzie Guillen has his critics, but I was actually unopposed to rooting for the White Sox while he managed them during the 2004-11 seasons. Guillen led the ChiSox to their first World Series title in 88 years back in ’05. The fiery former shortstop is eager to get back on the field.
  3. Angels outfielder Mike Trout is openly questioning the sanity of resuming the baseball season amidst an ongoing pandemic that is currently peaking in a number of states, including California. Trout is worried about passing COVID-19 to his wife, Jessica, and how that might affect the delivery and subsequent health of their unborn child. Many players have allegedly questioned if rebooting the season is in the best interest of baseball’s Tier 1 and 2 personnel and their families.
  4. On the flip side, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has reversed course and is looking forward to playing meaningful games again, as long as players respect and follow the protocols the league has required to protect the safety of everyone involved.
  5. Kershaw will not be joined in the rotation this year by new teammate David Price. The 34-year-old lefty came to Los Angeles in an offseason trade with the Red Sox and has exercised his right to opt out of the 2020 season. The growing list of players who are voluntarily skipping this season includes Félix Hernández (Braves), Mike Leake (Diamondbacks), Joe Ross, Ryan Zimmerman, and Welington Castillo (all with the Nationals).
  6. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman admitted that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and Atlanta manager Brian Snitker added that three of his teammates are also sick. All have been ordered to stay away from the team for at least two weeks, and Freeman, who is suffering with a high fever, body aches, chills, and headaches, said “it’s going to be a while” until he can rejoin the team.
  7. Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor could be the lead story as MLB approaches a strange trade deadline that has been pushed back to August 31 because of the shortened season. It will be interesting to see how teams approach opportunities to fortify rosters in anticipation of playing in the postseason. This may have been a perfect time to waive the rule that prohibits teams from trading draft picks, especially if the league decides to continue with its draft in truncated form.
  8. Led by Matt Stairs, who became the 27th player in MLB history to plate six runs in one inning, the A’s trounced the Angels 16-8 on this date in 1996 after scoring  a club-record 13 runs in the 1st inning. Oakland entered the bottom half of the 1st trailing 3-0 and quickly erased that lead.
  9. Top draft pick Spencer Torkelson of the Tigers looks like he is ready to be the team’s everyday first baseman. The young man has tremendous power from the right side.

Extra Innings

Major League Baseball and the Players Association jointly announced the results of the first round of COVID-19 testing on Friday. Of the 38 positive tests, 31 were players and seven were non-player personnel. Overall, 19 teams had at least one positive test. The low positive is good news for baseball, but by no means does it represent a unanimous go for launch.

They Said It

  • “We’re going to worry about us. Obviously, the league has an enormous task ahead. Every situation is going to be different and unique, but I’m going to stay in tune with our group and making sure they’re following the protocols as best as we can.” – David Ross
  • “If they’re ready to call me, I’m ready. I went to the Winter Leagues just to show myself I was still a manager– and managing in the Winter Leagues is the worst thing I ever did in my career.” – Ozzie Guillen
  • “Why are we doing this?” – Mike Trout

Sunday Walk Up Song

Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel with Kate Bush. For Scott, because you have many friends.

“Rest your head, you worry too much
It’s going to be alright.
When times get rough you can fall back on us,
Don’t give up…please don’t give up.”

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