Personally, I hark back to that Stealers Wheels’ classic song “Stuck in the Middle With You” today. I would like to do what friend of the blog – Mr. Bill – eloquently asked us to do in a recent comment when he said: “We can stay mad, or we can find a way to move on and overcome”. But I can’t yet do that. I am caught in that no man’s river between thinking about baseball and thinking about cheating on baseball and I can’t yet swim to either shore.
So today is a mix of thoughts about pre-season baseball as the Astros start their new life “after” the scandal and additional thoughts about the scandal itself.
Difference in approaches. On Saturday when the Astros’ pre-season starts with a rematch of the World Series, the Nationals will send ace Max Scherzer to the mound and he will not be facing Astros ace Justin Verlander or co-ace Zack Greinke (who will only just arrive in camp in time for the game). No, the Astros will send prospect Cristian Javier, their 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year to the mound.
This is nothing new for the Astros who sent long time minor league pitcher Brady Rodgers to the mound last spring to kick things off. It should be a thrill for the young man to take the mound first and should be exciting for folks, who get to see him for the first time in an Astros uniform. Does he have a shot at making the club this spring? In this spring of transition and with quite a few spots up for grabs, don’t bet against him.
The buzzer “stuff”. I have a few questions for those cynics about the Astros using buzzers last season to get to the World Series and especially on Jose Altuve‘s ALCS clinching walk-off home run.
- If the Astros were cheating, why was their hitting line in the ALCS .179 BA/ .281 OBP/ .600 OPS – kind of like having a whole team of Jon Singleton‘s for the 6 game series?
- If they were cheating by using buzzers wouldn’t they already know not to rip off Altuve’s uniform?
- If they were guilty, why would Carlos Correa make such a passionate defense of Altuve? Instead of doubling down, why not use the “commissioner has investigated this and found nothing” defense”?
- Did you actually watch the at bat and the pitch? Was Altuve either laying off some impossible pitch in that at bat or swinging at some surprise pitch that he could not hit without being tipped off? Or did Aroldis Chapman throw a bad hanging slider that was right over the middle of the plate and practically teed up for Altuve to launch?
Won’t it be fun to see Lance McCullers Jr. again. When we last saw Lance he was pitching out of the bullpen for three games in the 2018 ALCS against the Red Sox with what was a blown-out elbow that required Tommy John surgery immediately after the season. Sure, he could drive us crazy a bit by making too many pitches and completing too few innings in his starts, but he was always a bit of a bulldog who provided good results for the Astros.
It will be exciting to have LMJ back out on the mound and healthy.
Who else must we ask about the scandal. We have heard from former Astros, who were aware of the cheating in 2017 like Dallas Keuchel. We have heard from former Astros, who were not aware of the cheating that did not happen in 2019, like Gerrit Cole. We have heard from players who thought they were cheated, most famously like Cody Bellinger (who might have hurt his team more with his .143 BA, than the Astros did by “cheating”). But then they have branched out to every blogger, every writer, who has an opinion about anything. Everybody who ever played the game, every talking head who has or has never played. They’ve gone off the deep end with talking to someone like Lebron James about this and every other celebrity they can access.
I know this will go on and on extending to every player on every team they will play. Why not dig up Babe Ruth, extract his DNA and grow a clone we can interview? Or at least create a 3D hologram of the Sultan of Swap to put on ESPN.
OK – enough about that…..
And about that Dusty. He was probably not my first, second or third choice for this job, but listening to some interviews with him, Dusty Baker is growing on me. It sounds like he will listen to pitching coach Brent Strom, which is my biggest concern.
Sure, we have to see how he handles this team, but it should be an interesting science experiment in 2020.
So, what are you thinking about today?