Welcome to the 30th edition of Around the Horn, a recurring op-ed with a satirical slant that riffs on whatever’s recently noteworthy in baseball. Think of it as a stripped-down Last Week Tonight or The Daily Show in a column format with recurring segments about the good, bad, and ugly in the world of America’s pastime.
These continue to be strange times in the world of baseball. We watch as players play in empty stadiums filled with cardboard cutouts of fans that teams charged people anywhere from $40 to $299 to create and display. For some, that seems like a ridiculous price to pay. For this guy, it’s an invitation to spend more:
White Sox fan Paul Garrett bought 100 cardboard cutouts of himself! He’ll be cheering on the White Sox near the visitors dugout. pic.twitter.com/hj8TJbyhpP
— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) July 22, 2020
In his defense, it was all for charity. We’ve had celebrity cutouts, dog cutouts, a mule, former player cutouts… it’s all fun and games until the madness of sets in, as often happens with fanatics during a global crisis.
💚 Gotta Love it!!!
— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) July 26, 2020
That wasn’t quite what I meant by “fanatic,” but you get the point. Times are strange, and people are stranger. Entire series are getting postponed, players are opting out weeks into the season, and it’s becoming increasingly likely that any team that makes the postseason will have to quarantine just to ensure no viral outbreak threatens the playoffs.
I’m starting to think that this season should go down in the record books as its own thing. The stats, the championship, all of it. There was a pandemic and baseball did all it could to bring the sport to the people. Calling it all an exhibition wouldn’t work. It’s hard to motivate players for an exhibition. It was whatever the hell you want to call it, and there were strikeouts, and home runs, and wins and losses, and everything else in between.
Alas, this is an official season, and we should enjoy it. However, enjoying the season is incumbent upon games actually being played… something that has not been as easy as imagined.
Our Main Story
First we had the Marlins COVID-19 fiasco. Next, we saw the Cardinals-Pirates series postponed. Did you know that before resuming play, the Cardinals had only played five games this season? There was a serious possibility that they would eventually run out of days remaining in the season to actually make up the games that are being postponed.
Baseball proactively threatened to suspend players and staff who violate safety measure protocol, as they should. The fact remains that if everyone wants a safe season to be played, new rules have to be followed.
It’s that simple. Just play by the rules off the field the same way you’re expected to play by them on the field.
Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger went out with teammate Zach Plesac in Chicago on Saturday night in violation of team protocol, sources tell ESPN. Clevinger was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday against the Cubs and will quarantine. He flew with the team Sunday.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 10, 2020
C’mon man! What’s worse is Mike Clevinger’s response to the entire affair:
Ⓘ ⓚⓝⓔⓦ ⓐⓛⓛ ⓣⓗⓔ ⓡⓤⓛⓔⓢ ,⃝ ⓑⓤⓣ ⓣⓗⓔ ⓡⓤⓛⓔⓢ ⓓⓘⓓ ⓝⓞⓣ ⓚⓝⓞⓦ ⓜⓔ
❂ є∂∂ιє νє∂∂єя ❂ pic.twitter.com/nJB4iyTNpX
— ❂ Mike 𝕊𝕌ℕ𝕊ℍ𝕀ℕ𝔼 Clevinger ❂ (@Mike_Anthony13) August 7, 2020
First of all, Mike, don’t bastardize and twist Eddie Vedder’s words. It’s painfully obvious you have no idea what the song “Guaranteed” is even about given how brutally you just used the lyric out of context. As horrible as all of this is, let’s not forget that pitcher Zach Plesac was busted for breaking protocol before Clevinger was caught, and Clevinger had this to say when asked about it:
Mike Clevinger on the accountability needed this year… pic.twitter.com/AgdkTOcog4
— Casey Drottar (@CDrottar19) August 10, 2020
So let us get this straight. You sneak out with your teammate, break protocol, and then when he gets caught, you go to the media and talk the big man talk about handling things “in-house” because “accountability” and “having trust in your teammates is a big thing.” You then proceed to get on a crowded bus and risk exposing your entire team, while you pretend you weren’t involved in the incident all along.
Clevinger’s selfish idiocy is part of the reason you’re seeing things like this happen:
Stroman becomes the fourth player on an MLB deal to opt out in his contract year, joining Céspedes, McHugh and Zimmerman. The full list of all 24 players opting out is on the second page here: https://t.co/TfgmiHWBuE
— Jon Becker (@jonbecker_) August 10, 2020
According to Jeff Passan, an unnamed veteran of the Cleveland Indians team has threatened to opt-out if Plesac and Clevinger are allowed to rejoin the team. Needless to say, this is the byproduct of trying to play a season amidst a pandemic. While I’m not suggesting baseball should pack it up and call it a day, I am saying tougher protocols need to be put in place with harsher punishments for players who break them. Otherwise, what’s the point in trying to pull this thing off, and why did we spend months listening to the owners and players bicker of terms of compensation and play before starting the year?
Hopefully, the worst is behind us, though with attitudes like Clevinger’s, I sincerely doubt it is.
Out of the Park
A Look Beyond the Box Scores for the Best in Baseball This Week
MLB has decided to impose rather harsh punishment for those caught stealing signs. Commissioner Rob Manfred now has the power to suspend a player under such an infraction, and the terms are rather ambiguous. In fact, the length of suspensions will be at Manfred’s discretion, according to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich. The Commissioner’s ability to punish electronic sign-stealing extends to managers and GMs as well.
Regardless of whether you agree with Manfred having discretionary power like this, the important take away is that the league is trying to confront sign stealing in a way that is transparent. While it’s fair to suggest the move is reactive as a response to the cheating scandals that have rocked Houston and Boston, it’s also necessary to acknowledge it’s preventative when you consider that MLB reportedly hired a third-party security firm to guard the entrance to replay video rooms of each team, and the league plans to remove signs out of the footage players can look at during games no later than 2021.
Likely too little too late, but it’s a step in the right direction at least. It’s probably better than letting this type of thing play out on a regular basis:
Here's the #Dodgers Joe Kelly throwing at Alex Bregman ( @ABREG_1 ) and then the exchange between Kelly and Carlos Correa ( @TeamCJCorrea ) #Astros ( video from @ATTSportsNetSW ) pic.twitter.com/tBlgUuc0h1
— Randy McIlvoy (@KPRC2RandyMc) July 29, 2020
Not all of baseball is swimming in piss and vinegar though. The city of Baltimore had itself an inspiring yet heartbreaking case of the feels this year. In any other year, this would be getting far more traction.
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) August 12, 2020
The story by is unlocked over at The Athletic. A little boy who lost his sight at nine months of age and battled cancer four times had managed to live 14 years before his body could take no more. During those all too brief 14 years, Mossila Gaba, or “Mo” as he was affectionately known to almost everyone in Baltimore, grew up a massive Orioles and Ravens fan. Just about every major sports figure in the area had been affected or touched by Mo’s resistance, passion, and fortitude. His positivity was infectious, and his ability to celebrate a life in which he spent more than 70% of it in a hospital is awe-inspiring.
During these uncertain times where a pandemic continues to alter life as we know it, let’s not forget this kid who couldn’t see at all but should live on in our memory for his ability to see everything. Everything that matters, anyway.
Where Baseball Got Caught Looking
The Astros can’t seem to get out of their own way when it comes to controversy and conflict. It’s rather unfortunate, really, for fans of the team who suffered for so long through countless seasons of losing before their current run of elite play began.
In a recent game, the Astros hit Ramon Laureano in the back, and Laureano was none too pleased considering he had already been hit twice before that weekend. Apparently, Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron felt the need to chime in on the matter, allegedly making a derogatory comment about Laureano’s mother (Cintron denies this). When Laureano objected to Cintron speaking up, Cintron stepped out of the dugout and goaded Laureano into coming at him.
Laureano did and Cintron promptly hid behind his teammates.
Laureano charges the Astros dugout and the brawl breaks out pic.twitter.com/CQ2K8kFnlb
— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 9, 2020
Don’t you love that move by Cintron? Let’s look at it again:
It’s a classic, truly. Except, it also makes you look like a coward who instigates a conflict you have no business initiating in the first place. Cintron earned a 20 game suspension for the incident, while Laureano received a 5-game suspension.
Because nothing is normal, the world is upside down, we’re all stuck in section 121, and Stephen Strasburg is all of us right now.
Strasburg and Sanchez ejected from the stands this week. Let’s get a Scherzer ejection tomorrow in Atlanta. https://t.co/dSlDw03GyY
— Holden Kushner (@Holdenradio) August 16, 2020
That’s the ballgame for this week! Thanks for joining me, and I’ll see you all soon!
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)