Hello baseball friends and welcome to The Sunday Brief! In this feature, we’ll take you through important news you may have missed from the past week as well as what to look out for in the coming week. We are entering our 3rd full week of baseball, and it’s been an eventful few days since we last spoke. We even got a no-hitter! AGAIN! Let’s dive in.
The Mets and a Problematic Culture
If you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest you take a look at The Athletic’s piece earlier this week regarding the “culture” that the New York Mets have been fostering for quite a while now. Fair warning: it may leave you feeling some combination of disgust, anger, and the big one for me, sadness. In short, for quite some time now women in the Mets’ front/corporate offices have been the target of sexual harassment, hostility, and a general feeling of being unsafe, among other things. The allegations have come from a multitude of levels within the organization and the channels that these women are supposed to be able to rely on have been not only unhelpful but downright hostile. I will let The Athletic tell the story better than I ever could.
So where do we go from here? This isn’t the first time the Mets have been in the news for this kind of offense. GM Jared Porter was fired earlier this year for inappropriate behavior, while former Manager Mickey Callaway is currently on leave from the Los Angeles Angels organization for very similar actions to Porter. New owner Steve Cohen has already brought in an outside law firm to investigate these allegations and has promised to act upon their recommendations. But this seems like an inherent problem, one that is not just solved by a press release apology and a half-hearted attempt to “do better”. Cohen has a laundry list of things to address, and it will take dedication and resolve to rid the organization of this toxic behavior.
One course of action that has been at the forefront of suggestion is the firing of current Team President Sandy Alderson. Parting way with Alderson, who has made several rather insensitive and out-of-touch comments regarding the allegations, would be paramount among actions Cohen can take to show that he does in fact want to run the team “the right way”. Again, this is going to be a long road for the Mets and Cohen, and the investigation probably won’t wrap up any time soon. But the coming days are crucial for Cohen to make sure that he does not lose the reins, so to speak. He needs to establish himself as where the buck stops; making a quick, decisive move independent of the overall investigation could be a helpful first step.
Roughed Up Jays
In what has seemed to be an eternal struggle since before the season even began, the Toronto Blue Jays are continually succumbing to injuries all over their roster. When Kirby Yates went down for the season, the Jays were able to float a handful of 9th inning options including Rafael Dolis, Julian Merryweather, and Jordan Romano. But in just the last four days the team has seen Merryweather go down with an oblique strain, while Romano is dealing with ulnar neuritis, or a compressed nerve. Did I mention Tyler Chatwood was also placed on the IL last week for triceps inflammation? If it wasn’t enough that the bullpen was imploding, SP Ross Stripling also went down with forearm tightness. This staff is being stripped bare and the team is going to face some serious tests of depth in the coming days.
But it’s not just the pitching, oh no. The Jays have yet to even see an at-bat from new CF George Springer. After suffering an oblique injury in camp, it was revealed Springer had a right quad strain – an injury that will most likely keep him out until the end of April, although he is already participating in some light activity. To make matters worse, OF Teoscar Hernández tested positive for COVID-19 and will be out for at least the required 10 days. But we’re not done. 3B Cavan Biggio suffered a hand injury after taking a liner off his bare hand in the field on Thursday. Luckily X-rays came back negative on Biggio’s hand, but the scuff is certainly not going to help his already ice-cold bat.
The Jays are being tested early, and despite a seemingly endless list of injuries, they are still performing quite well all things considered. At 6-7, they are currently in 2nd place in an AL East that has gotten off to a slow start. The hot bats of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Randal Grichuk, and to an extent, Marcus Semien have been able to keep the Jays above water. But can it continue? Toronto will finish up a four-game set with Kansas City this weekend before heading on a five-game road trip against division rivals Boston and Tampa Bay. Will the Jays languish and slip in the standings or will they use this opportunity to break out in front of the back before their reinforcements arrive?
More Positive Cases
After a slew of positive COVID-19 cases kept the Nationals and Mets from starting their season on time, the league has been able to avoid any massive rescheduling issues since the Opening Day snafu. But that’s not to say teams haven’t been without their own issues. Multiple teams over the last two weeks have seen players go down with vaccine-related symptoms (obviously a net positive) as well as many going into quarantine for either contact tracing purposes or for testing positive themselves. Most notable among the latter two situations are the Houston Astros.
Houston has placed five players on the COVID IL over the last few days, including José Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Álvarez, Martín Maldonado, and backup infielder Robel García. While losing García on its own wouldn’t completely hamstring the team, losing both your starting 3B, 2B, DH, and C seems less than ideal. This comes to a team that already has been slow out of the gate at 6-7 and has suffered some injuries to its rotation as well. Manager Dusty Baker already told the press that the quintet are unlikely to return until at least Thursday when the team comes home to play the Angels.
The Astros were mired in a five-game losing streak which was snapped last night, and the continued absence of some of their best hitters is only going to make matters worse. Hopefully, their bats can find some relief in the thin air of Coors Field this week, or they may be coming home at the bottom of the AL West. Still, it’s nice to see that teams have more of a handle on these situations than they did last year, as clubhouse cases haven’t been turning into major outbreaks. Now please excuse me while I go knock on wood.
Lester on the Mend
After a rocky start to the season, Washington Nationals lefty Jon Lester appears to be finally taking some steps towards a return. After thyroid surgery towards the beginning of Spring Training and a COVID 19-related quarantine from the team, Lester tossed 49 pitches in a three-inning sim game this past Friday. The 15-year vet signed on with Washington after spending the last six seasons with the Cubs and despite a downturn in production the last 2 seasons, almost any help would be appreciated by a Nationals rotation that has dealt with (mostly) disastrous results from Erick Fedde, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. There is unfortunately still no concrete timetable for Lester’s return, but let’s see if he can get some more throwing in this week while he builds up strength. I’d love to see Lester return to the mound and get to 200 career wins. It’s been quite a battle for him in the early going, and it would be satisfying to see the 37-year-old get another shot.
Return of the Kazmar
I wanted to end today’s brief with a bit of more uplifting news in a week riddled with injuries and COVID, amongst other things. Yesterday, the Atlanta Braves announced they were calling up infielder Sean Kazmar Jr. in the wake of several other Braves hitting the IL. While on the surface this may seem like somewhat of a non-story, let’s take a look at the career of Kazmar Jr. Drafted in 2004 by the Padres, Kazmar Jr. made his major league debut with a brief cameo for the Padres back in 2008. He found himself back in the minors and had remained there ever since. Until today.
That’s right, Kazmar Jr. has been toiling down in the minors for four different clubs for the last 12 years, and at 36 years of age is on the precipice of making his long-awaited comeback. It’s hard to imagine both the dedication and fortitude needed for such a task. It’s mind-blowing, really. Seeing as Kazmar Jr. was last in the majors when I was but a junior in high school and has stuck to his guns all this time is really nothing short of inspiring. Especially when I consider everything that I have tried and failed since, well, I was a junior in high school. The Braves managed to get him into the game last night as a pinch hitter, but he unfortunately ground into a double play. Not a ceremonious return, but maybe he can get the start tonight on the national stage in Sunday Night Baseball.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)