I am here to admit that I forgot about baseball for awhile.
I forgot that the Milwaukee Brewers completely overhauled their roster, that the Chicago White Sox went on a major spending spree. It took me a minute to remember that Mookie Betts, superstar that he is, was flipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers so that Boston could simply save a buck. Anthony Rendon, fresh off a World Series title, is Mike Trout’s teammate now, and Gerrit Cole signed a GDP-impacting deal to be the new ace of the New York Yankees.
The whirlwind winter of Major League Baseball transactions got largely swept from my brain for a bit, as the global pandemic and the life-altering protocols that came with it began to warp the way we have to live our lives. I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since February. I wear a mask everywhere I go, though I’m a few months removed from the week I wore gloves everywhere, too. I am pretty sure I have put gas in my car a grand total of once since the final week of February, a pretty good indicator of just how much this has all ground to a halt.
I do not plan on changing much about that, for now. As positive cases continue to spike all across the country (and world), I’m not of the mind that now is the time to really change my behaviors, not until I see any sort of endgame on the horizon. Many people are, and while I’m not out there actively trying to stop them, that is making my desire to actively avoid people like that a bit more of a challenge. So, I was admittedly smacked with a wide range of emotions when, on Tuesday, we found out Major League Baseball is indeed coming back.
These 30 clubs are going to try to pull off a 60 game regular season, one that will see players report to spring summer training on July 1st in their home cities, with a schedule that, in theory, will use geographic isolation to help mitigate their exposure to this virus. They’ll play 40 games - 10 games each - against their 4 usual division rivals, with 20 games - 4 games each - against the regional clubs from their opposite league rounding out the schedule. A postseason akin to what we’ve come to know in recent years will then follow, in theory.
There are going to be a pile of alterations, however, as FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards so deftly compiled as a resource. There will be no spitting, nor pitchers licking their fingers before pitches - they’ll get a ‘wet rag’ for that. There will be a modified IL to account for players contracting COVID-19, a concept that was revealed yesterday just minutes before we found out that former Colorado Rockies All Star Charlie Blackmon, as well as a pair of teammates, had tested positive already. The trade deadline will be August 31st, though it’s somewhat impossible to envision how the concept of strict quarantines by teams will accommodate for player swaps that don’t require sitting out for a reasonable chunk of an already incredibly short season.
And, of course, there will be no fans in the stands for now. Remember how that elephant in the room basically held up negotiations between owners and players for the last two months? There appears to be a willingness among some clubs in certain states that they might, might get to a point down the road where some fans can attend, but that’s still very much just in the daydream process. So, it’s going to be very eerie for awhile.
As for the Cincinnati Reds, well...remember them? Hey! They signed Mike Moustakas! They signed Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, and Wade Miley! They brought in Trevor Bauer last summer - which feels like an eon ago - specifically for this 2020 season! Nick Senzel and Eugenio Suarez are healthy, the offense looks just as potent as their top-tier rotation, and Driveline’s Kyle Boddy is around now to help refine it all.
The Reds also plan to host their taxi squad in nearby Mason, Ohio, at the Prasco facilities. The Reds and Dick Williams made that announcement earlier today on Twitter, surprising a number of us who assumed they’d use one of their usual minor league facilities instead. That proximity will certainly help the front office and coaches keep close tabs on the select group of minor leaguers who’ll be located there, since you’ll recall that there will be no formal minor league season in 2020. All told, there will be a 60 man ‘roster’ from which the Reds can fill out their active roster and taxi squad, with the rest somewhat on-demand in Mason should injury, pandemic, or whatnot require a shuffle.
There will be a DH for all teams in all games, too, something that seems to benefit this Reds squad perhaps more than any other club. For one, the outfield glut becomes much more manageable, but on top of that there’s the chance for manager David Bell to deploy a roster full of offense-first guys with perhaps slightly more primed defensive alignments, too. When you factor in how good the club’s starting pitchers are, the idea that he won’t face a critical decision to pinch-hit for them earlier than he otherwise would might end up a major perk of this implementation, too.
All told, it appears they’re going to truly give this a go, with a sincere effort to make the season happen despite huge, and growing, obstacles. For the Reds, that means the most all-in club they’ve assembled in a decade will actually get the chance to rekindle the excitement we had for them back in March, when it looked like a genuine, earnest effort to make a playoff run after the team’s debilitatingly long rebuild.
It will be strange. It will be different. We will have baseball back in July, and for Reds fans, it should be some of the best we’ve seen in years.