Major League Baseball’s long awaited opening day came late last week, amid a worsening pandemic, which baseball, and the country had sought to avoid back in spring. The league had modified their season structure, the league structure and even the rules of the game in an effort to just get some baseball in this year.
Some changes are being tested as things that should be brought forward, while others were instituted in response to the logistical nightmare this pandemic has been, and a tenuous attempt at safety for players and coaches. The shortened season was an obvious attempt at logistical accounting, for example, but the expanded playoffs are a combination of the two trains of thought. More on this in another post.
The changing schedule to promote less travel is an obvious nod to the safety of the country. Shortening games with the absurd 10th inning extra base runner on 2nd makes sense only in Rob Manfred’s head. Still, if we were going to try out new things, this would be the season to try it, because nothing about this season feels real.
Now with news that the Marlins are experiencing an outbreak that has limited their ability to even field a team, and has rendered them unsafe to travel, there are serious questions, a weekend into the season, if it is prudent to even continue on. There are two games canceled or postponed today. More will certainly follow.
This first weekend has seemed surreal. The baseball we are seeing is not the baseball we are used to, another thing that is changed in a year where nothing is the same. It might not last through the next 24 hours, and even if it does, it will be an uncanny version of the game we all love.
The OOTP simulation on this site will continue, therefore, if for no other reason than it has a tie to what used to be real. It is the structure and organization we still understand. The one we thought we were going to enjoy right up until about mid-March. Hopefully, it will be in conjunction with coverage of the real life Twins, who will be playing in a gradually improving pandemic. I’m not optimistic but I am hopeful.
In that vein, here are some updates from the OOTP Twins.
The All Star game was very Minnesota heavy. Nelson Cruz was the starting DH, while Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton, Mitch Garver, Jose Berrios, and of course, Homer Bailey were selected to the game. The National League won, 6-3, but the Twins, particularly Arraez and Cruz who combined for 5 hits, acquitted themselves nicely.
The Twins have been able to sustain a healthy advantage over the Indians in the AL Central, with an 8 game lead at this point. Cleveland has gone 9-1 in their last 10 games, 9 of which came after the All Star Break, so Minnesota will appreciate their buffer.
The bullpen has been scuffling of late, and the the rotation has had a few rocky starts recently. Michael Pineda came back from injury and bumped Randy Dobnak out of a starting spot, but Jake Odorizzi has a terrible ERA, Addison Reed is a set up man and somehow Matt Wisler is the 5th starter. The team will likely be searching for pitching help as the Thursday trade deadline comes up.
The trade the Twins did make, though, turned out to be a good one, even if they might wish they still had Devin Smeltzer. They traded Smeltzer to the Reds for Derek Dietrich (who in real life Cincinnati just released), and Dietrich has been setting the world on fire, with a .410 average and 8 home runs in just 18 games. Hard to argue with that.
There will be a lot of things to argue with across the baseball world for the foreseeable future, an unfortunate reflection of the way life is in America. Perhaps baseball will give us some grasp on the way things used to be, either on the field, or in our computers.