“Get Back to the Mound Little F**ker”

In a rematch of the 2017 World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers met with the Houston Astros, last night at Minute Maid Park. It marked the first meeting between the two teams since the sign-stealing scandal that roiled baseball for months.

Personally I was surprised how long it took for the fires of hatred to rage, and it came from the unlikely instigator Joe Kelly – who in 2017 was not even part of the Dodgers team. This did not prevent him from having a hatred for the Astros and in the sixth inning when Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly entered the game. After a couple of well paced inside pitches, he hit Bergman.

He then proceeded to purposely aim at him when throwing to first. Next up was trying to trip Brantley running out a ball slapped to infield, and Brantley spiking him. As Joe Kelly glared, one heard someone say “Hey, get back to the mound little fucker“. I guess this is the benefit of no crowds. You could hear it clearly as though the player was miked.

Next up to bat was Carlos Correa, who he pitched – let’s be honest, a bit too close for comfort, and ending up striking him out. He made the face you see above after he struck him out. Words were exchanged, and then the saddest bench clearing puffed out chest COVID-19 stare down began.

… Nothing came more of it, and the Dodgers beat the Astros 5-2.

In the end, the biggest winner of this COVID-19 Season are the Astros. They don’t need to face hostile crowds in all the other ballparks, and a story that was ripe for “baseball justice” has moved to the back burner – for now. Let’s see what happens in 2021, when hopefully things return to normal.

Update

News this evening. Joe Kelly is now suspended 8 games for his actions last night. That’s 8 more games than any of the Astro players got for cheating. Once again, none of the Astros players were every suspended – and yet Joe Kelly has been suspended for the equivalent of 22 games in a regular season. It wasn’t right for his actions, but justice meted out has been uneven.

That Didn’t Take Long – Two Teams in COVID Nightmare

It seems the nascent season is on the precarious brink as both the Marlins and Phillies are now effectively shut down. If you have not heard, the Florida Marlins now has over 10 players infected with COVID-19.

The most concerning part of the story is the team went ahead with a game against the Phillies, Sunday, even though they probably shouldn’t. There were 4 players who had tested positive. Now the Marlins and Phillies are stuck in quarantine and an unfortunate experiment is on: how contagious is COVID-19 if one team is infected and still plays.

As much as I love baseball, it seems now that the protocols in place are not good enough, and players like Didi Gregorious, who are high risk, are literally gambling their lives to bring us the game we love. And yet, there are still who think the virus is not serious, or some left- wing conspiracy. Just look at some comments in reaction to Freddie Freeman’s battle to come back.

Also I won’t lie or be a hypocrite. I needed the distraction of baseball. For this reason, I didn’t pay that close attention to the protocols. However, I am not selfish enough to want people to risk their lives for a game. It seems now imperative that the MLB revisits their plans, and consider the bubble idea the NHL & NBA have instituted. The stadiums are empty anyway, so why does it matter to be in their home city. Now is the time to take a collective pause and rethink.

The MLB leadership needs to study what happened, make changes, make it right and protect the players. Their health and safety is more important then our entertainment.

The Montreal Baseball File Since COVID-19

Before COVID-19, the Montreal Baseball file had flared up with the idea of Montreal and Tampa sharing a team. Rumors were abound about the Montreal Baseball Group taking a minority stake in the Tampa Bay Rays, but then COVID happened. Naturally this was not a focus of anyone when the world is essentially on pause.

Nonetheless, as Baseball has returned in the USA, so has the idea of the split team. It was only natural I guess as the Rays prepared to play the Blue Jays at their home opener the topic would once again come to the fore.

In a recent live stream, the Tamp Rays team president Brian Auld was asked about the plan, as the clock ticks faster to 2028, when the lease is up for their current home. His response is not a surprise : “the discussion will return once the pandemic clears.”

Nonetheless,  the principal owner of the Rays Stuart Sternberg has not be silent on this though. Only a week ago it was reported

 The pandemic slowed but didn’t halt the work on pursuing the Montreal plan, which calls for new open-air stadiums to be built in both markets and the team to split seasons starting in 2028, if not sooner.

In this wide ranging 40-minute conversation with the Tampa Bay Times, from his New York home, Stuart Sternberg made it clear staying in Tampa was not really being even considered anymore.

From the Canadian side, Bronfman and his Montreal Baseball Group has been totally silent on the subject. His most recent action was the lovely gesture of officially licensed Expos masks to Perry Gee, founder of Expos Fest.

The masks as of now are sold out, and Perry is working to get more of them…

The 60 Game Season

Welcome to the abbreviated 2020 baseball season. The first major sports league of the big four to begin again since COVID-19 shut down all competitive sport leagues in North America (along with pretty much everything else).

The MLB stadiums are empty expect for players and essential staff, but some fans have spent $99 or more to have their cardboard likeness there. I should note that’s only for some teams. Besides the real sounds of bat meets ball, the sounds of the crowd are simulated from a video game MLB the Show 2020. For the first time in years both leagues have the same rules with the NL teams agreeing to a dedicated DH. Oh and since 1969, no MLB baseball in Canada , since the Blue Jays are still homeless rejected by the Canadian Federal government. Pittsburg doesn’t want them either. Maybe Baltimore. Maybe Buffalo. I do feel some satisfaction even though I do follow the Blue Jays, to see them feel a bit of the pain they enacted on the Montreal Expos. All they had to do was symbolically oppose the fate that has befallen them now….but I’m not bitter. Okay maybe a little, Blue Jays by default being the closest team to me, and with an exciting core of young talent is hard not to root for. Especially when the scion of one of the all time great Expos plays for them. I mean did you see that homer run out of Fenway that Vladdy smacked in the pre-season game yesterday. It was a monster.

And so tonight, our favourite game started again, in the most 2020 way. Dr Anthony Fauci, mask and all, “threw” the first pitch to open the season. Even without the fans – his nerves showed, as the pitch veered off to the side, just as poor Gary Dell’Abate at that Mets game.

Then a great game began as the Yankees, now fully recovered from the injury plagued 2019, roared back to life early. Stanton reminded us why they are called “The Bronx Bombers” with a nice home run off one of the most preeminent pitchers of this era Max Scherzer. For a small moment I forgot all the COVID-19 malarkey. t

That was until Manfred, the current commissioner of Baseball took a bow for his success in getting baseball back so quick. And once again it seems the COVID gods were not happy.

The lightning came, then the rain, effectively ending the game. The spell was broken.

But alas, not for long, the late game Giants @Dodgers starts soon and baseball is back. Huzzah!

Could this really be a year without Baseball?

My heart aches. Right now, in Montreal, it’s snowing. The normal harbinger to the beginning of spring, is the crack of the bat is silent and seemingly far off. So too is my yearly tradition of catching some live games on the road as a treat during my business travels.

I tried to replace the joy of this with MLB The Show 2020 on PS4. It worked for a bit, but it’s really no substitute for the excitement and the drama of a real game, where things actually matter.

Let’s not forget as well all the story lines – just for the teams I enjoy to follow. Would there be a sophomore slump in the three white night rookies (Biggio , Bichette and Guerrero) for the Blue Jays? How would Hyun-jin Ryu fit in, and outs he have an impact? Do the Nationals have a repeat year or crumble without Rendon? Does Aaron Judge continue his pace? So many stories I was looking forward to.

Also I had trips to Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco and Toronto. Each had ball games tied to it, where I was trying to beat my record from last year of 5 different stadium visits, something I think I would have done with trips to Boston, Los Angeles and Baltimore surely scrapped.

Even forgetting the personal stories for myself. I just held out hope a real game would be played. Baseball has survived and thrived through all kinds of periods. It was the past time during the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, two world wars, and all the way through troubles like September 11th, and the Great Recession.

However, it’s becoming clear – baseball- like most things is cancelled in 2020. This will, be a weird year even if things return by some decree. New divisions possibly, a restart of “spring training”, contracts expiring or trade deadlines without a season, and there may be teams who fold and never recover.

I’m a Montreal native and even as much as I yearn to have a team back in this city, my whole body knows I don’t want it at the expense of another passionate fan base losing their team based on this pandemic, as the Washington Post recently reported.

So where does this all lead us? Maybe we see baseball this season, although I am not betting on it. I am trying to take small comfort in the new ways teams are connecting fans and players. For example, next week, I’ll join a Zoom call with several players of the Blue Jays along with several thousand fans. Otherwise, I guess I will keep playing MLB The Show and hope by next season, I’ll be watching the real thing.

Time to vote for your stars!

Vote directly on Google.

Voting has opened for this year’s All-Star game extravaganza in Cleveland this year. And it’s also got some new tweaks to this years process too.

This year, baseball has two votes: Primary and Starters election.

Here’s a quick explanation of each.

Primary: Open now through Friday, June 21 at 4. p.m. EST. This will look very much like the typical vote. Fans can pick All-Stars at each position. The top three vote getters at each spot (nine in the outfield) will then be sent along to the next round. Primary finalists will be revealed on MLB Network during the Astros-Yankees game on Friday, June 21.

Starters Election: This will be a 28-hour election used to determine the starters at each position for this year’s Midsummer Classic. Starters voting will begin at noon ET Wednesday, June 26, and end at 4 p.m. ET Thursday, June 27. Starters will be revealed at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, June 27.

Ready to get going? You have two choices vote here on MLB website or vote within Google search right here.

Bronfman announces deal for Peel Basin.

PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, ARCHIVES LA PRESSE

The investment firm Claridge, owned by Stephen Bronfman, and real estate developer Devimco have agreed on the development of the huge field at Peel Basin, where the Montreal Group wants to erect the Montreal Expos 2.0 stadium. According to the Canadian Press:

“Stephen Bronfman, head of the Montreal Group, a group of investors wishing to bring Major Baseball home, said he reached an agreement with developer Serge Goulet, president of Devimco.

Bronfman noted that Devimco would purchase the land from the Canada Lands Company and Claridge would act as a financial partner. The development of some 950,000 square feet will be done in partnership.”

Bronfman was quoted during an evening to honoring his father, Charles Bronfman, on the 50th anniversary of the Expos last Tuesday:

“Yes, we have an agreement. We will work together. Plans are being made. “

It wasn’t clear how long completing the purchase of the area would take, but he has hopes to make an announcement in the summer. However, Bronfman was clear that he isn’t too hung up on dates.

“We’ve moved steadily along with our development project for the site,” Bronfman said. “We’re going day-by-day.”

He said planning is underway but certain details could not be divulged.

“When the time is right, we’ll be announcing it step by step,” Bronfman said.

Not much has changed on the MLB front, but Bronfman said he isn’t worried about that either.

“I’m always positive,” he said. “It’s going slowly, but it’s going and that’s what is important.”

He’s also made it clear, he is trying to avoid doing too much press to avoid building too much hype around baseball returning to Montreal. I fear that genie is already out of the bottle for the diehards.

The talk of the town has already turned to the controversy of the new stadium planned may not have a roof. Personally I am glad to hear it. I love an open stadium and if the can do it in Minnesota, Chicago and Boston, they can do it here.

I’ve been traveling…

I travel a lot for work. Thankfully while in the road the last couple of weeks I was able to make it to Nationals Park in Washington D.C and Petco park in San Diego. Now the funny thing is while I’ve traveled a lot for work in the past, I always seemed to hit the cities when the team was not there or the season was over. Not this year.

So whole lifetime, the only two stadiums I had been too was limited to Olympics stadium and Rogers Centre, I was able to double the numbers.

The most impressive thing about these new parks is that it convinces me more than ever that Montreal will have an amazing space for baseball in the Peel Basin if it was we happens.

These two stadiums are examples of what happens when the park has been built for baseball and fans enjoyment. So many things to see, do and of course eat, for baseball and non baseball fans alike.

For both trips to the ballpark, these past two visits, I took non-baseball fans. I know they had a fantastic time and it proves to me how bad a venue Montreal suffers with for years. I only hope some good news is forthcoming as it looks to be nothing but silence inspires if rumors of a May announcement.

Rowdy Rocks!

So I won’t lie. I splurged a bit on books this year for the MLB season. I bought Baseball Prospectus. Now you can’t see the info, because it’s hidden to subscribers, but the info for Rowdy Tellez made it sound like he was going to be a “yawn” prospect. They projected him to hit 4 HRs all season in 2019.

Well even though they lost the other day, this was home-run 5 on the season.

He is on pace for 30 HRS and 100 RBIs.

Lesson for the day. Take those scouting reports with a grain of salt.