Cubs

Cubs, David Ross — and everyone in MLB — should get trophy if they pull this off

Cubs, David Ross — and everyone in MLB — should get trophy if they pull this off

Cubs manager David Ross said Monday that a championship this year would mean as much as any other year.

“If they’re passing out a trophy, I want it,” he said.

And he will have earned it. And then some. In fact, if Major League Baseball is passing out trophies at the end of October, Ross should certainly get one — along with Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Paul Goldschmidt, Tim Anderson, Max Scherzer, Tommy La Stella and everybody else in baseball.

MORE: Cubs manager David Ross: 'If they’re passing out a trophy, I want it'

Because if baseball pulls off this micro-season of 60 games and a month of playoffs, it will take every star, bench player and assistant trainer of every team — every bit of 3 1/2 months of the best behavior of every team’s weakest link in its self-discipline chain — to produce the viable, sustained season that will produce a 2020 trophy.

Doom and gloom? Or aspirations worthy of ants and rubber trees?

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Either way, it’s all but impossible to ignore how sharply the challenges have increased just in the last week or two as COVID-19 has raged in record numbers of new cases across Florida, Texas and Arizona — home to five of MLB’s 30 teams and a disproportionate number of players from all over the league.

And why completing the season would be such an accomplishment.

At least four players on Monday reportedly opted out of playing at all, many over COVID-19-related concerns, but at least one — two-time All-Star Ian Desmond of the Rockies — for an overlay of heartfelt, heartbreaking reasons that include not only the pandemic but also emotions related to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and the systemic racism in baseball from its league hierarchy down through its clubhouses.

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On my mind.

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As players travel this week from — and in many cases to — some of the hottest hot spots for COVID-19 in the country, it is increasingly clear that the health challenges alone make pandemic baseball look more daunting than the NBA’s bubble-wrapped playoffs.

“Certainly as this plan has been moving forward, obviously you watch the news and read and you see that cases are spiking up in some of the states that we have a lot of baseball teams and a lot of players reside there,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “And that’s something that we had concerns about.”

Intake testing across the league has barely started, and the Phillies already began with at least 12 reported coronavirus cases among its players and staff two weeks ago; a handful of other MLB players since then, including Rockies star Charlie Blackmon, were reportedly infected; and on Monday the Cubs reported that two “Tier 1” staffers (those allowed closest contact with players) won’t start with the team on time this week because of recent positive tests.

“We’re hopeful that all the protocols can keep guys safe once they’re here. Some will come down to testing and strict protocols, and then some of it’s going to come down to behavior,” Hoyer said. 

“There’s going to be positive tests. There’s no way around that. We have too many players in the league. … But we have to do everything we possibly can to avoid the kind of outbreaks that have happened in certain states right now.”

MORE: Cubs, MLB brace for positive COVID-19 tests as Summer Camp rosters submitted

Players and big-league staff appear to be going in with eyes wide open to the risks, and unlike, say, college football players they have a strong union representing their interests and the freedom to opt out, with support of peers and, said Hoyer, teams.

Ross and Hoyer emphasized plans for constant messaging about the new and uncomfortable safety protocols players must adhere to for best results — from mask requirements and distancing to bans on spitting and high-fives.

“Trust” when it comes to guidelines for best practices away from the field — in both encouraged and required form — is crucial to preventing one player or staffer on one team from potentially igniting an outbreak that debilitates the league.

“I’m trying to approach this whole situation as optimistically as I possibly can,” Hoyer said when asked about doubts that a season can actually be completed. “I think there’s going to be challenges ahead of us. I don’t think there’s any question about that. You’d be naive to think there won’t be moments of difficulty.

“But at the same time when you read through the manual and you realize how many scientists and doctors have weighed in and how thorough they’re trying to be with the testing protocols, I think we’re going to have baseball on the field really soon, and I think we should all be excited about that. And I certainly hope nothing derails it.”

Ross is certainly right about one thing: A championship this season will be as meaningful as in any other year, for all of those challenges.

Under the circumstances, it might prove the greatest group achievement in baseball history by the time a World Series were to be played.

And that’s why everyone in the game should get a trophy if they pull this off. Call it a participation trophy if you want — but call it as deserved and earned as any trophy ever awarded by a baseball commissioner.

And even this commissioner can call it what he wants — as long as this time he at least calls it a piece of mettle.

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Cubs' Tommy Hottovy quips how good Yu Darvish's Twitter game is

Cubs' Tommy Hottovy quips how good Yu Darvish's Twitter game is

Yu Darvish is one of the most active Cubs on Twitter. He frequently updates his fans on his budding YouTube channel, his training and pitching outings. He's been outspoken on his concerns over COVID-19.

Darvish obviously stayed in touch with the Cubs during baseball's shutdown, but pitching coach Tommy Hottovy joked Sunday how the club could have kept up with the right-hander by checking his Twitter timeline alone.

“You can communicate with Darvish and get good updates but if you follow him on Twitter, it’s just as good," Hottovy said, laughing. "Just getting his updates on new pitches he’s coming up with and the new "Supreme" that he [added]."

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Last month, Darvish posted a video debuting his latest pitch, "The Supreme," a two-seam/splitter hybrid. If you count the various versions of his pitches, he has upwards of 11-12 available in his arsenal.

If you're looking for a Cub to keep an eye on on Twitter, Hottovy's endorsement (joke or not) shows Darvish is a great choice.

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Why Jon Lester hasn't yet thrown live batting practice in Cubs Summer Camp

Why Jon Lester hasn't yet thrown live batting practice in Cubs Summer Camp

Four of the five pitchers in the Cubs' presumed starting rotation were scheduled to throw in controlled intrasquad games over the weekend.

Yu Darvish (two innings) and Kyle Hendricks (three) faced off on Saturday. Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills -- who is expected to fill the last spot in the rotation while Jose Quintana (thumb) is out  -- were penciled in for Sunday evening.  Jon Lester was othe odd man out.

“The one thing about Jon,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Sunday, “and he’s talked about it a lot through this down period, was he was a guy who really wanted to manage his throws. He wanted to, as he put it, save as many bullets as he possibly could. That doesn’t mean by any means he wasn’t throwing a baseball. He was staying active. He’s in a really good spot.”

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Lester, 36, has thrown two bullpens in the past few days, according to Hottovy. On Sunday, Lester simulated at-bats during his bullpen session. Lester is scheduled to throw live batting practice in two to three days.

Each of the starting pitchers’ throwing programs during the shutdown was tailored to his location, resources and needs.  Both then and now in Summer Camp, Hottovy said he wants to keep his pitchers “on a good schedule but listen to what their bodies are telling them.”

The season is set to open in less than three weeks.

 

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