I guess the headline should read that he makes baseball more fun, because it's already plenty of fun. But anyway, Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor seems to be having a grand old time during the team's Summer Camp as the prepare for the 2020 season.
During the Indians' intrasquad game yesterday, Lindor hit a home run off right-handed pitcher Mike Clevinger. The four-time All-Star celebrated by finishing his home run trot with a somersault across home plate.
Lindor has long been considered one of the players in the league that has the most fun. His nickname is Mr. Smile, a nod to his always-present grin when he is on the playing field.
For a player that's as much of a fan favorite and as talented as Lindor is, you would think the Indians would want to keep him around a while. But the whole offseason was spent discussing trade rumors and whether or not the team would be able to re-sign him after the 2020 season is up.
It doesn't look like that's affecting Lindor right now. He's just out on the diamond having the time of his life as we get closer to Opening Day.
While teams around MLB try to figure out how to handle the season without any fans in attendance - whether they pipe in fake crowd noise or find another alternative - Oakland third baseman Matt Chapman says it won't matter to the A's.
"I think it's going to play to our advantage - a lot of our games are pretty quiet in general," Chapman told reporters yesterday. "We're used to not having too many fans at the games."
That may be true, but it seems like a bit of a self-burn for a player on the A's roster, and a star player at that. Chapman is an All-Star third baseman and a two-time Gold Glove winner.
Oakland was towards the bottom in total and average attendance last season, but as an ambassador for the team, you would think Chapman would want to be a little more positive. But then again, maybe he's right and it does become an advantage for the A's as they play in an emptier stadium than they're apparently used to.
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey has chosen to opt out of the 2020 season, according to multiple reports. Posey, a former Rookie of the Year and MVP, becomes arguably the highest profile player to opt out so far.
Posey joins a list that includes David Price, Ian Desmond, Joe Ross, Ryan Zimmerman, Felix Hernandez and Nick Markakis, among others, in choosing not to play the 2020 season.
According to The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly, Posey missed time in camp because he and his wife are adopting twin girls. The twins were born prematurely, but are stable, and will be in the NICU for some time.
The Giants released an official statement, saying they "fully support Buster's decision. Buster is an integral part of our team and will be sorely missed, but we look forward to having him back in 2021."
Posey is a six-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner for the Giants. His numbers took a dip last season, but he's a career .302 hitter with 140 home runs and 673 RBIs for San Francisco.
You've heard it plenty of times before: Major League Baseball has a marketing problem.
Superstar players are only superstars within the baseball world. A guy like Mike Trout, who will go down as possibly the greatest player of all-time, is relatively unknown compared to athletes like LeBron James and Tom Brady.
Part of the reasoning behind that problem is the restrictive blackout rules that MLB has for its online streaming platform. In case you're not familiar with just how bad MLB's blackouts can be, here's a helpful map.
Here you can see which areas are blacked out from which teams. Some don't have it so bad, but others are just left in the dust with no access to any team.
Now, just to clarify, as Baseball America's JJ Cooper did on Twitter this morning, MLB blackouts are not based on selling out the games or trying to get fans in attendance. It's all about not competing with the regional sports networks that broadcast the games and making sure they get their money.
That doesn't make the rules any better, though. Especially in today's age and with the way people consume content these days.
According to No Cable, the number of households that are subscribed to cable or satellite TV is expected to drop to 82.9 million this year. In 2018, 90.3 million households had a cable subscription.
That means that cord cutting is on the rise. The number of cord cutting households is expected to rise to 25.3 million this year, up from 18.3 million in 2018.
If this many people are ditching their cable and satellite subscriptions, wouldn't it make sense for MLB to get with the times and make sure they're included in the fan base?
Take Iowa for example. If you're a resident of the Hawkeye State and you decide to cut the cord and switch to streaming, you can't watch any of the teams within a few hundred miles of you. You'll be blacked out of Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Twins, Cardinals and Royals games. If you're a fan of any of those teams and you decide to cut the cord, too bad for you.
Or look at the entire South. All of South Carolina and Georgia and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida are blacked out of Atlanta Braves games. If people continue to get rid of their cable/satellite subscriptions in favor of streaming options, they will be cut off from watching the Braves in seven states.
These archaic restrictions just don't make any sense. Times have changed, and people are done with cable TV. It makes more sense to pay for streaming services that you actually want, instead of a package of 400 channels, 4 of which you actually watch.
If MLB truly wants to grow the game and get more fans involved, they need to loosen the blackout restrictions, get with the times and let fans watch online wherever they may be.
Just days after releasing the schedule for the 60-game 2020 regular season, MLB has released the 2021 regular season schedule. While there's still plenty of uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and how long its effects will last, let's take a look at some of the highlights of the planned 2021 season.
Opening Day in 2021 will take place on Thursday, April 1, and it will be the fourth consecutive year that every team is scheduled to play on the traditional Opening Day, if you include the original 2020 schedule. It could also be the first time since 1968 in which all 30 clubs play their first game of the season on the same day.
One item that has been rumored over the past few days is now confirmed: the New York Mets and New York Yankees will play a series from Sept. 10-12, the first time that the franchises will play each other on Sept. 11th. MLB will honor the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks as the two New York teams square off.
Interleague play will be similar to this year as each division will play its counter division from the other league. AL East teams will play NL East teams in interleague play, and so on.
For the Braves, they will host St. Louis for a four-game series on Father's Day weekend in a rematch of the 2019 NLDS. Atlanta will also host the 2021 All-Star Game at Truist Park. It will be the first All-Star game hosted by the Braves since the 2000 contest at Turner Field.
We are now just two weeks from Opening Day of MLB's shortened 2020 season, and somehow Yasiel Puig is still a free agent. The All-Star rightfielder got traded to the Reds last offseason, then to the Indians at the deadline, and has been without a team since the end of the 2019 season.
We went through the entire offseason and into the first Spring Training without Puig getting signed. Now we're over a week into summer camp and no team has inked him to a deal yet.
It's not that everyone around the game of baseball has just forgotten about Puig. Google "Yasiel Puig" and you'll see the headlines.
"Red Sox Rumors: Yasiel Puig would be a quality addition"
"San Diego Padres reportedly interested in Yasiel Puig"
"Former Dodger Yasiel Puig to be pursued by Giants"
So if there's so much interest in him, why has no one picked him up yet?
Puig would be an especially good sign for this season, which features a designated hitter in the National League. NL teams that weren't planning on having a DH now find themselves needing to fill another spot in the lineup. If only there were a talented free agent out there who could provide a quality bat to a team in need.
Puig started out promising when he came up with the Dodgers in 2013. His personality and on-field antics have garnered some criticism, and his play has declined a bit, but he's still an above-average hitter with power.
Just last year Puig batted .267 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs. Not the greatest season ever but you can't tell me there's not a team out there that could use his bat to fill a DH spot in the lineup.
Even the Braves could benefit from adding Puig to the roster. With the DH coming to the National League this season and rightfielder Nick Markakis opting out of the 2020 season, Atlanta could use an extra bat, or another rightfielder to replace Markakis.
Sure they have some young bats that they could promote from the Minor Leagues like Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, but those guys weren't MLB-ready prior to the season. Puig is a veteran MLB outfielder and would be a great addition to not just the Braves, but any team looking for an extra bat.
What would it look like if you put together a baseball team of MLB players from Virginia. Trey Lyle and I discussed that on today's episode of the Foul Ball Area podcast.
There are some pretty good ballplayers from the Commonwealth, including one Hall of Famer and at least one future Hall of Famer. Some positions are full of talent from our state, and some were a little more bare. Once we put this whole team together, I thought we did a pretty good job; if you compiled this team with every player in their prime, it would be a pretty competitive group of players.
Trey and I agreed on most of our choices for the All-Virginia team, but there were a couple of positions where we had different picks. Read on to see who we chose for the team.
Catcher: Todd Hundley
Todd Hundley played in Major League Baseball from 1990 to 2003, spending most of his career with the New York Mets. He was a two-time All-Star, and finished his career batting .234 with 2020 home runs. A native of Martinsville, his father Randy also had a respectable MLB career in the 1960s and 70s.
First Baseman: Ryan Zimmerman
Zimmerman was born in North Carolina, but grew up in Virginia and attended UVA. The first draft pick in Nationals' history, he made his debut in 2005 and has been a constant for Washington ever since. He's a two-time All-Star, a Gold Glover and Silver Slugger winner and a World Series champion. Zimmerman owns a career .279 batting average with 270 home runs.
Matt's Second Baseman: Charlie Pick
Pick was born in Brookneal in 1888. He had a six-year MLB career, finishing with a .261 batting average and 86 RBIs.
Trey's Second Baseman: Paul Hines
Hines played baseball from 1872 to 1891, playing for the Providence Grays, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, among other teams. He is credited with winning baseball's first Triple Crown in 1878, when he batted .358 with four home runs and 50 RBIs.
Third Baseman: David Wright
There's really no other choice when it comes to third basemen from Virginia. A native of Norfolk, Wright is a seven-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner. He boasts a career .296 average and 242 home runs. There's a chance we could see him enshrined in Cooperstown one day.
Shorstop: Gene Alley
A native of Richmond, Alley played for the Pirates form 1963 to 1973. He was a two-time All-Star and won two Gold Gloves in Pittsburgh, while also helping the Pirates to the 1971 World Series title. Alley finished his career with a .254 batting average and 342 RBIs.
Outfielder: Justin Upton
Upton is another native of Norfolk, and he actually played travel ball with Wright, Zimmerman and fellow Major Leaguer Mark Reynolds growing up. In his 13 seasons so far, he's been an All-Star four times and won three Silver Sluggers. He's got 298 home runs and 937 RBIs to his name, with many more sure to come.
Outfielder: Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Bradley is a native of Richmond who attended high school in Prince George, Va. After playing college ball at South Carolina, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox, where he's been an All-Star, Gold Glove winner and 2018 ALCS MVP.
Matt's Outfielder: Michael Cuddyer
The Tidewater region really cranks out those athletes. Cuddyer grew up in Norfolk and played high school baseball at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, the same school Upton would attend a few years later. Cuddyer was a two-time All-Star and won a batting title during his 15-year career. He finished with a .277 average and 197 home runs for the Twins, Rockies and Mets.
Trey's Outfielder: Willie Horton
Born in the small, Southwest Virginia town of Arno, Horton attended high school in Detroit, where he would go on to play for the Tigers from 1963 to 1977. Horton was a four-time All-Star and a World Series champion, finishing his career with a .273 average and 325 home runs.
Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander
There's no arguing with this one. Born and raised in Manakin-Sabot in Goochland County, Verlander is arguably the best pitcher of his generation and one of the greatest of all-time. He's an eight-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young Winner, Rookie of the Year, MVP, Triple Crown winner and World Series champion. In 15 seasons, he boasts a 3.33 ERA and 3,006 strikeouts, and he's only getting better. Just last year at 36 years old he won 21 games, led the league in innings pitched and had a 2.58 ERA.
Relief Pitcher: Billy Wagner
Another position where there's no doubt about who to choose, Wagner is one of the greatest closers in MLB history. Wagner was born in Marion and played high school ball at Tazewell High before attending Ferrum College. In his 16-year career, most of which was spent with the Houston Astros, Wagner posted a 2.31 ERA with 422 saves, sixth on the all-time list. He was a seven-time All-Star and won the Rolaids Reliever of the Year in 1999.
Honorable Mention: Eppa Rixey
Rixey is second all-time among players from Virginia in career WAR, trailing only Verlander. He's also the only Virginia native to be enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame, so we couldn't leave him off the list. With a career that spanned from 1912 to 1933, Rixey finished with a .515 winning percentage, a 3.15 ERA and 1,350 strikeouts.
While he's the only current Virginia player in Cooperstown you can bet some of the names on this list will join him soon.
Major League Baseball's return has seen some hiccups over the weekend, with delays in COVID-19 test results and teams being forced to cancel or postpone workouts. Those issues are persisting today as at least two teams have suspended workouts, while a few more players around the league have tested positive.
The San Francisco Giants suspended their workouts at Oracle Park while they await the results of tests that were conducted over the weekend, according to Kerry Crowley. Elsewhere around the league, David Ross announced that the Cubs were pushing back their workouts while they await test results.
The delays are not good for many reasons, the biggest obviously that it provides an unsafe environment for workouts while players and staff are not unsure if anyone in the organization is infected. Secondly, it puts teams at a disadvantage when they are forced to delay their workouts while other teams proceed with preparing for the season.
Nationals star left fielder Juan Soto is isolating after coming into contact with someone on the team who has tested positive, according to Jesse Dougherty. This is an example of testing working well and resulting in players doing the right thing, even if it means the Nationals may be without their best player for at least 14 days.
Dougherty also reported that Nats manager Dave Martinez said that two Nationals have tested positive during in-take testing.
Oakland A's starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser. Luzardo had been sidelined from A's workouts for a few days and will now be forced to isolate for at least 14 days.
Luzardo was expected to be part of the A's rotation this year, so this could be a blow to the A's plans.
Stay up to date with everything going on in MLB by following along with our blog and following Foul Ball Area on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
With the 2020 MLB schedule released yesterday, we now know exactly what the 60-game season will look like. While the Houston Astros are probably glad the season has been delayed as it means everyone has mostly forgotten about their sign-stealing scandal, they might be a bit worried looking at their new schedule.
After opening the season with a four-game home series against the Seattle Mariners, the Astros welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to Houston. The Dodgers, of course, are the team that the Astros beat in the 2017 World Series, the season during which the Astros were using cameras to steal opposing team's signs.
While there likely won't be any fans in attendance and this series is a home one for the Astros, the Dodgers might be feeling some animosity towards them and there could be some tensions throughout those two games.
As if that's not good enough, on Sept. 12 and 13, the Astros come to LA for a two-game series.
Again, there probably won't be fans at the game, but that's not to say the Astros won't get a taste of how Southern California feels about them. Maybe fans will be waiting for the Astros outside Dodger Stadium, welcoming the Astros with a crowd of boos and jeers.
These two series would be more fun if fans were actually able to be at the games, but regardless, it will be interesting to watch how the Dodgers handle the whole thing. Will they still be angry and feel like they got cheated out of a World Series title? Will they try to retaliate?
Or will everyone have moved on and just want to play baseball?
Either way, you can bet that the build up to these four games will be intense across baseball media.
While many teams around the league were still waiting for COVID-19 test results last night, MLB released the 2020 schedule live on MLB Network. There are clearly some hurdles the league needs to get over before we make it to Opening Day, but for the next few minutes let's just take a look at the schedule and see what we're in store for this year if they do play baseball.
The season begins on Thursday, July 23 with two matchups. The first features last year's World Series champion Washington Nationals taking on this year's World Series favorite New York Yankees.
The first game of the season will presumably feature Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole in the nation's capital, a matchup every baseball fan should be pumped to watch.
After those two teams square off, we'll get a classic NL West rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers will look to win their eighth-straight division title while the Giants are just trying to be competitive again.
Both games should be fun to watch and a great way to welcome MLB back into our lives. I'm really excited for the Scherzer-Cole matchup as it pits two of the best pitchers in the league against each other to kick the season off. Plus, we'll get an early look at how the Nats will defend their World Series title. It's a shortened season, so every game matters.
Braves get five national games
The Atlanta Braves have had two great seasons in a row and are poised to compete for another NL East title. With success comes nationally-televised games, which the Braves will have plenty of in this shortened season.
Atlanta will be featured on three of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts, including the first one of the season on July 26 when they travel to the New York Mets. They'll also be on ESPN on August 23 and 30, hosting the Phillies and then playing at Philadelphia.
Fox will show two games featuring the Braves, one on August 29 at the Phillies and the other on September 19 at the Mets.
As a Braves fan who lives far out of their broadcast region and doesn't pay for MLB.tv, I'm a fan of them being on this many national broadcasts. Of course it's only five games, but that's a high percentage when you consider it's only a 60-game season.
Dates to look out for
Since MLB missed the first three months of the season, there were a lot of special days they had planned that didn't get to happen. Under the new revised schedule, the league is making sure some of them still take place.
Aug. 28 will be celebrated as Jackie Robinson Day, where every MLB player wears Robinson's number 42. The day is usually celebrated on April 15, which is the day Robinson made his MLB debut, but Aug. 28 has some significance as well according to MLB. It marks the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 and is also the date that Robinson initially met with Branch Rickey to talk about signing with the Dodgers in 1945.
The Field of Dreams game will take place on Aug. 13, although with different teams than planned. Due to the regional travel schedule in MLB this season, the game will be between the White Sox and the Cardinals. The teams will play at a new field near the site where "Field of Dreams" was filmed, making it the first ever MLB game in the state of Iowa.
Additionally Roberto Clemente Day will be celebrated on Sept. 9 and MLB will honor the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues on Aug. 16.
I like that the league is still taking time to honor all of these days. Jackie Robinson Day is one of my favorite days on the MLB calendar, so I was sad when it passed by earlier this year and we didn't have any baseball. But the league is doing a good job of fitting everything into the short schedule, and they should be commended for that.
This season is going to be different in a lot of ways. Teams that might not have a shot at the playoffs in a 162-game season are looking like they can compete for 60 games. No fans at the ballparks will be a weird feeling on TV, although it's been done before. Everything will feel a little off, but that's what it's going to take if we want to have MLB baseball in 2020.