photo: John Brebbia (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)
The St. Louis Cardinals prepare to resume pre-season preparation for a shortened 60-game schedule, with news of a major injury and a roster announcement. Our history feature highlights two Cardinals Hall of Famers who each hit for the cycle.
The Return of Baseball
After a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, baseball is finally returning. The shortened season will be 60 games in length and will end on September 27, with playoffs to begin in October. The playoffs will not be expanded.
The lead-up to the final agreement for the return was fraught with contentiousness and verbal sparring in the media between the owners, represented by Commissioner Rob Manfred, and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), represented by President Tony Clark. At times it appeared hopeless that we would see baseball at all before 2021. The primary obstacle was how many games would be played and how much the players would be paid.
The dispute centered around an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA made in late March after Spring Training had been halted due to the spread of the coronavirus. That agreement included, among other things, a clause that the players would be paid a pro-rated salary based upon the number of games played.
What appeared to be a straightforward arrangement later became a heated squabble as to interpretation. The owners contended that the provision only applied if fans were in attendance at the games. The MLBPA argued otherwise and disputed MLB’s interpretation. What ensued was public bickering that left many who watched believing the parties were an embarrassment and were causing great harm to the sport. Sides were taken and the war was on for many weeks.
When all the smoke cleared, neither side agreed to either rate of pay or length of season. So, under the March agreement terms, the Commissioner imposed a season of 60 games with pro-rated pay for players. The players had wanted more games, and the owners had wanted further pay cuts; so neither side completely got what they wanted.
One could argue the merits of either party’s position. The players believed they had an agreement that the owners then tried to amend. The owners contended they would lose billions of dollars by playing games without fans in the stands and therefore pay cuts were required. Who was right now seems irrelevant with the coronavirus still raging all over the country and even the 60-game season not a certainty.
In any event, the plan is for players to report to training camp beginning July 1. Each team will have camp at their own home ballparks (except for the Toronto Blue Jays, who will likely play in Toronto, but that plan is not final). The season will begin on July 23 with two games, and the remainder of the games on July 24. The full schedule has not yet been released to the public.
Particulars of the 2020 Season
The 60-game 2020 season will be vastly different than what fans are used to seeing. The presence of an infectious virus that continues to rage throughout the country has made it impossible for baseball to be played normally. Here are some of the particulars of what 2020 baseball will look like.
NL and AL teams will play each other in these 60 games based on geography in order to eliminate cross country travel. The season will be divided up into three zones which consist of all AL and NL West teams, all NL and AL Central teams, and all NL and AL East teams. For example, the Cardinals will play only their regular NL Central opponents the Cubs, Reds, Brewers, and Pirates, plus the Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, and Cleveland Indians. There will be 40 games against the NL Central teams, and 20 interleague games against the AL Central teams.
Each team is allowed a 60-player pool. The 60 may or may not include all 40-man roster players. Not all of the Cardinals’ 60 players will be at training camp in St. Louis. Each team is allowed to have a separate camp close by. The Cardinals have chosen to have their alternate camp at Hammons Field in Springfield. An initial list of the players in the pool was required to be submitted by 3 pm CT on Sunday, June 28. Teams are not required to fill all 60 slots. The Cardinals submitted an initial list of 44 players. Additional players up to 60 total will be added later. Full details can be found here.
Teams may add any player in the organization to the pool, including newly signed 2020 draftees. Once the pool is finalized, the regular roster rules regarding subtracting players will apply. For example, a player subtracted from the pool will be subject to release, trade, or waivers. The exception is for injury or suspension. If a 60-man pool player is injured or tests positive for the coronavirus, he may be placed on the regular injured list (10-day or 45-day for 2020) or the newly created coronavirus injured list (no specified length).
The active roster will contain 30 players for the first two weeks of the season. After two weeks, the roster will be reduced to 28 players, and two weeks after that will be set at 26 players for the remainder of the season. Any pool player who is not on the 40-man roster will have to be added before that player can be on the active roster. A 27th player can be added for double-headers. All teams will be permitted to travel with a taxi squad of up to three players, of which one must be a catcher. The identity of the taxi squad players need not be disclosed.
The regular rules will be applied to the active roster. A player may be optioned to the alternate camp and a new player called up. An optioned player must remain at the alternate camp for 10 days unless called up to replace an injured player.
The coronavirus injured list does not count against the roster. Players on the active roster testing positive will be replaced by players on the 60-man at the alternate camp. Should there not be enough players at the alternate camp due to an outbreak of coronavirus, MLB can permit teams to replace the open spots with other organizational players not on the original 60-man list or with free agents.
The trade deadline is August 31. Only 60-man pool players can be traded. A traded player must be placed in the acquiring team’s 60 man player pool.
There will be a universal designated hitter for the 2020 season. In tie games after nine innings, the minor league rule requiring a man on second base to start each inning will be implemented. The new rule for pitchers to pitch to a three-batter minimum will be applied. Pitchers will be allowed to have a wet rag in their pocket to wet their fingers in lieu of licking them. Games that are stopped with less than five innings completed due to weather will be suspended and continued at a later date (as opposed to starting over from the beginning).
Training camp games will have rule changes as well. Managers will be allowed to end an inning for their pitchers before three outs are made as long as the pitcher has thrown at least 25 pitches. A plate appearance must be completed before this can be done. Substitution rules are relaxed, allowing pitchers to re-enter later. At this time, the Cardinals do not plan to play any external camp games, though teams are allowed as many as three.
All teams will be subject to strict health protocols. MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a 100+ page health protocol. Some items included are masks for coaches and staff at all times in the dugout and on the field, all players and coaches must keep a distance of at least six feet from umpires at all times, no spitting, no high-fiving or fist bumping, and social distancing should be practiced in the clubhouse.
Games will be played with no fans in the stands to begin the season. A possibility for some fans to be allowed later on has been left open.
Players who are at high risk for coronavirus may opt out of the season and receive pay and service time. Players who live with someone at high risk may opt out but service time and pay will be at the discretion of the team. Players not in one of these categories may opt out but would receive no service time or pay. The deadline for players to opt out is 3 pm CT on Sunday, June 28.
More details on some of these issues can be seen at TCN.
John Brebbia has Tommy John surgery
In a surprise announcement made by the Cardinals this past week, right-handed pitcher John Brebbia underwent Tommy John surgery on June 8. This means Brebbia will miss the 2020 season and potentially some of the 2021 season as well.
Brebbia felt a pull in his elbow in a March 11 game against the Mets. This turned about to be the day before camp was shut down due to the coronavirus. Brebbia underwent an MRI which revealed a tear in his UCL in his right arm. The reliever subsequently received a platelet-rich plasma injection as an alternative to surgery.
When Brebbia began throwing again, the discomfort in his elbow returned. At that point it was decided he would have the surgery. The 30-year old reliever will remain in Florida for his rehab.
Brebbia finished the 2019 season with an ERA of 3.59 in 66 appearances. He was considered a candidate to participate in what may be a closer committee for 2020.
Jordan Hicks is among the 44 players in the pool, returning from his Tommy John surgery last June. He should also be in contention for closer duties. Hicks, a Type 1 diabetic, is at high risk for coronavirus complications, so the team will proceed cautiously with him for multiple reasons.
In other injury news, Miles Mikolas, who missed almost a month of spring training with a strained flexor tendon appears to have fully recovered and will be available to start the season. He has already been working out at Busch Stadium in informal workouts with other Cardinals players.
The health of left-handed pitcher Brett Cecil, who is in the final year of his contract, remains unknown. President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has stated Cecil’s readiness will be evaluated when the team reports to camp.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
- 6/27 The Cardinals placed RHP John Brebbia on the 45-day injured list. Right ulnar collateral ligament tear.
- 6/28 Though there has been no official announcement yet, RHP Jordan Hicks is among the 44 players active for Summer Camp. He had been on the 60-day injured list since Spring Training Camp 1.0.
- RHP John Brebbia underwent Tommy John surgery on June 8. He will miss the entire 2020 season.
- LHP Brett Cecil (hamstring) has been working out in Jupiter, Florida. Cecil’s health will be assessed when players report to training camp.
- RHP Miles Mikolas (right foream flexor tendon) is reportedly ready to go and available to start the season.
- RHP Jordan Hicks (Tommy John surgery) is throwing bullpens and was placed on the 44-man camp roster. Hicks, a Type 1 diabetic, will be monitored closely due to high risk of coronavirus complications.
Players are set to report to training camp in St. Louis starting on July 1. All players will be tested for COVID-19 upon reporting. Full workouts will start on July 3. Players and coaches will be tested every other day throughout camp.
An alternate camp will be set up at Hammons Field in Springfield for those players in the 60-man pool who will not participate in camp at St. Louis. This alternate camp will begin on July 14. 44 players will be at the St. Louis camp, with the remaining 16 at the alternate camp, augmented by those cut from St. Louis during July.
At this time, it appears all games during camp will be intrasquad games. Teams have the option of playing up to three games against zone opponents. The Cardinals do not plan on playing any games of this type, but that could change.
St. Louis’ regular season will start either July 23 or 24. No schedule has been released to the public.
Blast from the Past
We return to the regular Blast from the Past piece as the baseball season nears a return. This week’s segment looks at two games from the past in which a prominent Cardinal hit for the cycle.
On June 27, 1973, St. Louis played the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals defeated the Pirates 15-4.
The starting lineup was as follows: Lou Brock LF, Ted Sizemore 2B, Joe Torre 1B, Ted Simmons C, Ken Reitz 3B, Bill Stein RF, Jose Cruz CF, Mike Tyson SS, and Reggie Cleveland P.
In the top of the first, Brock singled to CF, Sizemore singled to CF, and Joe Torre doubled to CF, scoring Brock and Sizemore. Torre’s double was the first of his four hits.
Torre came to the plate for the second time in the top of the third. He hit a solo home run to deep RF. Simmons followed with a solo home run to LF. Reitz singled, Stein doubled. Cruz singled to score Reitz and Tyson singled to score Stein. Tyson later scored on a wild pitch.
In the top of the fourth, Torre triple and scored on a sac fly by Simmons. Torre completed the cycle by hitting a single to CF in the top of the ninth. He finished with three RBI and 10 total bases and became the 11th player to hit for the cycle in franchise history.
On June 23, 1984, St. Louis played the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cardinals lost 12-11 in 11 innings.
The starting lineup was Lonnie Smith LF, Ozzie Smith SS, Willie McGee CF, George Hendrick RF, David Green 1B, Tom Herr 2B, Art Howe 3B, Darrell Porter C, and Ralph Citarella P.
McGee’s initial at bat was a groundout in the first inning. In the top of the second, McGee tripled, driving in two runs.
In the top of the fourth, McGee singled, but no runs crossed the plate that inning. McGee came to bat for a fourth time in the top of the sixth and launched a two-run home run.
McGee’s fifth at bat was another groundout in the top of the eighth. In the top of the 10th, McGee added an RBI double. He went 4-for-6 with six RBI and 10 total bases. McGee was the 13th Cardinal to hit for the cycle in franchise history.
Both Torre and McGee are members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Torre was inducted in 2016 and McGee was part of the first fan-elected class in 2014.
16 Cardinal players have hit for the cycle. The most recent was Mark Grudzielanek on April 27, 2005 and the first was Cliff Heathcote on June 13, 1918. The only Cardinal to hit for the cycle twice was Ken Boyer – on September 14, 1961 and June 16, 1964.
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