The Ten: Top 10 Storylines to Follow This Week

All the stories you need to follow this week in the MLB.

Another week is in the books! We have some injury news to catch up on and digest for the coming week, as well as some MiLB news, a possible comeback story, and a team that is still playing at an elite level as we hit the one-fifth mark of games played. Let’s get into it:


1. Is Shohei Ohtani done as a pitcher?


It only took two starts and 1.2 innings pitched for two-way star Shohei Ohtani’s 2020 on the mound to come to an inauspicious end. Ohtani was removed and was complaining of elbow pain, which is never a good sign of things to come. Ohtani did mention that the pain was less severe than the time he required Tommy John surgery, but this is concerning to say the least. The value that Ohtani provides by being able to hit and pitch every 5th day is enormous, but should the Angels continue the experiment? As 2018 proved, Ohtani is most definitely capable of playing on both sides of the ball. The Rookie of the Year winner smacked 22 homers with a .285/.361/.564 line while also throwing 51.2 innings to the tune of a 3.31 ERA. Since then, though, injuries have plagued him mercilessly.  Despite stating his intention to still pitch, the Angels may be forced to reevaluate Ohtani’s future. Hopefully, as more clarity around the injury comes to light, we will know more of what the future holds for Shohei.


2. Saving MiLB


One of the worst side effects of the truncated 2020 season is the fact that MiLB won’t be in session at all. Prior to all the mess, however, MLB had announced plans that they were looking to trim down the size of the minor leagues, scaling back on lower level teams while reducing the overall teams from 160 to 120. As a lover of all things minor league, it would be a shame to see so many teams dissolved and not be able to provide their local populace with entertainment.

Last Monday, we learned that MiLB President Pat O’Conner has created a new committee to handle the upcoming negotiations with the MLB about the future of the minors. The current deal expires at the end of September and talks for a new deal are expected to start soon. O’Conner and his team have a massive task ahead of them. As COVID-19 showed us in regards to the major league season, deliberating with the MLB is no small feat. They’ll need all the help they can get to secure their future.


3. Osuna’s elbow


Last Sunday, the Astros placed reliever Roberto Osuna on the IL with elbow soreness after just 3.1 IP this season. As you probably already know, Osuna is a polarizing guy. Outside of some of the Astros fanbase, the disdain surrounding him is pretty universal after he was suspended back in 2018 for violating the league’s domestic violence policy and then was the topic of another Astros incident involving former Astros exec Brandon Taubman. The scorn is in no way undeserved.

Anyway, Osuna received his initial diagnosis and was recommended Tommy John surgery. Osuna will seek a second opinion but the smart money is on the surgery. It usually is. Despite his personal shortcomings, Osuna has been an effective reliever in his career between Toronto and Houston, and any time on the shelf for him would be a big blow to the Astros. Look for Osuna to possibly make his decision in the coming days.


4. Kim is in


The Cardinals are in desperate need of some good news, and I think this qualifies. After signing Kwang-hyun Kim to a two-year deal, the Cardinals stuck him in the bullpen among their multiple astute relievers. Earlier this week, however, it was announced that Kim would be moving to the rotation. Back in 2019 over in the KBO, Kim was an arm to be reckoned with. Manning the helm of the SK Wyverns rotation, Kim threw 190.1 innings with a 2.51 ERA over 30 starts. Since coming stateside Kim has only been able to make one appearance due to the Cardinals still not resuming play. If and when they do get back on the field, Kim’s eventual turn in the rotation is going to have plenty of MLB and KBO fans alike tuning in. Let’s hope it’s sooner than later.


5. TV ratings are climbing


As reported by this Forbes article, in the early going of the 2020 season, both ad revenue and ratings are currently higher than they were at this point last year. I guess when you start the season four months late, fans will clamor to see anything they can that even looks relatively similar to baseball. I know I have.

With the shortened season, perhaps more fans are tuning in now that each game has more on the line? Expanded playoffs giving hope to casual fans of fringe or bad teams that they could sneak in and make a deep postseason run?  Could this all be a coincidence? Of course. Baseball has been notoriously inept at marketing its game, especially to younger fans. But given the stressful nature of getting the 2020 season off the ground, I believe there is more to it than that.


6. Mad Max’s mad hamstring


Last Wednesday, Nationals ace Max Scherzer exited his start with hamstring discomfort. He was only able to muster one inning against the Mets before heading to the locker room. Since then, Max has been able to play catch and even throw a bullpen, so all signs point to him getting back out there on Tuesday for his next scheduled start against the same New York Mets.

Scherzer is a prototypical gritty pitcher, not one to shy away from pitching through the pain. Just last year, Scherzer broke his nose while taking BP and made his next scheduled start the next day. Not only that, but he also threw seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts. What an animal. You can try to break Max’s bones, but you’ll just make him angry. If this is how Max pitches after an injury scare, then his scheduled Tuesday start should be one to tune into as well. If nothing else, we’ll get a clear picture of how the hammy is affecting him.


7. Manny down under


Is Manny Ramirez coming back?! Even as a Yankee fan growing up in the early 2000s and seeing this guy beat up my hometown team on a regular basis, I’ve gotta say I am excited and I hope this is real. For those of you who may have missed his playing days, Manny is the poster boy for wacky antics. And who doesn’t love wacky antics? Ramirez was incredibly unpredictable but also a great hitter, owning a lifetime .312/.411/.585 batting line over 19(!) seasons.

Rumors started circulating last week that Manny is attempting a comeback with the Auckland Tuatara in New Zealand. At 48 years old, I have next to no faith that Ramirez has anything left in the tank, but hey, if anyone could do it it’s probably him. I guess I’m adding New Zealand baseball to my MLB and KBO lineup. We’ll see if the team and Manny can come to an agreement soon.

(Bonus – here’s my favorite Manny moment, back from 2005.)


8.  Angels staffer will face charges


Just over a year ago we tragically lost Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs after he was found dead in his hotel room in Texas. After roughly a month, it was revealed Skaggs’ cause of death was a mixture of alcohol, oxycodone, and fentanyl that caused him to choke on his own vomit. Skaggs’ death was needless, senseless, and incredibly sad. He was only 27 years old. Making it even worse, Skaggs’ family revealed that an Angels employee supplied Tyler with the painkillers.

That employee, Eric Kay, will now face charges from the DEA for illegally obtaining these drugs for the pitcher. It is not yet known when Kay will have his day in court, but if convicted he is facing up to 20 years in prison. Locking up Kay won’t bring Tyler Skaggs back, but it will give his family a sense of justice done for enabling such dangerous behavior. And hopefully, this will be a deterrent to anyone who tries to do this again.


9. Are the Rockies good now?


If I told you at this point last year that the Colorado Rockies were in first place in the NL West on August 10th, how many questions would you have for me? If it’s less than 20 I think you’re lowballing it.

But believe it! The Rockies are the proud owners of a 11-4 record and currently hold the NL West by half a game over the Dodgers. After a disappointing 2019 in which the Rockies went 71-91, just one game above last place in the division, 2020 has been a revelation for the Rox. Even with star third baseman Nolan Arenado struggling at the plate, the Rockies are still finding ways to win. One of the main reasons so far has been something that Colorado has struggled with in recent years—pitching. German Marquez, Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela all have ERA’s of 3.31 or lower. While their collective low BAPIP (.237) and K% (18.1) have me quite worried the success won’t be eternal, I’m still hopping on board for the ride while they are hot. The Rox will square off with the Diamondbacks and the Rangers this week, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this squad. With the short season, nothing is off the table.


10. The concerning state of STL


The St. Louis Cardinals have not played a game since July 29th. Their upcoming three-game series against the Pirates has already been postponed, and worse still is that more positive tests of Cardinals players and coaches have testes positive for COVID-19. With over 10 games now required to be made-up, the plausibility of the Cardinals’ season is in legitimate jeopardy. Within a week, we could see nearly one-third of total Cardinals games postponed. It’s really not that far off. Manager Mike Shildt even revealed a few members of the team had to visit the emergency room due to their symptoms. This is not only a logistical nightmare for the team and the MLB, it is also literally endangering the health of the team and those around them.

In the first few days of the season we saw the Marlins go through a similar outbreak, but they have since returned to the field with the virus seemingly under control in the clubhouse. The Cardinals have not been so lucky. The MLB is expected to make an announcement later this week about when the Cardinals can pick up their season. But I don’t feel terribly optimistic about it being any time soon.


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Liam Casey

Liam is a lifelong Yankee fan currently residing in Long Island, NY with his fiancee and their 2 dogs.

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