Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Spring Games Begin Sunday, February 28; Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues Geared Up for 2021

MLB's Spring Training schedule has been out since September. Here's a link to it.

The first games are on February 28, with 28 of 30 teams playing, the reason not all teams play the first day is beacuse there are 15 teams in Florida's Grapefruit League and 15 in Arizona's Cactus League. The Mets and Cubs open the following day, March 1, with the Mets at the Marlins and Cubs at Padres.

This Baseball on Deck blog was pretty much idled last year, but it's back up for the 2021 season, hoping all goes well now that the coronavirus seems to be a fading memory.

Fans without masks? Probably not right away, but likely by the first of June at the latest in most ball parks. COVID's been a major P.I.T.A. for most of us, but government restrictions have been worse. Hopefully, the governors in baseball states will back off and allow us the national pastime without undue influence on the rules and the fans.

This blog is likely to be undergoing some changes, such as a new name, leaning towards "Baseball Beat", and a new home, at Downtown Magazine, though we'll likely continue to mirror here at Blogger under the same URL.

Players of the Day will continue, most likely, to be the main focus, but yours truly, Fearless Rick, a baseball fanatic to the core, desires more in-depth articles and insights. I'll see how that develops, as I wear more hats than are good for me, but hopefully will not be too busy to enjoy watching major league games and writing about the great sport of baseball.

See you in the bleachers, ya bums!

-- Fearless Rick

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Spring Training Arrives: Pitchers and Catchers Report

After months of drab, cold weather and a shortened 2020 season, Spring Triaing has officially opened for Major League Baseball. MLB has more details here.

Owners, execs, coaches, players, and fans are all looking forward to a full 162-game season in 2021, with fans in attendance. While details are sketchy at this time, all major league ballparks are readying for at least 20% capacity for Opening Day, which is April 1.

As the coronavirus fades and vaccinations help ease the fears going forward, there's the possibility of full stadiums by October, but more likely, 50% capacity, which, for most fans - and players - would be welcome.

More next week...

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Jake Adams, Corey Julks Power Astros; Albert Almora Jr. Leads Cubs Past Mariners

Players of the Day for Monday, February 24, 2020

Grapefruit League

Either the Houston Astros have found a new, undetectable way of stealing signs or they've got a couple of heavy-handed rookies on their 2020 roster.

Jake Adams socked a ninth-inning, three-run homer in his only official at-bat after walking with the bases loaded in the seventh inning as the Houston Astros dropped the Detroit Tigers like a sack of flour Monday, in an 11-1 blowout.

Prior to Adams blowing up the scoreboard, Corey Julks ripped a seventh-inning grand slam, scoring Adams and two more of his new teammates. Julks finished 2-for-3. Like Adams, he drove in four runs.

Almora Jr. 3-3, HR, 4RBI

Cactus League

After a sub-par year in 2019, Cubs' shortstop Albert Almora, Jr. is showing signs that it was a one-off and 2020 will be much improved as he fights for the starting center field position with the Cubs in Florida.

Almora singled twice and homered in three at-bats, driving in four runs and scoring twice as the Cubs outlasted the Mariners, 16-12.

Last season, Almora hit just .232, well off his .286 from 2018 and the .298 average he posted in 2017.

The Cubs improved to 2-1 in Grapefruit League standings, while the Mariners dropped their second straight in as many tries.

5,265 fans attended the game in Peoria, Arizona.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Bats and Balls All the Rage as Spring Training Games Get Underway

Spring Training has been underway for a month now, and the first games in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues were played over the weekend.

It's time for baseball to re-emerge from the cold, snow and dreariness of winter, as players twist and turn their bodies into shape for the long, demanding season ahead.

Overhanging the upcoming regular season a little more than a month away are the scandals stemming from creative sign-stealing in the 2017 regular season, playoffs and World Series and 2018 regular season by the Houston Astros. Their victory over National league rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the 2017 World Series has been tainted by what amounts to a combination of high-tech and low-tech method of informing batters of incoming fast balls, the easiest to hit for professional hitters.

The World Series title will not be vacated by MLB, but the damage has been done. Astros' general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A. J. Hinch have been suspended for the entire 2020 season for failing to prevent the rules violations. Boston Red Sox manager Joey Cora was released by the team in January when it was alleged that he was the mastermind behind the scheme. Recently hired by the Mets as their 2020 manager, Carlos Beltran - a player for the Astros in 2017 - was also released in January after his name came up in the MLB report.

Stealing signs is as old as the game itself. It's part of the nomenclature of the sport, as getting an edge in any sporting event, by whatever means, can often result in the difference between winning and losing, and being a superstar as opposed to an ordinary player. While cheating is universally frowned upon from a moral perspective, there's always a few rotten apples in the barrel who will go to extraordinary lengths to secure an advantage.

By the time the regular season rolls out, the sign-stealing scandal will be back page news, overtaken by the timelessness of opening day, pitchers with wild arms, rookies with big smiles, batters with adjustments to their swings, and a fresh slate of 162 games ahead for everybody.

With Spring games now underway, it's time again to pick up the bats and balls and head to the field, where the glory of America's game will add another chapter to its rich, enduring history.

Baseball on Deck will begin its usual coverage of players of the day on Tuesday, February 25 with highlights from the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues.