How are you enjoying the unprecedented 2020 Major League Baseball season thus far?
The game pretty much remains the same between the two chalk lines, but outside conditions are closer to a video game than the real deal. Crowds have been replaced by cardboard cutouts and digital replicas while crowd noise is a pre-recorded din. Game announcers, both television and radio, are affected as well. Crews aren’t traveling to away games, so their commentary is at the mercy of the camera guys who actually are inside the stadium. That’s why when a player smokes a ball into the outfield gap or down the lines you don’t know if he’s settling for a double or shooting for a triple. The commentators are having to wait for the right shot in order to give all the information.
Personally, I don’t hate any of it. It’s all better than nothing, which is what we’ve been saddled with the last four months before “Opening Day.”
One early on-the-field takeaway is that it seems like having good pitching is going to play a bigger role than ever before. Pitching (and driving guys in from scoring position) is what propels a team through the postseason, and what is this shortened regular season if not a playoff to gain entry to the playoffs. That’s why Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker had to designate seventh-year pitcher Mike Foltynewicz for assignment. Designated for assignment, or DFA’d as it is often referred, is one of those baseball terms I admittedly have to look up every time it happens to a player I care about. For those of you who are like me, it’s definitely not a good thing. The DFA means that the player, Folty in this case, is removed from his team’s active roster, and the team has a week to either find a trade partner or place that player on waivers for anyone to grab. He could remain with the club if unclaimed or no trade is made.
Not to rub salt in the guy’s open wound, but I’ve pretty much been anti-Folty ever since he came around. I wasn’t actively cheering against the guy, I just didn’t get the fascination. He has (had?) great stuff when he’s able to touch the upper-90s with his fastball, but he’s far too reactionary and inconsistent for what I want from a starting pitcher. His temperament has been more what you would see out of a closer, not the calm, cool and collected behavior of most successful starters. Is it frustrating when you can’t seem to find the strike zone, or you do and it’s not called a strike. Absolutely. But to use another sport as an example, good quarterbacks don’t let one interception throw them off for an entire game. Tom Brady takes off his helmet, shouts a curse word with the camera zoomed right in on his face, and gets back out there to lead his team to victory next time he gets the football. You just did not see any of that from Foltynewicz out on the mound. The guy would look like a Hall of Famer for three starts and a Class A rookie the next three. His career numbers reflect that as he carries a 44-42 win-loss record with a 4.33 earned run average. He’s struck out nearly a batter per inning, which is great for a starter, but also allowed better than a hit per frame. The guy is a rollercoaster at a position where you want to see something closer to a train, steadily moving forward and never looking back.
Folty’s velocity was down in his exhibition start against the Marlins last week. He blamed it on a faulty radar gun (one that was registering his Miami counterpart in the upper-90s) and the rainy weather. Snitker gave him another shot Monday and that’s when we got the final straw. Foltynewicz lasted only 3 1/3 innings while surrendering six runs to the Tampa Bay Rays. I left the living room only for a little while and came back to find Atlanta in a huge hole. I’d like to think the Braves manager had his mind made up right then and there. Every inning of every game counts in a 60-game season, so the Braves cannot afford outings like that from their starters.
So now we say goodbye to Mike Foltynewicz. I certainly don’t wish the guy any ill will and I hope he can get his game working on a more consistent basis.
I also hope he serves as a cautionary tale for one Sean Newcomb. Chop ’til you drop, folks.