Sports Corner

Back again, and on Wednesday afternoon, the NBA bubble’s delicate balance was disrupted by a wildcat strike from the players. The wildcard strike began with the Milwaukee Bucks, but the rest of the NBA soon followed. Discussions on Thursday morning between the league’s owners and the players appear to have saved the NBA in-progress postseason. However, the league remains without a firm schedule for a restart. Whether in agreement or disagreement with the cause for the players’ protest, the collective resolve deserves praise. It was a concentrated effort to draw attention to an ongoing social justice issue. In that regard, the wildcat strike was a massive success.
While the NBA shut down for at least two days, Major League Baseball had a small number of postponements, including multiple games from Thursday’s already light slate. There doesn’t seem to be any momentum to MLB’s wildcat strike extending long-term. Still, given the already tight schedule, the league is operating within this year, the short-term protest is sure to have ramifications. As it stands, the MLB season appears set to recommence at full strength this weekend. However, individual players (Jason Heyward, Jackie Bradley Jr., etc.) could continue their respective stands.
As for on the field developments, White Sox ace Lucas Giolito put an exclamation point on the breakout that began in 2019. On Tuesday night, Giolito tossed a dominant no-hitter against an over-matched Pittsburgh Pirates team. Giolito racked up 30 swinging strikes during the outing. Across seven starts, Giolito now boasts a 3.09 ERA to go with 11.95 K/9. He’s been the AL’s second-best pitcher behind Shane Bieber. Chicago is putting up a serious fight in the AL Central, with Giolito leading the pitching staff and the offense loaded with exciting talent.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2020 season has been the play of Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski. Entering the season, Yastrzemski was a serviceable hitter worthy of playing time against left-handed pitching. He had some pop, as evidenced by his 21 homers in 2019, but his nearly decade-long stint in the minor leagues was no accident. Shockingly, the 30-year old Yastrzemski has been among the best players in baseball through 33 games, hitting .289/.407/.595 with a 16.6% walk rate. These are numbers beyond even the production he put up in the minor leagues. It is impossible to gauge whether this is a legitimate storybook breakout, but it is fun to watch.
In the season’s first significant trade, the Toronto Blue Jays acquired right-hander Taijuan Walker from the Seattle Mariners. Walker, once considered among the best prospects in baseball, has had his career derailed by injury. However, the now 28-year old is healthy and performing well. Thanks to the expanded playoff structure, the Blue Jays are viable threats to reach the postseason, and taking a low-cost risk to acquire Walker is a smart move. Toronto’s rotation has been without top prospect Nate Pearson (forearm strain). Walker will join winter acquisition Hyn-Jin Ryu to give the Blue Jays a pair of reliable rotation options.
As baseball’s trade deadline looms, other pieces are said to be on the market for the right price. Cleveland ace Mike Clevinger, who recently returned from exile for violating the team’s COVID-19 protocols, could move. Atlanta, a team with World Series aspirations, lost its ace early in the season to a torn Achilles. Clevinger would be a viable top-of-the-rotation replacement for Mike Soroka. Plus, he is a great fit long-term in the team’s rotation, and Atlanta’s farm system boasts enough pieces to make a deal work.