Although the 2020 Major League Baseball season has only just commenced, it has already fashioning itself as one of the oddest seasons in the history of the game…
by: Christopher Alpizar
“Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed. Strange days indeed.” — John Lennon
Legendary Beatles frontman John Lennon’s lyrics from a song he wrote forty years ago, “Nobody Told Me,” aptly summarizes the commencement of the 2020 Major League Baseball season. Maybe the oddest news of the fledgling season came out of Houston where Astros’ pitcher, the enigmatic and always eccentric Zack Greinke, began giving signs to his catcher, Martin Maldonado, whenever a runner reached second base. Apparently, it worked, as Greinke held the San Francisco Giants to one run on seven hits scattered over six-plus innings in a 5-1 victory.
The 36-year-old right-hander explained how he took control of the signals in a game earlier this season when a runner reached second in order to speed up the game and simply continued to do so in Wednesday’s win over the Giants, “Today, there was a man on second base and it got all messed up and it took longer than I was hoping it would take,” Greinke said. “It’s 50 percent my fault and 50 percent Maldy’s fault. I don’t like taking a long time with a man on second base especially. I’m trying to find a way to speed that up. So far this year, it’s been good. It got messed up today.”
A television microphone also picked up Greinke verbalizing the signals to Maldonado, “Second set after one,” Greinke uttered to his catcher from the mound. “Second set after two,” he told Maldonado shortly thereafter.
In his previous start, Greinke was also seen giving signals from the mound to Maldonado and the results produced six innings of shutout ball in which he allowed five hits in a 3-2 extra-innings loss to the Athletics. Maldonado has become a fan of the signal reversal, “It’s good as a catcher not to have to put down or shake a couple of more times and slow the game down. He’s a guy that likes to work quick.”
While Grienke’s antics surely caused fans to scratch their head, by no means does he have the eccentricity market cornered in professional baseball, not when Joe Kelly is alive and well. Kelly is a relief pitcher for the LA Dodgers, a favorite to win the World Series this year according to Bookmaker. If you have followed the 32-year-old righty for any length of time then you know he is no stranger to controversy. At 6’1 and 175 pounds, Kelly resembles the tightly wound unemployed defense engineer, William Foster, portrayed by Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down, with his professorial specs and a demeanor that signals there is a cauldron of nitroglycerine simmering precariously below the surface. All he needs is a little heat and the explosion is imminent.
Although Kelly was not a member of the 2017 Dodgers that lost to the scandal-ridden Houston Astros in the World Series, you would never know it. When news broke in the offseason of the signal stealing scandal that many believe helped Houston steal the World Series three years ago at LA’s expense, many predicted the Astros hitters would be prime targets for more than a few “errant” pitches finding the back of a leg instead of the back of a catcher’s mitt.
And so it was that on July 28th, in LA’s 5-2 win over the Astros, Kelly was summoned to pitch the sixth, and subsequently threw high-and-tight pitches to Houston batters, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. After a breaking ball sailed over Correa’s head, the Astros’ shortstop took off his helmet and stared down Kelly before situating himself back in the batter’s box. Kelly proceeded to strike out Correa, stuck his tongue out, and, voila, the first-bench clearing of the season was in full swing.
Kelly would get an eight-game suspension for his behavior which was successfully appealed down to five games. The veteran hurler didn’t believe his penalty was justified and stated, “I socially distanced. I walked away. I didn’t get close, and I followed all the guidelines of the CDC, and people on the other side (the Astros) didn’t. They walked out of their dugout, walked toward us. Carlos Correa fucking spit at our team. I don’t know if it was (at) me. He spit out of his mouth. This guy walks over to our dugout and then spits, while I follow all the rules, and I get eight games.”
He elaborated further, “They have a manager (Dusty Baker) on their side, verbatim, yelling at me, ‘Get your little skinny ass on the mound.’ So my cuss words get eight games, and his cuss words get zero? That makes complete sense, right? Welcome to planet earth. A debacle.”
If these incidents involving Kelly and Grienke, in this shortened season, are any indication, there is a great deal of drama that lies ahead, as fans of Major League Baseball buckle in for the remainder of what appears to be the strangest season in modern baseball history.