The Rundown Lite: RIP Chadwick Boseman, Trevor Bauer’s Spin Rates, Cubs Talking Trade with Tigers?

The Cubs’ loss had added to a relatively crappy 48 hours, so I and was excited for the VOD release of Bill and Ted Face the Music because I knew it would offer exactly the kind of mindless escapism I needed. My daughter turned 14 on Wednesday, which meant I’d remained more or less unplugged from the Cubs for the entire evening. Upon learning about Jason Heyward‘s decision to sit out the loss in Detroit, however, things started to get real.

Since writing about Heyward’s role in what is a much larger movement throughout sports and the nation as a whole, our Facebook page has been inundated with all manner of ignorance. Much of it comes from people who claim not to be racist while using coded language and sharing memes that contradict their more overt claims. While I cannot fathom what a person of color faces each and every day, the interactions left me worn out mentally.

They also left us with fewer fans, which is most definitely for the best.

In any case, I was just starting to enjoy my cheesy slice of nostalgia when my wife informed me that Chadwick Boseman had died. Needless to say, I was shocked and first assumed it was some terrible social media prank. I mean, the man who rose to fame portraying Jackie Robinson passing away when MLB celebrated the icon’s legacy? No way. He was only 43 years old and still had so much left to accomplish.

Though he gained superstardom for playing the fictional King T’Challa, his roles as Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown established him as one of Hollywood’s top leading men and a voice for Black America. Boseman had waged a private battle with colon cancer since being diagnosed in 2016, filming several movies — including the upcoming Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — while the disease ravaged his body. Think about that, he was in the public eye almost constantly and no one knew how bad it was.

Hearing the news of his passing shook me up more than I’d have expected, maybe because of the greater context of what’s been happening in the world for the past several months. But, man, it’s still messing with me and I really didn’t even want to write today at all. My son and I have a handshake that ends with the Wakanda salute Boseman’s displaying in the featured image and a love for the MCU is something my kids and I share. This just sucks and I’m sad.

So apologies for the dearth of baseball in the opener, I just wanted to share some of my grief and hope that all of us take a little time to do what we can to make the world a little brighter today.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Kris Bryant and Steven Souza Jr. got five at-bats each in South Bend yesterday as they work back from the IL. Bryant’s absence from the lineup is obviously a much bigger issue, so the Cubs are hoping he can overcome wrist and finger injuries suffered on a diving attempt in left field during the Cleveland series.
  • At the risk of alienating any more readers, I’d like to ask those calling Bryant soft to kindly shut the hell up. It’s amazing how people just make up narratives out of thin air despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, like the idea that he doesn’t play hurt or that he’s coasting to get his next contract. He’s got torn ligaments in his ring finger and maybe even a fractured wrist, and people are out here saying he’s soft or can’t play through pain. GTFOH with that BS.
  • Also, stop it with the notion that getting beaned in the head caused any problems. His numbers actually improved afterward and then got worse when he injured his shoulder, it’s actually pretty simple.
  • Old friend Tommy La Stella was traded to the A’s last night. Interesting that he’s twice been traded away from Joe Maddon-managed teams. I’m not insinuating that there’s friction between player and skipper, just making a note.
  • Over their last four games, the Cubs have scored a total of 10 runs in the 9th inning. They have lost the last three of those.
  • Jason Heyward has been a leader in the clubhouse since he arrived in Chicago and he’s becoming more so all the time.
  • Heyward homered late in Friday’s game, bringing his average to .270 with an .889 OPS and a 140 wRC+ that would be the best of his career if he maintains it. His 0.7 fWAR is second on the team.
  • The Cubs “have been active in talks” with the Tigers on outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to a report in The Athletic. That seems a little odd since Maybin isn’t necessarily a difference-maker and the Cubs should be getting Souza back soon, but you never know.
  • Tigers lefty Daniel Norris was among the trades candidates I had listed in an earlier piece, so maybe there could be something brewing on a larger scale. Lord knows the Cubs have had tremendous luck trading for a lefty reliever and a position player from the Tigers before.

Odds & Sods

Trevor Bauer’s average spin has increased each season since Statcast started tracking it, which makes sense because he has actively tried to improve. However, after seemingly plateauing with aggregate averages of 2,438 and 2,456 rpms in the two previous seasons, Bauer is generating 2,820 rpms this year.

Some of that can be attributed to ditching the changeup, a pitch that doesn’t have nearly as much spin, but his primary offerings are all up significantly. Bauer himself has been critical in the past of similar gains made by other pitchers, particularly those in the Astros organization, claiming that only through the use of foreign substances can pitchers enhance their grip to make big spin-rate jumps.

Maybe it’s all natural in Bauer’s case, but something smells fishy.

They Said It

I think he’s been such a strong influence on the city of Chicago. What he’s done for the city — his contributions, his selflessness, his time — it’s just amazing to watch. He’s somebody that I look up to, and I’m just so proud of him. – Ian Happ

I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re all on the same page as J. I know the outside narrative may be a little critical, but we know our heart and what’s going on in here. We’re trying to do right by J. We’ve always been trying to do what’s right by him. And so, yeah, I think if we would have had a game [Thursday], it may have been a much different story.David Ross

I’m going to continue to say I didn’t feel like it was something that I needed to put above our team. I think we all had that outlook [of]: ‘We’re a family. We support each other. We don’t leave anyone behind. – Heyward

And I think that’s it for this column. It’s supposed to be “Lite,” after all.

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