Tom Petty once wrote “The waiting is the hardest part”
In a normal baseball season, July signifies the All-Star break, and at the end of the month we have the trade deadline. In 2020, the month of July begins with an air of optimism, but more-so unease. The first day of July marked over three months of this countries sport’s shutdown. Baseball was halfway through Spring Training when the players were told to head home and be safe. In those three months a lot has changed, mainly our vocabulary and priorities. Phrases like “social distancing, herd immunity, wear your mask,” are all a part of our common nomenclature. Leaving the house, you now add “mask” to your list of possessions you need, entering stores looking for the hand sanitizer immediately, and even turning Zoom into a part of everyday life.
As our country begins to emerge from quarantine baseball heads towards a season no one will soon forget. But first, a second wait begins.
For the better part of the two months the main baseball headline was concerning the labor negotiations and questions as to whether we would have any baseball at all. After a tenuous negotiation, a deal was struck, and July 1st became the beginning of “summer training.” On that day, all players and staff were tested for COVID-19. Of over 3,000 tests, only 38 tests were positive. This was an incredibly positive sign for a league that needs it. Padres OF Tommy Pham was one of the players who did test positive but was asymptomatic. Pham will begin a 14-day quarantine but should be cleared by the July 24th opener. For obvious reasons, players must consent for their positive tests to be public. Phillies manager summed it up best when asked about why a player was placed on the Injured List (IL): “What I can tell you is they are on the injured list, and that’s about all I can tell you.” (Quote via article from DelawareOnline.com)
Despite a large number of players testing negative for the virus, several players have opted out of the new season. Saturday, July 4th David Price announced he would not play this year. This comes days after the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, expressed concerns and “doesn’t feel completely comfortable,” raising questions as to whether the season will go on without its superstar. Washington National’s reliever Sean Doolittle gave this quote to Jesse Dougerty (@Dougerty_Jesse) via twitter: “I think I’m planning on playing. But at any point, if I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health, with all the things we have to think about and this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I’ll opt out.” Doolittle is not alone and while baseball in 2020 survived contentious negotiations, it is unknown if that will all be in vain.
Here at the ESBC podcast network, our job is to find the value hidden between the lines. Price opting out of the season is a blow to the Dodgers, but they still will be heavy favorites to win the west and because of the depth in LA, a pennant is still likely. We will see changes in the lines, and it is possible Vegas overreacts to this loss and drops the Dodgers odds into a valuable pick. Currently the Dodgers are -700 ($70 bet only nets you $10) and there is little value in that. If Mike Trout does indeed opt-out, the Angels numbers would inflate for good reason. Currently the Halos are +525 (Bovada) to win the AL West. In last week’s article I highlighted the value of this pick as I think the Angels will be particularly good this year. However, taking the best player in the game changes a lot. By no means are the Angels a one player team. Shohei Ohtani will both pitch and hit after only DHing last year while recovering from Tommy John. The addition of Anthony Rendon was great for Trout as he would be legitimate protection in the lineup. Pitching will be the weakness but veteran manager Joe Maddon, has always gotten the best out of mediocre pitchers (yes James Shields, I am talking about you.) In the next few weeks more players will opt out and the value picks will be there. As will we…
By: Brandon Ferst
@FerstReport (Twitter) #ESBC Podcast Network