The Rundown: Umpires Take Center Stage (Again), Subplots Abound Heading into WS Game 7, Hot Stove Warming Up

I don’t think MLB umpires have a personal vendetta against the Nationals, but it sure seems that way. On the international stage that is the World Series, we’ve seen a number of bad calls that seem incredibly skewed in favor of the Astros, and last night’s 7th inning was no exception. It was one of the most exciting frames in recent Series history, however.

Most people agreed that Trea Turner was robbed, though Cubs’ broadcaster Len Kasper was one of the few exceptions. Adding just a little fuel to the fire, José Altuve was not called for interference despite a similar — arguably more egregious — infraction, as FiveThirtyEight’s Travis Sawchik pointed out.

Washington played the game under protest, which was immediately overruled because you can’t protest a judgment call, I guess. It stands to reason that’s exactly the type of call you should get to argue, but it didn’t matter anyway because the Nationals won the game 7-2 behind the big bat of Anthony Rendon.

This year’s World Series, in which every game has been won by the road team, will have its winner-take-all showdown this evening, one with all the earmarks of an October classic before the first pitch is even thrown. Subplots abound, including one surrounding a beleaguered umpiring crew that was counseled on the field last night by MLB’s chief baseball officer, Joe Torre.

Torre seemed to correct himself twice in his postgame presser while defending the call by Sam Holbrook. For his part, Holbrook did everything humanly possible to further estrange himself to Nats fans by engaging in an over-the-top confrontation with Dave Martinez during the 7th inning stretch, which led to the manager’s ejection.

The Nationals will be led by Miracle Max Scherzer tonight, who was too hurt to pitch in Game 5 on Sunday, let alone get out of bed, and he’ll be taking the bump against Zack Greinke. Strap it on, folks. There is nothing better than a championship hinging on a single game.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Seven Cubs, including Anthony Rizzo and José Quintana, are bound to player or team options heading into free agency, which will officially start on Monday at 5pm ET. Eight Chicago players, led by Cole Hamels, Nicholas Castellanos, and Ben Zobrist, will become free agents after tonight’s game.
  • It appears the Cubs have already made the decision to buy out relief pitchers Brandon Morrow ($3 million) and Derek Holland ($500,000).
  • David Ross held a mock motivational speech for 30-35 Cubs front office employees that proved to be the impetus for his hiring over Joe Espada. The speech was designed to mimic the opening day of Spring Training, when a manager traditionally sets the tone for the upcoming season.
  • I’m interested to see the reaction Rossy gets at Cubs Convention 2020 in January. Tickets go on sale Friday.
  • Ross is out to prove he’s nobody’s puppet, a term that bothers me for some reason, probably because I believe the most successful managers are usually an extension of the mindset of their front office superiors.
  • The clock is ticking for the Cubs if they’re going to make any outside additions to their coaching staff.
  • While his age and an incredibly strong stretch run performance have boosted his stock, the defensive shortcomings of Castellanos could be the dark cloud hanging over his potential market, and that could benefit the Cubs if they intend to try to resign the outfielder. “This could be one with a high risk of the player having to wait deep into the winter,” one AL executive told Mark Feinsand of “Think of J.D. Martinez as a good comp for how his free agency could go [in terms of the long wait].”
  • Just laying this out there, and assuming Castellanos is re-signed, but if the Cubs could get Zack Wheeler for 5/$85 million, Jake Odorizzi for 3/$45 million, or bring back Hamels on a one-year deal for $12 million, who would you rather they sign? Pros and cons exist with each pitcher, and I don’t expect the Cubs to be players on any free agent starters expected to exceed the $200 million range (read: Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg).
  • Ben Zobrist and Jon Lester represent two of the 10 best free agent signings of the past decade.

Wednesday Stove

If Strasburg opts out and Washington doesn’t bring him back, the Southern California native could head home, with the Padres, Angels, and Dodgers all seen as potential suitors, per Jon Heyman’s Big Time Baseball podcast.

Martinez would seem to be a perfect for the White Sox if the slugger decides to opt out of his current contract with the Red Sox.

According to this tweet by Heyman, the Braves will attempt to keep free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson in Atlanta with a new deal.

Yankees infielder Didi Gregorius could find a new home with the Brewers or Nationals this winter.

Cardinals’ starter Jack Flaherty is not in favor of robot umpires.

Extra Innings

Baseball movie I’d love to see made? How about a biopic on Rube Foster, who founded the National Negro League on February 13, 1920. We’ve come a long way since, and I hope there is room on the league’s plate to honor the 100th anniversary of Foster’s accomplishments.

They Said It

  • “Well, he was called out because he ran…there’s a 45-foot restraining line where you’re supposed to run as a baserunner in between those lines. He ran to first base. That wasn’t the call. The call was that he interfered with Gurriel trying to catch the ball — you notice the glove came off his hand. That’s when Sam Holbrook called him out for basically interference.” – Joe Torre
  • “If [Scherzer] tells me…that he’s good, then Max will pitch until his neck decides he can’t pitch anymore. I can’t see myself telling Max, ‘You’re only going to go 75 pitches.’ He’s going to want to go out there and go as long as he can.” – Dave Martinez

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel – Annual Joel concerts at Wrigley Field have been a staple for my stepdaughter Eleanor and me, but he didn’t play in Chicago this summer. I am going to surprise her in New York December 11 with tickets for us to see him at Madison Square Garden if I can budget the trip. She’s a student living in Brooklyn and doesn’t read my “baseball dad blog,” so my surprise is safe.

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