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Marlins' Season

Marlins’ 2020 season is paused by MLB after COVID-19 outbreak among players, coaches – USA TODAY

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What I’m Hearing: After 14 Marlins players and employees tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, how will MLB move forward.

USA TODAY

The Miami Marlins’ season was suspended by Major League Baseball amid an outbreak of COVID-19 cases that resulted in 15 players and two staff members testing positive from Friday to Tuesday, the league announced Tuesday afternoon.

The action is a remarkable but pragmatic pause, sidelining one of the 30 MLB teams attempting to play a 60-game schedule through a pandemic, with one potential outcome being that the Marlins – and their upcoming opponents – may not play the season in full. 

“The health and safety protocols were designed with a challenging circumstance like the one facing the Marlins in mind,” MLB said in a statement. “The response outlined in the joint MLB-MLBPA Operations Manual was triggered immediately upon learning of the cluster of positive cases, including contact tracing and the quarantining and testing of all of the identified close contacts.

“The Marlins’ personnel who tested positive remain in isolation and are receiving care.”

PROTOCOL: MLB teams aim to tighten behavior after outbreak

MARLINS: MLB season suddenly in jeopardy after outbreak

MLB noted that no other club has had a positive COVID-19 test in the week beginning Friday; in the previous seven-day cycle, four players and two staffers tested positive out of more than 10,000 samples, a positivity rate of 0.05%.

The Marlins’ outbreak had already resulted in a handful of postponements Monday and Tuesday: Two Marlins games against the Baltimore Orioles in Miami, and a pair of Phillies-New York Yankees games in Philadelphia, site of the Marlins’ three-game weekend series. 

Now, the Marlins will have up to seven games to make up: Four against the Orioles and three against the Washington Nationals, their weekend opponents in Miami. 

“After receiving additional test results on our Major League team this morning, we reached out to the Commissioner’s Office with concern for the health and safety of our team as well as our opponents,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said in a statement.

“We look forward to returning to Miami where we conducted a successful and healthy Spring 2.0 before departing on the road and experiencing challenges.”

Meanwhile, more pieces began moving to accommodate teams jamming as many games in a 66-day calendar as possible. 

The Yankees, also marooned in Philadelphia since Monday, will now travel south and play two games against the Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday and Thursday. That leaves the Phillies without an opponent until Friday, and with four games against the Yankees to make up.

Monday is an off day for the Marlins, Nationals and Phillies, while the Orioles and Yankees were scheduled to play in Baltimore. Conceivably, the Marlins could use Monday to play a makeup game (or doubleheader) against the Nationals or Orioles, freeing the Phillies and Yankees to make up one or two of their four postponed games this week. 

Of course, all this flexibility is greatly aided by the fact games are being played without fans in attendance, rendering such key factors as site and opponent virtually moot.

That’s important, as the Marlins may not have a home in which they can return.

Hours before the Marlins’ season suspension, the Nationals’ players voted not to travel to Miami for the weekend games, expressing the level of concern among players and manager Dave Martinez that he said “went from an eight to a 12” in the wake of the Marlins’ outbreak. 

That point now appears moot, as the Marlins won’t have a scheduled game until next Tuesday at home against the Phillies, although they could use Monday’s off day as a makeup date. 

It may be with an entirely new team, in essence. 

Fifteen Marlins will be sidelined for a period likely no less than two weeks and probably longer, given the return times of the more than 100 hundred MLB players who have tested positive for COVID-19. Each player will have to test negative twice in a span of more than 24 hours in order to return. 

The Marlins reportedly testing positive include their top position player, Miguel Rojas, starting catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitcher Jose Urena, designated hitter Garrett Cooper and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Miami mayor Carlos Gimenez recommended in a Tuesday press conference that all Marlins players quarantine for 14 days upon their return to South Florida, although the ultimate authority may reside with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Either way, these Marlins will bear little resemblance to the club that won two of its first three games of the year.

They’ll need to dip significantly into their reserve player pool; as part of MLB’s protocols for the 2020 season, teams are allowed 60 eligible players, with the 27 not with the major league team headquartered at an alternate training site. 

Mixing ostensibly quarantined players from their alternate site with players who were just around a spreading event in the big league clubhouse could have been a recipe for disaster, as negative tests for the coronavirus is no guarantee the person has been infected. 

Whether MLB and the Marlins opt for an aggressive but probably appropriate approach of quarantining the remaining major league players for 10 to 14 days, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, remains to be seen. 

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jeopardy Season

Is their season in jeopardy? What the Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak means for the team — and MLB – ESPN

1:15 PM ET

  • MLB InsidersESPN

Major League Baseball is seeing its first coronavirus cancellations since the restart of the 2020 season.

An outbreak of COVID-19 spread throughout the Miami Marlins clubhouse, bringing the total cases in recent days to at least 13, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers. As a result, the Marlins postponed their home opener, scheduled for Monday night; the game between the New York Yankees and the Phillies in Philadelphia — where the Marlins played over the weekend — also was postponed.

So what does this situation mean for the Marlins and MLB? We asked our experts to weigh in on some of the biggest questions.

Does the Marlins’ outbreak of positive cases put their season in jeopardy?

Of course, but that’s why there’s a taxi squad of up to 30 players. If the league is going to continue play, then it’s next man up, as hard as that might be to believe. There really is no other choice. If the Marlins’ season is in jeopardy, then the entire league’s is as well. — Jesse Rogers

What does the Marlins’ outbreak mean for the state of the MLB season as a whole?

We’ll only be able to answer this accurately with hindsight — though it looms as a possibility that Monday’s news is an inflection point with ramifications not only across the rest of this season, but across all the major team sports endeavoring to attempt what MLB already is trying to pull off. For now, this is baseball’s first big test of its ability to stage the 2020 season, and it is more than a little disheartening that it came with just 92 games in the books. Baseball couldn’t get through its first weekend without a possible nightmare scenario emerging.

First, we await test results for the Phillies and their stadium personnel and the weekend’s umpiring crews, among others. We will see just how widely spread the breakout is among the Marlins, and once we do, we will determine if they can plausibly — and safely — field a viable active roster from their 60-player pool. We will cross our fingers and hope that the players and coaches who have already tested positive either don’t experience symptoms, or if they do, they are mild and short-lived.

When we know whether the Marlins can keep playing, we’ll know a lot more about the viability of continuing the season. Because what is already a 13-person outbreak is the exact kind of situation MLB’s system of protocols was designed to prevent, insofar as anything related to COVID-19 is preventable.

It’s also important that MLB be transparent with the decisions it makes in reaction to this situation. If the medical experts tell them it’s simply too dangerous for the Marlins to keep going, then baseball’s newest moment of truth will be at hand. — Bradford Doolittle

Could this impact other teams beyond the Marlins?

The Marlins played in Atlanta before going to Philadelphia. They played three games against the Phillies, occupying the visiting clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, where the Yankees were due to take up residence Monday. The Marlins were slated to play the Orioles, who, presumably, are already in Miami. The Braves just finished a three-game series against the Mets, on the heels of their exhibition games against the Marlins. The Mets, meanwhile, are headed to Boston to begin a series Monday night at Fenway Park.

Hopefully, this outbreak is confined to the Marlins. However, you can easily see how one team’s outbreak could cause the whole house of cards to crumble. For now, we already know that the Yankees-Phillies game for Monday has been postponed, so at least those two teams have been tangibly impacted in addition to the Marlins. — Doolittle

Will MLB try to make up these games or are they canceled?

We don’t know specifics in terms of makeup dates, but the news release sent Monday morning by MLB labeled both the Marlins-Orioles and Yankees-Phillies games as postponements. Thus, for now, there seems to be intent to figure out a way to get the games in at some point. — Doolittle

With the tight schedule to get games in, is there room to make up games canceled due to positive tests or other unique circumstances?

Each team’s schedule has six built-in days off, not including a day for the clubs that didn’t play in one of the two openers on Thursday. However, the opportunities for making up a game are limited by the format of the schedule and the need to limit the number of trips each team makes. Teams are also constrained at the back end of the schedule, as there is but one day between the end of the regular season and the start of the 16-team bracket.

Just to illustrate the puzzle with Miami and Baltimore: The Marlins and Orioles were to play two games in Miami, then proceed directly to Baltimore for games at Camden Yards on Wednesday and Thursday. These are the only scheduled matchups between the teams, which have mutual days off on Aug. 10 and Sept. 3. Again: Do you want teams to make an extra trip to meet up for a makeup game? The Orioles’ only other trip to Florida is scheduled for Aug. 25 to 27 at Tampa Bay; Baltimore has an off day before that series begins, but the Marlins will be out of town.

The only obvious possibility is to schedule a doubleheader at some point this week, or maybe even two of them. That does not immediately seem like a great or plausible option, as there is much to be sorted out in terms of fallout from the Marlins’ outbreak.

If the Phillies and Yankees are cleared to play by Tuesday, perhaps a doubleheader will be possible for them. Also, there is a mutual day off on Aug. 24. That day, the Yankees are scheduled to go from New York to Atlanta, while the Phillies would be going from Atlanta to Washington. Perhaps they could meet up in Philly. Perhaps.

However you look at schedule logistics right now, making up games is a side issue to figuring out just how bad this outbreak is and which teams, clubhouse personnel and umpires have been affected. — Doolittle

Could the Marlins just bring up players from their taxi squad and keep playing?

Yes, that was the whole point of the taxi squad — but it might not be feasible if half or more of their roster is infected. It’s still the most likely scenario, because the other choice is to shut down. — Rogers

Why were the Marlins allowed to play the Phillies on Sunday after multiple players tested positive?

There is no rule in place that players can’t participate as they await test results. But playing could have been a mistake.

That Miami had multiple positives before Sunday’s game and the contest went on as scheduled is concerning. Perhaps any time that happens, it should trigger an automatic postponement. Another red flag here is that even if you test every day, people do not necessarily exhibit symptoms or trigger positive tests right away. Inevitably, infected players will take the field without anyone, including themselves, knowing that they have contracted the virus.

To say that this lag is problematic would be massive understatement. But of course, that’s where all of the other protocols — masking, distancing, sanitizing — take on added importance. The one step baseball hasn’t taken is to make mask-wearing mandatory at all times, even on the field. And while that could be a next step, we don’t actually yet know how the Marlins’ outbreak began and if some kind of on-field mask mandate would have made a difference. Where did it happen? Airport? Airplane? Bus ride? Hotel lobby? Restroom? — Doolittle

Could this lead to more players opting out of the season?

Seems likely, but perhaps those who already made the decision to play will be determined to press on. However, given the number of the players, coaches and managers in baseball, there has to be people pondering whether to take the risk. A teamwide outbreak four days into the season could convince a few people that the risk is just too great. — Doolittle

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Predictions Season

20 MLB bold predictions for 2020 season, including a big trade and the end of a World Series drought – CBS Sports

The 2020 Major League Baseball season is fast approaching. Summer camp is well underway and the mad dash 60-game season will soon begin. This season will be unlike any other season in MLB history — it’ll be the shortest season on record, there will be a universal DH, and there will be an extra-inning tiebreaker rule — but it’s baseball, and it’ll be fun. It’s OK to enjoy it.

To stick with the “20s” theme, here are 20 bold predictions for the 2020 baseball season. Come with me, won’t you? 

1. The baseball will be even more juiced

A record 6,776 home runs were hit in 2019, roughly 10 percent more than the previous record (6,105 in 2017). An independent committee attributed the homer spike to changes to the baseball itself, as well as hitters around the league buying into the launch angle craze. But mostly, it’s the baseball. Pitchers complained it felt like a cue ball last season.

It seems crazy to suggest the baseball could be even more juiced next year, but a) these are bold predictions, and b) this has already happened once before. During that 2017 homer explosion, we all sat around and said, “wow, the ball can’t possibly get more juiced than this,” and then it was two years later. Baseball is a flat circle. Everything that’s happened will happen again.

With an ultra-juiced baseball and MLB wanting to catch everyone’s attention post-pandemic, we are boldly predicting 2,600 homers this season. That’s a 7,000-homer pace in a full 162-game season. I feel good about this prediction because look at the ridiculous swing that led to Riley Greene’s spectacular Endy Chavez style catch earlier in summer camp:

I know C.J. Cron has power, but good grief. That swing isn’t supposed to produce a ball hit that far. The extra-juiced baseball will lead to several teams reaching the 120-homer plateau in 2020, or a record 324 home runs in a 162-game season. First bold prediction: dingers, and lots of ’em.

2. Acuna will go 20/20

A late season groin injury sabotaged Ronald Acuna Jr.’s bid to become only the fifth 40/40 player in baseball history. The Braves wunderkind sat out the final four regular season games and finished with 41 home runs and 37 stolen bases. A National League leading 37 stolen bases, if you can believe it. It had been nearly 60 years since the NL leader stole that few bases.

For posterity’s sake, here are the four 40/40 seasons in history:

  • Jose Canseco, Athletics: 42 homers and 40 steals in 1988
  • Barry Bonds, Giants: 42 homers and 40 steals in 1996
  • Alex Rodriguez, Mariners: 42 homers and 46 steals in 1998
  • Alfonso Soriano, Nationals: 46 homers and 41 steals in 2006

Back in spring training Ozzie Albies told Fox Sports South that Acuna was “talking about 50/50” this season, though that won’t happen in a 60-game season. Instead, our second bold prediction calls for Acuna to get to 20/20 in 2020. That’s a 54/54 pace in a full 162-game season. It’s doable. Likely? No, but doable, and I’m willing to bet on a player this talented.

3. The Padres will throw their first no-hitter

If you give the Mets credit for the Johan Santana no-hitter, the Padres are the only MLB franchise without a no-hitter. The Marlins have been around roughly half as long as the Padres and they have six no-hitters. Six! Only five times in Padres history has the club completed eight no-hit innings in a game:

  • July 21, 1970: Jack Baldschun gives up leadoff single in the ninth (Clay Kirby threw the first eight innings).
  • July 18, 1972: Steve Arlin gives up two-out single in the ninth.
  • Sept. 5, 1997: Andy Ashby gives up leadoff single in the ninth.
  • Sept. 22, 2006: Chris Young gives up one-out homer in the ninth.
  • July 9, 2011: Luke Gregerson gives up two-out double in the ninth (the Padres used five pitchers that game).

While there is something endearing about being the only MLB franchise not to do something cool like throw a no-hitter, our third bold prediction calls for the Padres to finally join the no-hit club this season. It’s time. The San Diego franchise has played 8,136 regular season games and it’s time to get through nine innings without allowing a base hit.

Specifically, I’ll say slider specialist and personal fave Dinelson Lamet will start the historic game against the Mariners on Sept. 19 before giving way to relievers Drew Pomeranz and Kirby Yates. Lamet struck out 105 batters in 73 innings in his return from Tommy John surgery last season, you know. He’s going to wake up one morning with no-hit stuff and, well, contribute to a no-hitter.

4. Davis will hit .247 again

usatsi-141593791.jpg

.247 24/7
USATSI

And order will be restored to the universe. Athletics slugger Khris Davis never seemed quite right last season — he hurt his hip crashing into the wall in May and maybe that did it — and he fought through a prolonged slump that saw him finish at .220/.293/.387. A’s manager Bob Melvin even benched him at times. It was quite a fall for the 2018 American League home run leader.

The season-long slump put an end to one of the most fun streaks in recent baseball history. From 2015-18, Davis hit .247 in each season. Here are his batting averages carried out to an extra decimal place:

  • 2015: .2474 (97 for 392)

  • 2016: .2468 (137 for 555)
  • 2017: .2473 (140 for 566)
  • 2018: .2465 (142 for 576)

Davis hit .247 on the nose from 2015-18, because of course he did (OK fine, he really hit .2470081379). After a dreadful 2019, the bold prediction here is Davis will get back on the horse in 2020, and again hit a .247. (In case you’re wondering, Khrush’s batting average through 60 games last season was … .241. So close!)

5. Cespedes leads New York in home runs

The five boroughs boast an impressive collection of power hitters. There’s Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton (and Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres) in the Bronx, and reigning NL Rookie of the Year and rookie home run record holder Pete Alonso in Queens. Those players I just mentioned have combined for three 50-homer seasons in the last three years.

And yet, it will not be one of those players who leads the two New York teams in home runs in 2020. It’ll be Yoenis Cespedes, who has not played in roughly two years now because of heel surgeries and a boar-related ankle injury, but is healthy and has been crushing the ball in Summer Camp.

Cespedes is on track to the Mets everyday DH when the season opens. He won’t have to worry about playing the outfield and that will reduce wear and tear, and improve his chances of staying healthy. Cespedes hit nine homers in 38 games prior to his injuries in 2018, a 38-homer pace, and he’s playing for a contract. Few things in this sport are as fun as a locked in Cespedes and I am boldly predicting we will see that guy in 2020.

6. The Orioles will lock up Rutschman

MLB teams have been signing their best young players to long-term contracts for more than two decades now. The craze started with the John Hart-era Cleveland teams in the 1990s. Teams are so extension happy nowadays that they’ve started signing players before they even make their MLB debuts. A complete list of pre-MLB debut extensions:

  • Jonathan Singleton, Astros: 5 years, $10 million with three club options (June 2014)
  • Scott Kingery, Phillies: 6 years, $24 million with three club options (March 2018)
  • Eloy Jimenez, White Sox: 6 years, $43 million with two club options (March 2019)
  • Evan White, Mariners: 6 years, $24 million with three club options (November 2019)
  • Luis Robert, White Sox: 6 years, $50 million with two club options (January 2020)

White spent the entire 2019 season in Double-A, yet the Mariners were still compelled to lock him up. They believe in him that much and there’s so much upside. If he becomes the player they expect, Seattle will save tens of millions during the life of the contract. And, if White busts, the Mariners are out $4 million a year for six years. Middle reliever money. No big deal.

The next player to sign a long-term extension before making his MLB debut will be Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft. He is an elite prospect — Rutschman was arguably the best draft prospect since Bryce Harper in 2010 and he was quite clearly the best catching prospect since Buster Posey in 2008 — and Baltimore will lock him up and soon.

My boldly predicted contract terms: 7 years and $60 million (covering 2021-27) with two club options that could bring the total value to $90 million. That would be the richest deal for a player yet to make his MLB debut and allow the Orioles to bring Rutschman to the big leagues at any point with no worry about service time. He’s a special player and he’ll get a special contract.

7. The No. 1 prospect at the end of 2020 will be a Mariner

Which Mariner? Either Jarred Kelenic or Julio Rodriguez. I’d bet on it being Kelenic because I like his chances of playing in the big leagues this season, and with no proper minor-league season, it’ll hard for players to improve their prospect stock at the alternate training site. Kelenic will see game action and have a chance to wow.

For what it’s worth, our R.J. Anderson ranked Kelenic the No. 8 prospect in baseball over the winter (and Rodriguez the No. 41 prospect). Here’s what R.J. had to say about Kelenic:

The gem of the Robinson Cano trade, Jarred Kelenic asserted himself as the top prospect in Seattle’s system with an impressive age-19 season that saw him hit .291/.364/.540 with 23 homers and 20 steals across three levels — including 21 Double-A contests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kelenic is expected to be an above-average hitter at the big-league level. Kelenic is more than just a stick though. He can run, and for the time being he’s likely to remain in center thanks to his footspeed and his big-time arm. There’s a chance he has to move to a corner (likely right) down the road, but there’s star potential if he can stick up the middle. Kelenic won’t be able to legally drink until July. By then, he could be knocking on the big-league door. Whether Seattle chooses to answer it before the 2021 season rolls around is to be seen.  

Kelenic is on the short list of the game’s top prospects and I boldly predict he will get enough MLB playing time this year to impress onlookers and improve his stock, but not enough to exceed the 130 at-bat rookie limit. He’ll remain prospect eligible in 2021 and we’ll see him atop top 100 prospect lists.

8. Ohtani will be the Angels best player

Blasphemous, I know. Mike Trout is well on his way to the inner circle of the inner circle of the Hall of Fame, plus we can’t forget about new free agent pickup Anthony Rendon either. He’s quite good. The thing is, Ohtani might be the most talented baseball player on the planet. It’s not just me saying that either. At least one former opponent believes it:

“I keep saying this, and people always laugh at me when I say this, but he’s the best baseball player I’ve ever seen in my life,” CC Sabathia said on his podcast a few months ago. “Are you kidding me? He can hit the ball 900 feet and throw 99 off the mound. Who else can do that? Who else is doing that, bro? There’s nobody else is doing that at the big-league level.”

Ohtani is wrapping up his Tommy John surgery rehab and is expected to be in the Opening Day rotation. He turned only 26 earlier this month and, before his elbow gave out in 2018, he threw 51 2/3 innings with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts. He’s also a career .286/.351/.532 hitter with 40 homers in 792 MLB plate appearance. All-Star production on both sides.

The total package, pitching plus hitting, will make Ohtani the most valuable player on his team this season. Trout is expected to step away at some point to be with his wife when she gives birth to their first child, which will cut into his production, but mostly, I just think Ohtani is that damn good. I can see him being a 4 WAR player in 60 games. It’ll happen. It has been foretold.  

9. The AL Rookie of the Year will play for Chicago

But it won’t be Luis Robert. Instead, it’ll be fellow White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal. The 5-foot-7 second baseman slashed .311/.377/.414 with only 16 strikeouts in 120 minor-league games at three levels last season, including Triple-A. His 3.0 percent strikeout rate and 2.2 percent swing-and-miss rate were, by far, the lowest in the minors.

Here’s what our R.J. Anderson wrote about Mr. Madrigal over the winter:

The No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft, Nick Madrigal is unlike most any other player in baseball. He’s small and unlikely to offer much power, yet he’s a good defensive second baseman with absurd bat-to-ball skills who “runs like a [mother’s intimate friend],” in the words of one source. 

Madrigal could arrive at any point during the shortened season — he’ll need to spend only seven days at the alternate site to push back his free agency — and he has the skill set to grab the attention of Rookie of the Year voters. He’s a flashy defender, he steals bases, and he makes so much contact that there is a chance he dinks and dunks his way to a .350 batting average. That’ll play.

Robert is awesome, don’t get me wrong, and his new extension ensures he will be on the Opening Day roster. The extra playing time could factor into the Rookie of the Year race. I think Robert could be in for an adjustment period though — his swing-and-miss rate jumped to 21.1 percent in Triple-A last year — allowing Madrigal to sneak in and steal the award, boldly.

10. The Twins will end their postseason losing streak

Game 3 of the 2019 ALDS was Minnesota’s 16th consecutive postseason loss, tying the 1975-79 Chicago Blackhawks for the longest postseason losing streak in the history of the four major North American pro sports. The Twins have not won a postseason game since Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS against the Yankees. Johan Santana started the game. Minnesota’s starting lineup:

  1. LF Shannon Stewart
  2. RF Jacque Jones
  3. CF Torii Hunter
  4. 1B Justin Morneau
  5. 3B Corey Koskie
  6. DH Lew Ford
  7. SS Cristian Guzman
  8. 2B Michael Cuddyer
  9. C Henry Blanco

Not a single active major leaguer has played in a Twins postseason win. The last active player to appear in a Twins postseason win was Red Sox legend David Ortiz. He started his career in Minnesota and played his final big-league game on Oct. 10, 2016 (Game 3 of the 2016 ALDS against Cleveland). Yeah, it’s been a long time since the Twins won a postseason game.

Fortunately for you, Twins fans, we are boldly predicting your team ends the postseason losing streak this year and gets back in the win column. Will they win a postseason series? Let’s not get greedy. Win one game first. The Twins are a solid bet to return to the playoffs this year, likely as the AL Central champs, and they’ll win a game in the ALDS (assuming they don’t play the Yankees). 

11. The Rays and Cleveland will be carbon copies …

… again. One team won 96 games last season and is viewed as an up-and-coming powerhouse. The other won 93 games last year and is generally considered to be trending down. Pull the curtain back a little bit, and you can see the Rays and Cleveland were near carbon copies in 2019:

Runs scored

769

769

Runs allowed

657

656

Defensive efficiency

.709

.710

Team OPS

.756

.757

Team ERA

3.76

3.65

Freaky! Neither team got dramatically better over the winter either. Cleveland traded Corey Kluber, who was mostly a non-factor last year because of injuries. The Rays traded Tommy Pham and Emilio Pagan, arguably their best hitter and reliever, but have the depth to replace them. Point is, these two teams were extremely similar last season.

And I expect them to be extremely similar again this season. They’re both deep in pitching with a few questions on the offensive side. For all the chatter that the Rays are built for a 60-game sprint, I feel like the same logic applies to Cleveland as well. They’re a pitching factory with a manager who knows how to use it. Terry Francona’s team is the sleeper your father thinks the Rays are.

12. Bryant gets traded …

… to the Phillies. Consider this is a three-pronged bold prediction. First, the Cubs are going to be bad (or simply mediocre) enough to actually sell at the Aug. 31 trade deadline. Second, Theo Epstein & Co. will actually go through with the whole selling thing. It’s one thing to be in position to sell. It’s another to actually act on it and trade away that big name player.

Here’s what Epstein told the New York Post‘s Joel Sherman in March:

“It puts us in a position in which we have to be very objective about what we have,” Epstein said. “In the middle of this season, if we have a legit World Series contender, that is really meaningful. But if we don’t, you can’t be blind to the realities of the following 18 months.” 

And third, the Phillies will be the team to bite and make the trade for Kris Bryant. Bryant was reportedly on the trade block all winter, and Philadelphia was said to be involved at various points, so connecting the dots again here hardly qualifies as bold. I guess the bold part of this prediction is the Cubs actually being out of it, and the Phillies offering enough to get a deal done.

What is enough to get a deal done? I’m going to say a multi-player package that is headlined by 2018 No. 3 pick Alec Bohm. A near MLB ready pitching prospect like Adonis Medina and JoJo Romero will be the second piece. Sound good? The Phillies get a big third base bat while the Cubs get young talent and that all important financial flexibility. 

13. The Tigers and Rockies will control the pitching market

The August 31 trade deadline will be weird. It’s only a month into the season, so teams won’t have much time to evaluate their roster and plot changes, and clubs will be wary of paying too much given the risk COVID-19 forces the season to be shut down at some point. Also, the shutdown is going to ruin payrolls for the foreseeable future. Money is tight.

That said, the Rockies and Tigers are in position to control the pitching market at the deadline because they’re loaded with pitchers that are controllable beyond 2020. Consider: Jon Gray is under control through 2021, Matthew Boyd and Michael Fulmer are under control through 2022, Kyle Freeland is under control through 2023, and German Marquez is signed through 2023. Some of those guys are more available than others, but I can see a scenario in which all five are on the market.

Detroit has a plethora of young pitching coming (Matt Manning, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal) and can afford to trade Boyd and/or Fulmer for multiple pieces to address other organizational needs. The Rockies need all sorts of help and those pitchers are their best way to get at this point. A Nolan Arenado trade probably isn’t happening. Moving a starter is the next best thing.

Because this is a bold predictions piece, let’s make some actual predictions. I’ll say Boyd goes to the Astros for a package built around outfielder Kyle Tucker and pitching prospect Cristian Javier, and Gray goes to the Yankees for outfielder Estevan Florial and righty Albert Abreu. Sound good? Good.

14. The Rangers will play in a pitcher’s park

The first impression of the new Globe Life Field in Texas is that it is “playing big as hell,” according to slugger Joey Gallo. He has taken batting practice at the team’s new digs in recent weeks and, for a guy with his power to say a ballpark is playing big, it must be playing really big.

“It’s playing big as hell,” Gallo told Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in May. “It’s definitely going to be a pitcher’s park. We are trying to get those fences moved in a little bit. It’s a little deep, I am not going to lie. It’s a little deep out to center. Us hitters are getting a little nervous about that.”

Globe Life Park, the team’s old facility, was a notorious hitter’s park, especially in the summer, when the ball flew in the Texas heat. The thing is, Globe Life Field’s dimensions are generally cozier. Check it out: 

Left field

332 feet

329 feet

Left-center

390 feet

372 feet

Center field

400 feet

407 feet

Right-center

377 feet

374 feet

Right field

325 feet

326 feet

The fence may be closer just about everywhere except dead center field, but there is more to how a ballpark plays than the outfield dimensions. The shape of the ballpark and how air moves through the structure matters, as does the retractable roof. It’ll be nice and air conditioned now. Fans will love it. Alas, the cooler air means the ball will not travel quite as well.

Globe Life Park opened in 1994 and the park factors at FanGraphs say it inflated offense at least 3 percent every year of its existence, with most years in the 5-9 percent range. In Year 1 of Globe Life Field, I boldly predict the ballpark will suppress offense at least 3 percent below the league average. The Rangers will go from a bandbox to a cavern.

15. The Blue Jays will finish third in the AL East

Toronto has been mired in fourth place since going to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016, so third place would represent their best finish in the standings in four years. The Blue Jays lost 95 games a year ago, but gosh, look at the young talent. Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are elite cornerstone types, and others like Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are great complementary pieces.

Clubs with a great young talent base have a tendency to arrive ahead of schedule. The Twins did it just last year. The Rays in 2008, the Pirates in 2013, the Cubs in 2015 … all those clubs were loaded with young talent and they all emerged sooner than expected. The Blue Jays spent some money on pitching this winter and those young bats make them a budding powerhouse.

Finishing in third place is unlikely to get the Blue Jays back to the postseason, but it does represent progress. I reckon Toronto will be a real headache to play in 2020. They won’t be a pushover like many other non-contenders. And, of course, the Blue Jays finishing third means someone has to finish fourth, and I boldly predict it will be the Red Sox. A quick recap of their situation:

SportsLine has the Red Sox as an 33-win team at the moment. With the Blue Jays beginning their breakout and some things going wrong for the Red Sox, a fourth place finish is very possible. When the Red Sox are bad, they tend to be very bad (three last place finishes from 2012-15). Toronto breaks out, Boston breaks down, and the Blue Jays earn a third place finish in 2020.

16. Gallen finishes top three in the Cy Young voting

A season ago Zac Gallen went from breakout prospect to hotshot rookie pitcher to traded at the deadline. He went from the Marlins to the Diamondbacks in July and pitched to a 2.89 ERA in eight starts in Arizona. Gallen’s final MLB numbers: 2.81 ERA with 96 strikeouts and 2.7 WAR in 80 innings. Heck of a rookie year for the 24-year-old.

It’s hard to call a guy who had a 2.81 ERA a year ago a breakout candidate, but Gallen is one, and I boldly predict he will place in the top three of the Cy Young voting in 2020. Ahead of wealthy new teammate Madison Bumgarner. Gallen is a five-pitch pitcher with command, and he misses bats with all five pitches. The numbers:

Four-seam fastball

23.7%

21.8%

Sinker

33.3%

15.5%

Cutter

27.4%

24.9%

Curveball

32.8%

31.1%

Changeup

40.7%

30.7%

Generally speaking, you need at least one swing-and-miss pitch to succeed as an MLB starter. Two swing-and-miss pitches gives you a chance to be an All-Star. Three? You’re talking Cy Young potential. Small sample size caveats apply, obviously, but Gallen’s stuff is very good, and he also ranked in 75th percentile in exit velocity. Strikeouts and weak contact is a great combo.

That all points to Gallen having a chance to be among the best pitchers in the National League as soon as this season. He has the strikeout ability and the weak contact skills, and he has a good infield defense behind him. I see him as this year’s Shane Bieber. The guy who goes from interesting prospect one year to Cy Young contender in his first full MLB season the next.

17. There will be a three-way tie atop the NL Central

The three teams: Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds. The Cubs were bad enough to trade Kris Bryant in an earlier bold prediction, so they won’t be in the division race. I think the Pirates will be better than the 26-win team SportsLine projects — squint your eyes and you can see a .500 record — but not good enough to contend in the NL Central. It’ll be a three-team race.

What happens in the event of a three-team tie? The three teams are designated Club A, B, and C using a long cookbook formula based on head-to-head records and things like that, then there are two tiebreaker games:

  • Tiebreaker Game 1: Club A hosts Club B.
  • Tiebreaker Game 2: Game 1 winner hosts Club C.

The Game 2 winner gets the division title. If applicable, the loser of Game 2 would be a wild-card team, and the loser of Game 1 would be the second wild-card team. I am pro-chaos, so let’s say the NL Central winner and only the NL Central winner qualifies for the postseason. The two wild-card teams come from the other two divisions. That gives us two elimination tiebreaker games. Fun!

Also, just to paint a complete picture, I’m going to say the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds will finish the 60-game regular season with identical 32-28 records, triggering the three-team tiebreaker scenario. It’s just not a good division right now.

18. Cole wins AL MVP

It’s always trendy to make a “the big offseason addition will win a major award” prediction and hey, sometimes it happens. Christian Yelich won MVP in his first year with the Brewers. Josh Donaldson won MVP in his first year with the Blue Jays. The late Roy Halladay won the Cy Young in his first year with the Phillies. We see it every few years.

What doesn’t happen all that often is a pitcher winning MVP. Twenty pitchers have combined to win 22 MVP awards (Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell and Hal Newhouser won two each), but only six times has a pitcher won MVP in the last half-century:

Picking a big name offseason addition to win a major award happens seemingly every year. Picking a big name pitcher addition to win MVP? That’s rare and it’s basically never happens. Some voters have a bias against pitchers winning MVP, which is silly, but it is what is. A pitcher needs a historically great season to win MVP.

New Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is certainly talented enough to have an MVP season. His 326 strikeouts last season were the most by a right-handed pitcher since Nolan Ryan struck out 341 in 1977, and his 39.9 percent strikeout rate was the highest ever for a pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Cole is in his prime at 29 and could very well do it again in 2020.

There is also a narrative component to the MVP award. The Yankees have already lost Luis Severino to Tommy John surgery, so Cole will be counted on to lead the rotation even more than initially expected. Repeating his 2019 performance in 2020 while leading a decimated Yankees rotation to the AL East title could lock in the MVP. I’m boldly predicting it.

19. Both 2019 World Series teams miss the postseason

You have to go back to 2006 for the last time the two pennant winners both failed to qualify for the postseason the next season. The White Sox swept the Astros in the 2005 World Series, then Chicago went 90-72 and finished in third place in the AL Central in 2006 while the Astros went 82-80 and finished in second in the NL Central. Neither returned to the postseason.

Our penultimate bold prediction calls for the 2019 pennant winners, the Astros and reigning World Series champion Nationals, to both miss the postseason in 2020. Houston lost Gerrit Cole to free agency and they look more vulnerable now than they have at any point in the last three or four years. They’re very good! But more beatable than in recent years.

As for the Nationals, they had one of the oldest teams in baseball last season and they doubled down on veterans this winter. There is a lot of age-related risk on their roster. Also, the Nationals were so close to being done multiple times with Anthony Rendon last year. I mean:

  • 22.2 percent postseason odds after 19-31 start.
  • 11.6 percent win probability in eighth inning of Wild Card Game.
  • 9.7 percent win probability in eighth inning of NLDS Game 5.
  • 15.0 percent win probability in seventh inning of World Series Game 7.

Now Rendon is gone and their three aces (Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg) all threw a ton of innings last season. They’re surely hoping the shutdown gave them all a chance to recover because the World Series hangover effect can be very real. The Astros and Nationals will be good in 2020, just not postseason good. Better luck in 2021.

20. The Dodgers end their World Series drought …

… and Clayton Kershaw is the postseason hero. It’s time. The Dodgers have not won the World Series since Kirk Gibson hobbled around the bases in 1988. Their World Series drought is older than most big leaguers, the World Wide Web, the Simpsons, Seinfeld, and Game Boy, among about a zillion other things. It’s time for the drought to end.

Los Angeles has won seven consecutive NL West titles and they lost the 2017 and 2018 World Series to serial cheaters. Kershaw is entering his decline phase — keep in mind his decline year in 2019 featured a 3.03 ERA with 189 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings — and he has been the postseason goat more times than a pitcher of his caliber ever should. That includes last year.

The Dodgers added Mookie Betts to an already stacked roster this offseason, and the result was a pre-pandemic 103-win PECOTA projection. That was literally the highest win total in PECOTA history. The Dodgers are that good. They’re going to cruise to another division title. This time, they’ll finish the job in October.

To be more specific, Kershaw will win the clinching game in both the NLCS and World Series. Seem crazy? It’s not. David Price, who himself had the postseason choker label, won the clinching game in the ALCS and World Series (both on short rest!) two years ago. He was a postseason choker until he wasn’t. The same will happen with Kershaw this October and the Dodgers will end their World Series drought. We are boldly predicting it.

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Everything Season

Everything you need to know about the 2019-20 NBA season restart – NBA.com

The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.  On June 4, the NBA’s Board of Governors approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play and a tentative start date of July 31. The Board’s approval is the first formal step among many required to resume the season and the NBA is working to finalize a comprehensive season restart plan with the National Basketball Players Association.

The 2019-20 restart is contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla., as a single site for a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.

In anticipation of the return of the NBA, here are some common questions and answers about the restart of the 2019-20 season. Again, it’s important to note that all of these dates are tentative.

> NBA’s Board of Governors approve restart of 2019-20 season


> NBPA approves further negotiations with NBA on 22-team format for season restart


> Playoff Picture: Closer look at current playoff matchups

* * *

 Q:  When does the 2019-20 season restart begin and end?

July 31 is the tentative start date. The Finals would end no later than Oct. 12. 


 

Q: Which teams will be returning?

A total of 22 teams would return to play this season.

Eastern Conference

  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Boston Celtics
  • Miami Heat
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Orlando Magic
  • Washington Wizards

Western Conference

  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • LA Clippers
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Utah Jazz
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Houston Rockets
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Sacramento Kings
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Phoenix Suns

This is based on the competitive format that the BOG approved. The returning teams are the 16 teams in current playoff positions and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.


 

Q: What are seeding games?

The eight remaining games each returning team would play before the playoffs begin. The games would be selected from a team’s remaining regular-season matchups.


 

Q: Where will games be played?

Games and practices would be held near Orlando as the season restart is contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort. It would be a single site location, featuring a campus that would house players for the remainder of the season.


 Q: What are the NBA’s medical protocols? 

The NBA and the NBPA are working with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to establish a rigorous program to prevent and mitigate the risk related to COVID-19, including a regular testing protocol and stringent safety practices.


 

Q: How many total games will each team in the 22-team field have played before the playoffs begin?

It varies by team, but most of the 22 teams would play 72 or 73 games after the eight “seeding games” are added to their regular-season game total. The Dallas Mavericks would have played the most total games (75) and the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers would have played the least (71).


Q: How will playoff seeding work?

The seven teams in each conference with the best records (regular-season games + seeding games) would have clinched a playoff spot. The usual tie-breaker scenarios would be in place for those seeds. The eighth seed could potentially come down to a play-in tournament.


 

 Q: How would the play-in tournament work?

If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, no play-in tournament would be necessary. The final playoff berth would simply go to the team with the eighth best record (regular-season games + seeding games).

But if the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, then we’ll have a battle for the final spot between those two teams.

The tournament would basically be a best-of-two series — where the No. 9 seed would have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot. 

 Q: Will the playoffs be any different?

No. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format featuring the usual best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and The Finals.


 

 Q: When is the NBA Draft Lottery?

August 25. This is assuming games begin on July 31 as tentatively scheduled.


Q: How will lottery teams be determined?

The 14 lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs. These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through March 11. 

The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.


Q: When is the NBA Draft?

October 15. This is assuming games begin on July 31 as tentatively scheduled.


 Q: When will the 2020-21 season start?

The 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin on Dec. 1, 2020. This is also assuming games begin on July 31 as tentatively scheduled.


 

More tentative details, such as when training camps open and free agency begins, are forthcoming. This article will be updated accordingly.





















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MLBPA Season

MLBPA proposal for 2020 MLB season includes 114-game season and player opt-out, per report – CBS Sports

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are about to enter their fourth week of negotiations concerning the potential to play a modified 2020 season in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Sunday afternoon, the players association delivered a proposal to the league outlining its vision for the year, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Per Passan, the union’s proposal calls for a 114-game season that would begin on June 30 and end on Oct. 31. (The postseason would then take place throughout November.) 

Other key parts of the plan include every player having the right to opt out of participating (with those who are deemed “high-risk” receiving salary, and others receiving only service time), and a salary deferral plan in the event that the postseason is canceled due to another wave of COVID-19. 

The proposal also calls for two years of expanded playoffs, and for the players to receive a $100 million advance during the second spring training. 

Thus far, the main sticking points in talks between the league and the union have concerned the well-being of players and essential workers — including testing and health protocols — and the players’ financial compensation. Owners have requested that players take greater pay cuts than the ones they already agreed to in March due to the alleged revenue losses stemming from having to play games in front of empty stands. 

Earlier on Sunday, our Mike Axisa detailed why this coming week is a vital one for talks. The league is believed to want an agreement in place to begin the season in late June or early July. That would necessitate beginning the second exhibition season sometime over the next two to three weeks, so as to allow pitchers a proper ramp-up before embarking on the season. Of course, the league could always push the start date back further if talks necessitate it. 

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RuPaul's Season

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12 winner: Jaida Essence Hall wins finale with virtual lip-sync – Entertainment Weekly

Virtual lip-sync finale leads to a jaw-dropping winner.

Chile, we have a new crowned queen.

She might not know who Rose Nylund is, but RuPaul’s Drag Race champion Jaida Essence Hall — who’s showcased pure excellence across her near-flawless bid for the title — now knows what it feels like to have $100,000 in the bank.

Following three challenge victories and some of the most beautiful runway displays of the season, the Milwaukee-based multihyphenate beauty won Drag Race‘s 12th regular season Friday night, beating out popular runners-up Crystal Methyd and Gigi Goode.

Hall won the competition after a remarkable episode (filmed entirely from remote locations amid ongoing coronavirus quarantine measures) that included three lip-sync challenges: a neck-up-only performance to RuPaul’s “Bring Back My Girls,” a personalized lip-sync number set to a song of her choice (she selected Ciara’s “Get Up”), and a final battle against Goode and Methyd soundtracked by Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.”

Hall’s victory caps a monumental conclusion for the Emmy-winning reality competition series, as both the traditional reunion and finale episodes were filmed from the contestants’ homes as virtual chat sessions amid nationwide venue closures and social distancing measures due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The limitations resulted in some jaw-dropping moments, however, including Methyd lip-syncing to Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird” while dressed as, well, a bird, and Goode taking us through a hand-drawn black-and-white fantasy inspired by A-ha’s “Take On Me.” In the end, though, it was Hall’s showgirl spirit that triumphed.

“If you feel like today you want to be the Grinch, then, baby, be the Grinch. Drag is all about expression. Whatever I’m feeling, I just let it out in drag,” Hall previously told EW of her approach to the craft. “Clearly, I’m very much trade. I do live for the transformation. There’s something so sickening about the art. Drag is the embodiment of being who you want to be. People would never expect me to be like this glamorous doll that loves beautiful things in a rich fantasy. I think I’m the one percent, even though I have no money to pay my rent at the end of this month. It’s not just [a physical] transformation of myself to Jaida, but an emotional shift when I get in drag. I stand up a little bit better, I feel more sexy. I move more snaky and slithery and slinky!”

Other highlights from the unorthodox finale included Dolly Parton dropping in for a surprise hand in helping Nina West crown Heidi N Closet as her Miss Congeniality successor, a hilarious skit featuring season 11 winner Yvie Oddly making a dress out of sweatpants, and a moving tribute to Drag Race‘s late producer, Jacqueline Wilson, who died in September 2019.

Since its February debut, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12 introduced a score of now-beloved queens to the franchise family, including Dahlia Sin, Rock M. Sakura, Nicky Doll, Aiden Zhane, Brita, JanWidow Von’Du, Jackie Cox, and Heidi N Closet, all of whom made appearances during the final episode.

Though another drag queen, Sherry Pie, initially made season 12’s top four upon the conclusion of filming in 2019, disturbing allegations surfaced against the New York City queen just before her debut episode earlier this year, and she was ultimately disqualified from the contest.

RuPaul’s Drag Race continues with its fifth All-Stars edition Friday at 8 p.m. ET on VH1.

Related content: 

Episode Recaps

RuPaul’s Drag Race

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Masked Season

The Masked Singer Season 3 Winner Revealed as BRAVO Celeb & EVERYTHING We Know About Season 4 – Entertainment Tonight














Entertainment Tonight




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Published on 20 May 2020

‘The Masked Singer’ crowned The Night Angel as the winner of season 3 during Wednesday’s finale! It was a tough night of competition among the top 3, The Night Angel, The Frog and The Turtle, but only one singing celebrity in disguise could take home the top prize. ET’s Deidre Behar and Charlie O’Keefe break down the finale, share their favorite performance from the season and reveal what we know about season 4, which plans to return to Fox in the fall.

#TheMaskedSinger

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recruits Season

Who are these guys? Meet the 10 new recruits for next season’s Kentucky basketball team. – Lexington Herald Leader

You don’t have permission to access “http://www.kentucky.com/sports/college/kentucky-sports/uk-recruiting/article242218981.html” on this server.

Reference #18.ae302b17.1588858358.4874f1ea

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Season Westworld

‘Westworld’ Season Finale: Brain Damage – Rolling Stone

“I dunno,” Caleb says. “The world looks a little like a nightmare, Dolores.”

“Change is messy,” Dolores replies. “Difficult.”

Take a look around, people. They’re both right!

Set in a chaotic, desperate world that’s a bit too close for comfort right now, Westworld‘s season finale (“Crisis Theory”) is based on the hope that Dolores can have her apocalyptic cake and eat a new-world utopia, too. Concerned with her and Caleb’s quest to upload the Solomon supercomputer’s plans for revolution into its successor Rehoboam — and with Cerac and Maeve’s attempts to stop them — it’s an ugly action thriller that asks us if humanity has enough beauty in it to be worth saving.

Dolores thinks the answer is yes — though it seems to take her some time, and a lot of dead goons, to arrive at that conclusion. Fighting their way through riots and security guards, she and Caleb infiltrate the secure zone around the Incite, only to be captured by Maeve. Madame Millay is still doing the sinister Cerac’s bidding so she can reunite her with her daughter via a key to the Sublime in Dolores’ brain. Her patron, meanwhile, is desperate to access all that juicy Delos data in order to shore up the crumbling new world order.

In the process of all this fighting and speechifying, we learn a lot. Dolores picked Caleb to lead the human uprising because he once saved her from his fellow soldiers (she was being used in a military training exercise at an all-American simulation at a Delos park). She also doesn’t have the key — she passed it to Bernard using a copy of herself in the body of our old pal Lawrence (hi, Clifton Collins Jr.). It turns out Cerac is the biggest slave to the system of all: Using his brilliant but mentally ill brother’s voice, Rehoboam directs his every move.

But even as he strips away Dolores’s digital memories to find what he’s looking for, she gets her wish, uploading enough of her consciousness into the supercomputer to allow Caleb to access it…and delete the whole damn thing. There’s also one last Maeve swordfight against the bad guys; lit only by muzzle flashes from her attackers’ guns, it’s the coolest-looking battle of the season. They exit to an old-timey version of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage,” the same song that very first Season Three teaser used way back when.

Unfortunately, the version of Dolores occupying Charlotte’s host body has other plans. As this rogue copy tells the real deal via hallucinatory holograms, she’s been born again hard and is ready to lead a real robot revolution against humankind.

Her right-hand man in this quest for vengeance: the Man in Black. No, not William himself — more like a host who embodies all his most violent traits, dutifully recorded by the park’s hat-based surveillance tech. In the finale’s first stinger segment, Billy gets punked out by his robotic doppelgänger in seconds (we’d say “murdered,” but you never can tell on this show). Cue a lingering shot of a new host army being prepped.

But wait, there’s more! Playing one last card, it also flashes to Bernard coming back online in the motel room we last saw him in…only now everything is now covered in an inch of dust. Has the apocalypse happened? Is this the far-flung future? Did housekeeping simply fall down on the job?

Maybe we’ll find out next season. Maybe we won’t. Westworld is as stingy with answers as it is relentless with its questions. Pop quiz: Can you describe Dolores’ grand strategy? It’s got something to do with Rehoboam and Caleb and Bernard and a bunch of copies of herself and “revolution” and “choice” and “free will,” whatever that means in this context. Other than a bunch of cryptic allusions to a masterplan scattered throughout the season, her plan was never made clear. It didn’t help that she seemed to vacillate between cold-blooded killer and teary-eyed sentimentalist several times an episode. At least Maeve had a concrete need to explain her actions and decisions. By contrast, Dolores is like a complicated jigsaw puzzle that when completed shows no picture at all.

Which is a bit like Westworld, isn’t it?

We’ve been complimentary of the show’s pulpy genre thrills: the ultraviolence, the smoldering cast, the cool VFX. This episode had all of that in spades, including gunfights, swordfights, creepy cop uniforms and creepier robotic exoskeletons. (“Would you have cared,” a semi-completed Dolores asks Caleb, “if I didn’t have this face or this skin?” Given the insectoid biomechanics underneath her beautiful exterior, the answer is probably no.)

But as overwrought as previous seasons may have been, they feel much meatier than Season Three’s fast-food sci-fi. Yes, the short, eight-episode order has something to do with that. But so does the decision to leave the parks (mostly) behind and hopscotch across the real world. Characters with varying degrees of sentience and self-awareness, navigating the vast expanse of Westworld and its sister attractions — you felt the vastness in the way road movies can make you feel like you’ve gone on a journey. The show had ideas, while often wonky, that felt suitably large. This time around, as characters mowed down black-clad security goons by the score and zipped from San Francisco to Singapore with ease, it feels slight, weightless, and way too fast.

Does this mean there’s a possibility of a future Goldilocks season, one that’s not too pretentious and not too poppy but juuuust right? Contemplating that question makes us feel a bit like Westworld‘s protagonists, standing on the precipice of either the end of the world or the creation of a new one. Are we willing to take the chance on Season Four, knowing it could be either dorm-room-philosophy bullshit or cheap thrills or something better than both? There’s no supercomputer to tell us what awaits us. It’s simply a matter of our own free will.

Previously: Insane in the Mainframe

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