Hey, we’ve arrived in a month that will actually feature live Major League Baseball. Not just old memories or the what-if, thinking about what action we were slated to see had the world not been blindsided by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sure it’s a 60-game sprint — totally against the traditional notion in which baseball requires surviving an absolute marathon — that may end up being wacky enough where it mirrors a Rat Race sequel. The legitimacy of the prize, a World Series title somehow on par with all the others throughout time, will unfortunately always be up for debate. But it’s something; better than the alternative of nothing.
No matter the case, what we are about to see in this thing being called a regular season will induce results that are sure to contrast far differently from what would have played out through the usual 162-game trek. So, like we did for March/April and May, let’s unravel and honor what would have been for the month of June.
What Would Have Been: Dallas Keuchel isn’t as much of a brand name anymore these days. Nevertheless, his return to Houston was still a main storyline set for June. The man did win a Cy Young and (asterisked) World Series title there, after all. Keuchel spent his first seven seasons as an Astro, and after a single campaign in Atlanta, inked a three-year, $55 contract with the White Sox last winter.
What Would Have Happened: Well, for one, a rare game where the Astros don’t have to worry about getting plunked, as Keuchel isn’t likely to target one of his former co-conspirators in the club’s cheating scandal. In turn, Houston’s collection of All-Star-caliber hitters topple the left-hander and send him to the showers early. Chicago takes the other two games, however, as the season-long swoon of the Astros extends into July.
What Would Have Been: It may be surprising to learn that this series could have included Jon Lester’s first-ever appearance against Boston. More than half of his 14-year career has come with the Red Sox, of course, but his tenure there ended six years ago. Craig Kimbrel was also on pace to see his former team for the first time since they let him walk following the championship season of 2018. Interestingly, the two pitchers were never teammates with the Sawx.
What Would Have Happened: Lester gets the ‘W‘ in his assignment, with Kimbrel closing the door (not to mention saving another game in the series as well). Boston suffers a sweep, as the baseball gods continue to punish them for dealing an in-his-prime Mookie Betts for little in return. Red Sox farmhand from way back Anthony Rizzo also gets in on the act.
What Would Have Been: Brad Hand, yet another wildly successful pitcher that the Marlins let slip away beforehand, comes back to San Diego. It was with the Padres where Hand blossomed from mediocre reliever into All-Star closer, an honor that he’s nabbed three years in a row now. Simply put, you don’t mess with the Bro-Hand (yes that’s actually his nickname).
What Would Have Happened: It’s Brad Hand. If you’re down in the ninth and he’s on the hill, forget about it. Thanks to fellow former Padre Franmil Reyes cracking a pair of long balls, Hand works a non-save situation in the Indians’ lone triumph. San Diego wins the other, though, behind a gem from underrated lefty Joey Lucchesi.
What Would Have Been: Year Two of baseball’s juiciest feud? Pete Alonso and Chris Paddack began beefing early as freshmen, with the latter taking exception to Alonso — who would eventually win Rookie of the Year — being named Rookie of the Month for April and challenging him over “who the top dog is.” Paddack struck out Alonso twice and ultimately beat Jacob deGrom in that first meeting, though the Polar Bear did get a measure of revenge the next night with a late tie-breaking homer. The National League may have its own Bird-Magic rivalry in the works.
What Would Have Happened: If you were already recognized as The Sheriff in your first season, it means you’re good. And Paddack continues being very good in 2020, both in this fantasy and reality, and that includes beating the Mets on his turf while racking up nine K’s. Alonso only goes 1-for-3 with a sac fly but fares better in the other two games, driving in multiple runs in each as New York wins the series.
What Would Have Been: Frankie Montas returns to the south side. Doesn’t ring a bell? OK that’s fair. Montas did only pitch one year for the White Sox in 2015 — his debut season — before getting traded during the ensuing offseason. He later resurfaced with the A’s and hasn’t looked back. Despite being on the receiving end of an 80-game PEDs ban last year, there’s no question about Montas’ bright future.
What Would Have Happened: I’m a big Montas fan, so I have to give the nod to the burly 255-pound Dominican right-hander. A very motivated Montas goes six strong with seven punch-outs, scattering five hits and a walk in the winning effort. The two AL contenders split the other two.
What Would Have Been: The Cubs make their first visit to Yankee Stadium since Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano were in pinstripes. These two iconic franchises share World Series history that dates back to the 1930s, when Babe Ruth called his shot. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber were also set to make their first-ever appearances in the Bronx. Now all three might have to wait till 2026.
What Would Have Happened: Over the course of the series, Bryant and Schwarber both hit 315-foot flyballs that go over the fence for homers. Baez contributes everything, including flashy defense that draws plenty of ooh’s and aah’s at “The Stadium.” Chicago takes two of three, as the Yankees nab their only win in extra innings following a 0-0 pitchers duel between Yu Darvish and James Paxton.
June 29-July 1
What Would Have Been: Though the Rangers play in a new park and not the one Cole Hamels used to call home, his return to Arlington is still a big deal. The 14-year veteran didn’t just have a great run with the Phillies. His stint in Texas, though only about three years, was also memorable. Hamels garnered nearly twice as many wins (38) as losses (21) wearing a Rangers uni and even posted a sub-4.00 ERA, which is not easy at all with that franchise.
What Would Have Happened: Hamels, fresh off a stay on the injured list and exhibiting signs of age, labors through a mediocre outing, surrendering four runs in five-plus innings. The new Bash Brothers, Joey Gallo and Ronald Guzman, connect on five home runs in the series, and along with Elvis Andrus terrorizing the team that drafted him, Texas claims two of the three contests. The heroics of Ronald Acuna land Atlanta its lone victory.
Sadly, none of these matchups will play out under the new schedule.