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#pounditFriday, April 16, 2021

Articles tagged: MLB

Report: MLB discussing possible social justice elements with players

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball will likely join other sports leagues and add some sort of social justice element to the 2020 season.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the league and players are discussing possible ways to show support for social justice movements during the season. Nothing has yet been decided, but potential patches on jerseys are mentioned as one possibility, as well as something conceived and led by the players themselves.

It does not sound like whatever comes out of the discussions will be as prominent as it will be in the NBA, which is making social justice a central theme of its restarted season.

One player has said black MLB players will make some sort of statement on Opening Day. It appears the rest of the league wants to be supportive as well.

MLB considering having umpire crews travel on team flights this year

MLB logo

The unusual circumstances surrounding the 2020 MLB season could lead to an odd mix between teams and umpires.

Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon confirmed on Monday that the league is considering having some umpiring crews travel on team charter flights this year, according to The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya.

Unlike the NBA, which has set up a “bubble” situation in Orlando, MLB is planning to have teams operate out of their home cities and travel during the season. Their aim is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep players and officials away from the virus. If having those who umpire the games travel with teams means less possible exposure, that is something the league will consider, despite the obvious conflict of interest.

How should history view the outcomes of MLB’s shortened 2020 season?

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball is preparing to embark on a season unlike any other. The game is going to look different, and there may not be fans in the stands for many, if not all teams. The biggest change is probably the most fundamental one: all 30 teams will play just 60 regular season games, a 102-game reduction from the normal schedule.

This change alone brings with it a lot of questions. Will teams really be able to hit their stride in such a short period of time? Will one major injury completely doom a team’s playoff hopes? Most importantly, can a team that wins the World Series under these circumstances possibly be considered a legitimate champion?

The answer is complicated. MLB has never played this short a season before. MLB played a shortened season in 1981 due to a midseason players’ strike, but teams still played roughly 60 percent of their scheduled games. The 1995 season started late due to the work stoppage that canceled the 1994 World Series, but teams still managed a 144-game schedule. We won’t come close to that in 2020.

The first question is how legitimate the playoff field will be. For instance, the Washington Nationals went 27-33 in their first 60 games of 2019. That would not have been good enough for a playoff spot, but as we know, they turned it around, made the postseason, and won the World Series. The Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies were two teams who had good enough records to lead their divisions after 60 games, but neither team ultimately made the postseason. On the other hand, teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, and Twins were all atop their respective divisions, and all four of those teams went on to win them.

In short, it’s a mixed bag.

One major issue will be the difficulty for teams to separate from other divisional rivals in so few games. This will be helped somewhat by a schedule that will be very heavy on divisional games. That won’t fix everything, though; the season simply isn’t long enough to guarantee that the best teams will make the playoffs.

That already works against the season. There’s another wrinkle, too: some players who would play under normal circumstances won’t be suiting up in 2020. Others, including arguably the sport’s best player, haven’t committed to playing. It’s very difficult to say that any season could be entirely meaningful if some key players have chosen not to play. They have the right to make a decision, but it shouldn’t be treated the same as someone suffering a season-ending injury — too many players have already opted out for that comparison to be valid.

On the other hand, there are added challenges that no other players will have ever had to face. There are guidelines about social distancing and the potential of empty stadiums. There are added physical and mental concerns, including the potentially higher risk of injuries due to the lengthy layoff between the initial start of spring training and the actual beginning of the regular season. These concerns shouldn’t be ignored, and could help compensate for the ways in which the sport will be easier this year.

Ultimately, even those within the sport disagree. One Hall of Famer thinks there’s no way the season can be viewed legitimately. One of the sport’s current stars thinks a title would mean even more than usual. Ultimately, the validity of winning a championship under these circumstances is in the eye of the beholder. The record books will recognize a champion, and some will probably try to assign an asterisk to it. Asterisk or not, flags fly forever, and what the history books show may prove most important. Plus, there’s no reason the games shouldn’t be enjoyable, even in a shorter season.

MLB announces 38 positive coronavirus tests league-wide

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball has released the first set of results from leaguewide coronavirus testing.

In a joint statement from MLB and the MLBPA, it was announced that of 3,185 samples collected, 38 came back positive, a 1.2% positive rate. 31 players and seven staff tested positive, with 19 clubs having at least one positive test. The identities of the positive tests have not been released.

Given the high number of samples collected, it’s somewhat encouraging that the number of positives was this low.

Last we heard, the league was not planning daily tests for players. We’ll see if that changes. For now, teams at least have a picture of the scope of what they’re dealing with leaguewide as summer camps get underway.

Report: MLB could allow non-high risk players who opt out to change mind during season

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball has given players who are not deemed high risk the right to opt out of playing the 2020 season. However, those players are not allowed to reconsider and change their mind later — at least as of now.

According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, MLB and the MLBPA are discussing a “possible adjustment” to that rule, leaving the door open for players to potentially return in 2020.

MLB’s initial position is understandable. It doesn’t seem fair for a player to initially rule himself out, then change his mind later in the season. On the other hand, players are opting out for good reasons. No one knows how the current pandemic will evolve, and what does not feel safe to a player now could change in August or September.

A few high profile players who are not high risk have already chosen not to play in 2020. For now, we won’t see them again until 2021, but this rule bears watching.

Arguing, brawling both prohibited under MLB safety protocols

Rob Manfred

Those who are fond of baseball fights and heated arguments between managers and umpires will be disappointed by some of the health and safety protocols instituted by Major League Baseball for 2020.

MLB released a set of rule changes for the 2020 season in Monday. Some of them have been widely reported on, including a universal DH and a runner at second base in extra innings.

Among other changes, however, are two big ones: brawling and arguing will be banned for the 2020 season due to the need for players, coaches, and umpires to maintain social distancing. Violations of these rules will be punished severely, including potentially by immediate ejection.

Obviously, players aren’t supposed to brawl at the best of times, but MLB usually looks the other way and only punishes instigators or anyone who engages in particularly violent conduct. That won’t be the case this year, as it sounds like the league will come down very hard on anyone who gets involved in an on-field brawl.

It will be interesting to see how players handle ban on arguments as well. Often, those are the result of heat of the moment reactions to questionable calls, so players may not really think twice before turning on an umpire.

Twitter reacts to MLB’s proposed ‘wet rag’ rule for 2020

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball is scrambling to address various concerns as they look to implement a shortened 2020 season, and one suggested rule change in particular is drawing some attention.

Chris Cotillo of MLB.com reported on Tuesday that one of the proposed rule changes for 2020 is to allow pitchers to keep a wet rag in their pocket as a substitute for licking their fingers. The idea is to allow pitchers to maintain their grip on the ball in a more sanitary way amid the current health climate.

This “wet rag rule” was promptly roasted on Twitter and led to a bunch of funny reactions. Here were some of the best ones:

Other than the rule being pretty darn funny on its face, it could prove difficult to institute for a number of reasons. For one, finger-licking is basically second nature for pitchers. For another, the rule could potentially open the door for various foreign substances to appear on the wet rag undetected.

The league is looking to enact some other odd new rules for 2020 as well, but the wet rag one might be the most hilarious one of them all.

MLB players agree to report to camp by July 1 for 60-game season

MLB logo

A shortened MLB season is getting much closer to happening.

MLB players have agreed to report to training camps by July 1 to play a 60-game season, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The two sides also agreed on health and safety issues, meaning the season will happen.

The players on Monday rejected a final proposal from MLB for a 60-game season that included other caveats. In response, the owners decided to implement a 60-game season and ask the players to report by July 1.

Players seem excited for a season, however short it may be. A typical season is 162 regular season games, and this one will be about a quarter as long.

MLB making change to extra innings rules to avoid marathon games in 2020

Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball is hoping to avoid extremely long games in its abbreviated 60-game season, and that is why a new rule is being temporarily implemented for games that go into extra innings.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that MLB will adopt the minor league rule of beginning the 10th inning and beyond with a runner on second base, making it easier for teams to score runs. With a shortened spring training and only 60 games, the goal is to avoid having too many extra frames.

In addition, MLB will also be temporarily allowing a universal designated hitter. The DH will be removed from National League play again in 2021.

MLB and the MLB Players Association had previously been looking into some other extra innings changes for 2020, but it’s unclear if any of those will be implemented. Even if not, having a runner on second base is a good idea that should help move games along. Fans could end up liking it so much that the league makes it a permanent change.

Baseball has needed changes for years, especially ones that will shorten the length of games. A 60-game season will be an opportune time for MLB to experiment with fixing some things.

MLB to implement 60-game season, wants players to report by July 1

MLB logo

The MLB Players Association did not agree to a 60-game season from the owners, which now has the owners ready to implement a season.

MLB sent a letter to the players on Monday saying they are prepared to implement a season. They asked two questions of the players:

1) Can you report to training camps by July 1?

2) Will you agree to the health and safety terms outlined in the operating manual?

If the players agree to both measures, a 60-game season for 2020 will take place.

So why would the players association reject the owners’ proposal for a 60-game season but end up playing a 60-game season? They rejected it because they retain the right to file a grievance over the owners supposedly stalling negotiations. They also did not want to agree to an expanded postseason for two years.

Several MLB players have said they are ready and willing to play. Now it’s on them to show they are ready to report by July 1 to make this happen.