“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.” – Tennessee Williams
A gentle transcendence has the power to break through rocks and change things for the better. Is baseball really coming back, and if so, is it truly the source of healing many hope it will be?
Though most fans of the game seem to think its return will be as cinematic as the James Earl Jones monologue in Field of Dreams, a more likely scenario is that the league will step softly at first instead. Trepidation will walk us through the game’s eventual return, but bubbling right at surface level is angst, strife, and the potential for a new wave of COVID-19 infections, all of which could prevent any reboot or lead to another work stoppage.
The owners finalized their proposal yesterday and the MLBPA will dissect it today, likely edit a number of things, and then send it back for an amended version which could result in baseball’s reopening. The plan includes a number of changes that deviate from a normal season, potentially including expanded playoffs and a universal DH according to reports.
But there are safety and economic issues that need to be met first, and if anything can derail the best laid plans of the game’s semi-triumphant return, it’s money and the health of its players. At a time when words like “contagion” and phrases like “contact testing” are as significant as strike zones and launch angles, the league and the players union need to find common ground. That won’t be possible without concessions from one or both sides, particularly when it comes to player salaries.
A March agreement outlined key financial terms regarding how much players would be paid in a shortened season. An excerpt of that agreement indicates that if games cannot be played in home stadiums in front of paying spectators, the two sides agree to hold “good faith discussions” about the economic feasibility of playing those games. Owners, who are hoping players will accept a revenue-sharing proposal, say that means salaries are up for renegotiation, while the union says they are not.
But money is not the only sticking point, as Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle pointed out yesterday.
Bear with me, but it feels like we've zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. Here are some things I'll be looking for in the proposal…
— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Doolittle expressed apprehension that we just don’t know enough about the novel coronavirus to assume that it’s safe to reboot the season. His concerns, among others, include understanding the potential long-term effects of contracting COVID-19. Some symptoms, such as permanent lung damage, are particularly worrisome for any professional athletes.
The veteran reliever, whose wife suffers from a chronic lung ailment, is also concerned with the level of risk the league might be willing to assume. In other words, what will it take to effectively shut baseball down again? Doolittle feels that one positive test should be enough to consider cancelling the season.
The NBA suspended its season when Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-March. If one positive case then warranted a league-wide shutdown then, why wouldn’t it now? Yes, we know much more about the pathogen today than we did two months ago, but as Doolittle implores, do we know enough? Daily testing may have to be a consideration before any baseball is played, but no one can be sure if the league is capable of doing enough to protect against a wave of infections among players and key personnel.
That could be enough to have the union reject the league’s proposal. NBC Sports Chicago’s Adam Hoge was told Monday that the plan submitted by the owners is “doomed to fail.”
It is important to remember that even without fans attending games, thousands of essential workers are going to be needed to relaunch the season, including coaching staff, umpires, clubhouse attendants, trainers, security staff, television crews, reporters, hotel staff…the list goes on and on. Baseball is therefore putting its vulnerable subpopulation, not to mention the families of those people, at risk too. If baseball starts a second version of spring training in early June, we should know before the commencement of meaningful games if their decision to restart the season was a prudent one.
Cubs News & Notes
- Left fielder Kyle Schwarber could see some time at DH, though he is not the automatic choice if baseball adopts a universal designated hitter.
- Schwarber has four of the team’s top five hardest-hit balls, plus the top four hardest-hit homers since 2015.
- Tyler Chatwood is ready to contribute as the team’s fifth starter.
- New manager David Ross bought a new home in Tallahassee, FL.
- Jon, Evan and Danny had a nice conversation with speedy outfielder Ian Miller on the Cubs Insider video podcast The Rant.
- Ian Happ is using his love of coffee to help raise money for COVID-19 relief.
- With the expiring contracts of Jon Lester, José Quintana, and Chatwood, and with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Schwarber eligible for free agency after next season, a transition without some of the aforementioned core may be inevitable.
- If you’re into fantasy baseball, Rotoballer lists the Cubs top 10 dynasty format prospects, led by Brailyn Marquez, Nico Hoerner, and Brennen Davis.
- Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of this mammoth home run by Glenallen Hill.
20 years ago today, Glenallen Hill hit a home run out of Wrigley Field and on to the roof of a building across the street.
No one has done it since ?
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) May 11, 2020
Find Your Inner Hero
American Airlines and Hyatt Hotels have teamed up to provide free vacations to more than 4,000 staff members at New York City’s hard-hit Elmhurst Hospital for their tireless work fighting COVID-19. The workers, from doctors and nurses to the facilities and food services teams, will receive priority round trip flights and hotel accommodations for three nights in select destinations across the U.S. and Caribbean.
Odds & Sods
I’ve been watching HBO’s Westworld and I’m no longer on board with robotic umpires. My cool idea for a robotic theme park would be Goodfellas, in case you were wondering.
Apropos of Nothing
I think I’m actually looking forward to the return of live music more than baseball. Dave Grohl captures my mood perfectly.
“I’ve had the best seat in the house for 25 years … I've seen you in hurricane-force winds, in 100-degree heat, in subzero temperatures.” Dave Grohl, the @foofighters front man, on the majesty of live music: https://t.co/KdnmI8G0QG
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) May 11, 2020
MLB News & Notes
It’s a good bet that the MLBPA will be unwilling to agree to any revenue sharing plan.
In that light, league plans for anything that could be construed as some type of salary cap will probably be a non-starter, too.
Players with pre-existing health issues could object to restarting the season without assurances that the players’ safety will be at the forefront of any proposal.
As an avid follower of the ESPN series The Last Dance, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says he can identify with former Bulls GM Jerry Krause.
Ranked just outside the top 150 players heading into next month’s first year player draft, 6-foot-8 pitcher Luke Little can throw a fastball 105 mph. Hard to believe that with just a five-round draft, a possibility exists that he may go undrafted. Only Jordan Hicks has similar weaponry at the major league level.
Cutting the draft from 40 rounds down to five means just 150 amateurs will be selected instead of the customary 1,200, dramatically decreasing the newest crop of pros while causing a ripple effect through all levels of baseball.
The 2021 World Baseball Classic has been postponed until 2023.
Clickbait alert: Andy Nesbitt of USA Today would like to see MLB go to an 82-game schedule every year.
More clickbait: Ripping on Jason Heyward seems to be an automatic go-to story every year when baseball websites seek to generate traffic and ridiculous reader comments. Be better than that.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) May 12, 2020
They Said It
- “We need to consider what level of risk we’re willing to assume. 80% of cases are considered mild, but what if a player, a staff member, an auxiliary worker, or a family member gets a case that’s in the 20% and they develop severe symptoms or chronic issues? ” – Sean Doolittle
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Invisible Sun by The Police – “There has to be an invisible sun that gives us hope when the whole day’s done…” when does this nightmare end?