May 21

MLB’s Health and Safety Plan

Jeff Passan of ESPN breaks it down with an example:

Here is what a day in the life of a baseball player could look like in 2020.

Wake up. Grab the thermometer issued to every player in MLB and take your temperature. Just make sure to do it before eating, drinking or exercising. Then take it again. If it’s over 100 degrees, self-isolate, call the team physician and get ready to take a rapid-response COVID-19 test.

If not, you can go to the stadium. If you’re on the road, it can be on any of the six bus trips to the ballpark instead of the typical early-or-late options. Don’t forget to open the windows. If you’re at home, go to the entrance that can be used only by 101 specifically designated people. Put on a mask. Walk into the stadium. Maybe even be in uniform already. Get your temperature taken again. If it’s still below 100, you’re allowed in the restricted areas: the field, the training room, the weight room, the clubhouse. Or perhaps the auxiliary clubhouse, because social distancing is important, and 6 feet will separate lockers, and locker rooms just aren’t big enough to handle that many people and that much space between them, so the team needs to build another.

Might be your day for a coronavirus test, since there will be a few a week, so get that saliva ready. Also could be the monthly blood test for coronavirus antibodies. Since you can’t use hot tubs, cold tubs, saunas, steam rooms or cryotherapy, there’s no excuse not to get to the 4:30 hitters’ meeting on time. Just check whether it’s on the iPad or outside. Indoor, in-person meetings don’t exist anymore.

At least you can take off the mask on the field. You’ll be out there plenty. It may look a little odd. No water or sports-drink jugs in the dugout. No sunflower seeds or dip. Remember? You can’t spit. Or high-five. Or dap. Or hug.

There’s more, lots more. And this is just the medical side of MLB’s proposals. The money side has yet to be presented to the players.

I don’t know, folks. This is going to be really difficult. As Passan says before he goes into the detail above, “This, or some bargained evolution of it, is what it takes to have a chance at garnering the support of the broad coalition necessary for any sport to return: the backing of federal, state and local governments; the rubber stamp of local health officials; the buy-in of fans; and the collaboration of players.”

May 06

No news is no news

Rumors fly fast and furious, and debunking them happens almost as quickly.

Baseball fans were briefly giddy after former Minnesota Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe tweeted that he heard a second round of spring training was set to begin June 10, with Opening Day following weeks later on July 1.

But that info was quickly debunked by reporters, with [MLB Network’s Jon] Heyman offering further clarity Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately for baseball-hungry fans, Heyman reported that July 1 might be an optimistic start date and not a very likely one.

“The alleged July 1 start date for an MLB season would be wonderful; they’d love to begin then (or close to then), but while there’s hope, things aren’t as certain as that. MLB is still hearing conflicting info from politicians and doctors, and health concerns remain the priority,” Heyman tweeted.

Apr 21

A grim outlook

This is an extremely pessimistic look at the Dodgers’ prospects this season from SI’s Tom Verducci. It’s hard to argue with much of it.

No team stands to lose more from the loss or truncation of the 2020 Major League Baseball season due to the coronavirus than the Dodgers. They may have traded three prospects to Boston for few or no games from Mookie Betts and his $27 million salary. As the team that draws half a million more fans than any other franchise, they are losing the most gate revenue. As the deepest team in baseball, their depth may be less valuable in a shorter season. And as the clear favorites in the National League West, their road to the postseason is more difficult as more games come off the schedule.

If there is a season it’s going to be a short one. With the pitching depth they have they might be best served by going to a six-man rotation, considering the possibility of more doubleheaders (did the Dodgers play even one over the last few years? I don’t remember any). In fact, Verducci says, “The six-man rotation, including a plethora of openers, is likely to be standard procedure for teams in a shorter season with expanded rosters.”

Roberts thinks getting baseball back when the science allows could be therapeutic for hospital patients and health-care workers and for the nation as a whole:

“You know, my father would tell stories of the family being huddled around a radio to listen to a game or around the TV for the one game of the week the family could watch. Lord willing, we can get this season in, and we’re playing and it’s broadcast into our homes to get back that feeling from decades in the past of families huddled around the TV watching America’s pastime.

Apr 06

Obituaries

Death waits for us all, and in an age of pandemic it’s nearer than ever. This weekend we’ve seen it take Tom Dempsey, NFL placekicker, Bobby Mitchell, NFL halfback and wide receiver, and Al Kaline, rightfielder extraordinaire for 22 years with the Detroit Tigers.

Dempsey set the record for longest field goal in NFL history at 63 yards in 1970 when he hit it in the closing seconds of a game against the Lions to give the Saints the win. It held up until Jason Elam of the U of Hawai’i and the Denver Broncos matched it in 1998. It has since been extended to 64 yards by the Broncos’ Matt Prater in 2013. He died from COVID-19.

Dempsey had been battling Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He was a resident at the Lambeth House senior living center in New Orleans, which has been hit hard by the virus. More than 50 residents have been affected, according to NOLA.com.

Bobby Mitchell, along with Leroy Jackson and John Nisby, were the first black players for the Washington Redskins when they started the 1962 season with the team. George Marshall, the team’s owner, had made it clear he didn’t want black players on his team, but then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the Kennedy Administration made it known that he should integrate.

During his first six seasons with the Redskins, he never caught fewer than 58 passes. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection — once as a running back and three times as a wide receiver.

Mitchell, a seventh-round draft pick in 1958, retired in 1969, finishing his 11-year NFL career with 14,078 total yards. He had 91 career touchdowns, including 65 receiving and 18 rushing. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

Kaline joined the Tigers directly from high school in 1953. In 1955 he won an AL batting title and finished second to Yogi Berra in the MVP voting. He won the Roberto Clemente Award for sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to his team in 1973.

Kaline made his lone appearance in a World Series in 1968, on the Tigers team led by pitchers Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich. Kaline had been sidelined for part of the season with a broken arm, and when he returned he was used mostly as a pinch hitter or first baseman because the outfield trio of Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup was playing well.

When the Tigers clinched the pennant, Kaline went to manager Mayo Smith and told him that he didn’t deserve to start in the World Series. Smith ignored him and played Kaline, who batted .379, hit two home runs and drove in eight as the Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

Kaline was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility.

Mar 22

Baseball viewing while self-quarantining

If you’re following your Governors’ requests and staying indoors but you’re tired of reading (or writing, in RBI’s case), MLB has a vast assortment (its words) of classic games available at its vault for free watching. Included:

  • Gibson’s homer (Oct. 15, 1988, World Series Game 1): Though he could barely make it around the bases, Kirk Gibson takes Dennis Eckersley deep for one of baseball’s most iconic big flies.
  • Kershaw twirls a no-no (June 18, 2014): Only an error prevents a perfecto, as Clayton Kershaw strikes out 15 Rockies.
  • Dodgers give Vin a walk-off send-off (Sept. 25, 2016): With legendary announcer Vin Scully behind the mic at Chavez Ravine for the final time, the boys in blue clinch a division title.
  • Kershaw saves the day (Oct. 13, 2016, NLDS Game 5): In a winner-take-all contest on the road, Kershaw comes out of the bullpen on one day of rest to finish off the win for a tiring Kenley Jansen.
  • A blowout for the pennant (Oct. 19, 2017, NLCS Game 5): The Dodgers explode early against the Cubs, with Enrique Hernández’s three homers powering them to their first World Series since 1988.

Those are just the Dodgers’ games, of course. There are plenty of other famous games to see there as well. Check out the page for links to all of them.

Mar 12

Here we (don’t) go: Season opening postponed

Remainder of spring training is canceled and the regular season has been delayed.

Following a call with the 30 clubs, and after consultation with the Major League Baseball Players Association, Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. today announced that MLB has decided to suspend Spring Training games and to delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic. This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, clubs and our millions of loyal fans.

MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season. Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to Clubs in the coming days. As of 4 p.m. ET today, forthcoming Spring Training games have been cancelled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Ariz., have been postponed indefinitely.

MLB and the clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.

Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans. MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.

Mar 10

Kershaw named Opening Day starter

For the ninth time in ten years. He started last season on the injured list. Buehler will start Game Two and Price Game Three of the first series against the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

That assumes that MLB starts its season on time, of course. The coronavirus is moving quite quickly around the country; some events (SXSW!) have been canceled altogether, others (Coachella) have been postponed. Some events have turned away spectators, playing games in empty arenas.

In an abundance of caution all of the major sports leagues (MLB, NHL, MLS and NBA) have closed their locker rooms to the press. One wonders how quickly they’ll rescind that order once the virus is controlled (assuming it is).

In other Dodgers’ news, Corey Seager says he’s feeling better than he has since his Rookie of the Year season of 2016.

Feb 24

Funniest story of Spring Training so far

Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name as recently as December.

From The Athletic:

One of the most famous pitchers in baseball has been competing in team-roping events under an alias for some time. Was he the Mason Saunders who competed alongside Colorado-based roper Tammy Ellerman in March of last year, two days before Bumgarner pitched for the Giants in a Cactus League game against the Athletics? “That was me, too,” Bumgarner said. Has “Saunders” won other events? “Yeah,” he said. “Maybe.”

[snip]

Bumgarner has been roping so long that “it’s just part of who you are,” he said Sunday. He learned the sport at 15 or 16 under the instruction of the man who became his father-in-law. (His brother-in-law also “rodeos full time during the summer,” the pitcher said.) He’s practiced roping on everything from a statue of a bull at Scottsdale’s Fashion Square Mall to Jeremy Affeldt’s patio furniture.

In other news, the Dodgers are atop the Cactus League with a 2 – 0 record.

Feb 09

Betts deal finally done

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan:

Catching prospect Connor Wong is headed to the Boston Red Sox alongside outfielder Alex Verdugo and shortstop Jeter Downs in the trade that will send outfielder Mookie Betts, starter David Price and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers, sources tell ESPN. Players have been notified.

Notice the Twins were left out of that deal. However, Passan also says

The trade that will send right-hander Kenta Maeda and cash to the Minnesota Twins for right-hander Brusdar Graterol and the 67th pick in the draft — which has around a $1 million slot value — has been agreed upon, source confirms to ESPN. @Ken_Rosenthal was first with the deal.

Here’s an interesting perspective:

The Dodgers turned Kyle Farmer, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig into Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs

Jeter Downs just got them Mookie Betts, they kept Josiah Gray and they also brought back Alex Wood