It is still possible — and now even seems likely — that there will be baseball in 2020, but there will be no joy.
There will be no expanded playoffs and there will be ire and outrage from fans of the sport fed up with the bewildering inability of Major League Baseball and its players not to find a level ground for labour harmony.
There will be disgruntled players and no doubt many who decide to take a pass on working for a fraction of their salaries in a world where the next exploding COVID-19 disaster lurks in almost any corner of America.
For all their stubbornness, owners won’t get the added post-season TV revenue they were hoping for and the short-term losses that were always going to happen when the sports world was shut down due to the global pandemic in March may pale to what lies ahead.
Baseball is in such a mess right now, a steamy one all of its own doing.
The latest blow came on Monday when the MLBPA did what most had expected and rejected a proposed last offer by MLB, a 60-game season with expanded playoffs, by a 33-5 vote.
Some three hours later, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred responded with a “play ball” decree, declaring that the league’s 30 owners had unanimously agreed to proceed with a 60-game season that would begin around July 26.
While at least there is resolution, it is so cloaked in bad feelings and distrust that there is little mood for celebration.
To make room for it to happen, MLB has requested the union to provide answers to two issues by 5 p.m. on Tuesday: That players can report to training camps by July 1, and that the union agree to recommended health and safety protocols.
Given the bitterness and distrust between the two sides, who knows what the union will do, however? After the league tabled its 60-game proposal last week, the players’ association countered with 70, but MLB refused to budge, leading to Monday’s showdown.
“The framework provided an opportunity for MLB and its players to work together to confront the difficulties and challenges presented by the pandemic,” the league said in a statement late Monday. “Needless to say we are disappointed by this development.”
The league is not alone in this view, of course.
Because of months of weak and immature negotiations, if a schedule does indeed come off it won’t be until days before the NHL playoffs begin and the NBA returns to action with games far deeper in meaning.
After a three-week spring training, one would expect that baseball will be met with indifference never before seen in the sport that loves to sell itself as America’s Pastime.
Rarely the voice of reason, outspoken Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer pretty much nailed it on his verified Twitter account Monday night.
“It’s absolute death for this industry to keep acting as it has been,” Bauer wrote shortly after the vote was announced and the league declared it was done negotiating.
“We’re driving the bus straight off a cliff. How is this good for anyone involved. COVID 19 already presented a lose lose lose situation and we’ve somehow found a way to make it worse. Incredible.”
We could all think of some more descriptive words than incredible, but let’s leave it at that for now.
As unfathomable as it is that the two sides couldn’t have come together and in fact be 10 days or so away from beginning a season as the first major sports league back in action, the future fallout may be even worse.
What will it do for free agency, where few would be surprised if players take a hammering over the next couple of seasons?
When and in what volume will fans return in 2021 and beyond?
And what about the looming need to negotiate a new CBA following that 2021 season?
Also off the table is a previously agreed-upon 16-team playoff format, one which certainly would have added excitement to a shorter schedule and perhaps especially so for a young, emerging Toronto Blue Jays team.
Once the schedule is set and the season is a go, players are expected to return to their home cities where they will be tested for COVID-19 and begin a three-week training camp. It is unclear where the Jays will prep for the season, given that their spring training facility in Dunedin is shut down and the Canada-U.S. border remains closed.
So now what? Expect plenty of poor feelings to go along with the uncertainty that awaits. Will some players opt not to play, citing health and safety concerns over the virus? Will the union file a grievance to further delay matters? Just how serious will a season of 50-60 games be taken by fans, and what place will it hold in the sport’s record books?
“While we had hoped to reach a revised back to work agreement with the league, the players remain fully committed to proceeding under our current agreement and getting back on the field for the fans, for the game and for each other,” the MLBPA said in its statement.
Just as the league did with its own release, the union was making its pitch for some public support. But like similar missives from the league, there is no sympathy for whatever side one picks.
Blue Jays’ Favourite Player: Mid Rotation Starter (Post-2000) – Bluebird Banter
After looking at the mid-rotation starters up to 2000 the other day, we move on the mid-rotation starters who joined the team for the 2000 season or later. This is a list of guys who had some pretty good seasons for the Blue Jays, and individually could have had seasons that push them into the #2 territory, but overall they just were not quite as good as the guys on that list.
Esteban Loaiza (2000-2002)
The Blue Jays added Loaiza prior to the trade deadline in 2000, in the ill-fated trade that sent Darwin Cubillan and future All Star Michael Young back to Texas. At the time of the trade, the Jays were 1.5 games back of first place, in possession of a very powerful offense (that was the year with 7 different players over 20 home runs), and had a few bright spots on the pitching staff but just needed a bit more. Loaiza came over and had a pretty good finish to his season (3.62 ERA over 92 innings), but that wasn’t enough to propel the Jays to the playoffs.
His next two seasons in Toronto weren’t as good, as he went 20-21 with a 5.33 ERA (116 ERA-), although his FIP suggests he was pitching much better than the results he was getting, putting up a 4.51 mark in 2001 and even better 4.19 in 2002 (98 FIP- total over the 2 seasons).
The season after Loaiza left the Jays, he had easily the best season of his career, when he went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA, finishing in second place to Roy Halladay. He was the starting pitcher for the AL in the All Star game that year too. But he was never that pitcher with the Jays. After his playing career was over, he has made a name for himself doing some not so great things.
Shaun Marcum (2005-2010)
The Jays drafted Marcum out of college in the third round of the 2003 draft, and he made his way to the Majors fairly quickly. He was in the bullpen as a September callup in 2005, and then spent the next couple years splitting time between the bullpen and rotation, picking up a 15-10 record and a 4.44 ERA.
He had a great season in 2008, making 25 starts and going 9-7 with a 3.39 ERA over 151.1 innings. However, after struggling to stay fully healthy throughout the second half of the season, he ended up blowing out his UCL in a September 16 start, and missed the entirety of the 2009 season as he recovered from Tommy John Surgery.
Fully recovered, Marcum took the ball for the Jays on opening day in 2010, and had another great season. He went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA over 195.1 innings, putting up 4.1 bWAR and a 3.5 fWAR. That December, the Blue Jays shipped him off to Milwaukee, bringing back Brett Lawrie in return.
J.A. Happ (2012-2014, 2016-2018)
The Blue Jays sent several players to Houston prior to the 2012 trade deadline, bringing back their prized haul in Happ. Happ made 50 starts and another 8 relief appearances in his first stint, going 19-20 with a 4.39 ERA. The Jays traded Happ away after the 2014 season, bringing back Michael Saunders from the Mariners.
The Mariners flipped him to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in 2015, and Happ revamped his game there. His success as a Pirate convinced the Jays to bring him back on a 3 year, $36m deal prior to the 2016 season.
Happ did not disappoint in his first season back, as he went 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA over 195.1 innings. He placed 6th in the Cy Young voting, and had some success in the playoffs that year too. He made just a pair of starts, allowing 3 runs over 10 innings, picking a win over the Rangers but a loss against Cleveland.
He was nearly as good his final year and a half as well, picking up another 20 wins for non-competitive teams, and completing his second stint as a Blue Jay with a 40-21 record and a 3.55 ERA. Overall, his entire Blue Jay career amounts to a 59-41 record with a 3.88 ERA, 11.1 fWAR and 10.6 bWAR.
Mark Buehrle (2013-2015)
The Blue Jays brought Buehrle and a host of other expensive Major Leaguers over from the Marlins in the ill-fated Jeff Mathis trade in November 2012. The future Hall of Famer ended up being the best player that came to Toronto, and the only one still left on the team when they clinched the playoff spot in 2015. Sadly, Buehrle was left off the postseason roster, as his season wound down and he was clearly out of gas.
Buehrle had a pretty strong 3 year run in Toronto. Overall, he went 40-28 with a 3.78 ERA over 604.1 innings. He crossed the 200 inning threshold in the first 2 seasons (and 14 consecutive in his career), but fell 4 outs short of that mark in 2015 as a last ditch effort on 1 day of rest resulted in 8 runs over 0.2 innings in game 162.
He threw 5 complete games and 2 shutouts in his 3 seasons here. In the 4 years since he left, the Jays have 0 shutouts and just 3 complete games – 2 by Marcus Stroman, and 1 by Ryan Feierabend, a 5 inning rain shortened loss that will stump you on a future Sporcle from Minor Leaguer.
Papa Buehrle was a great mentor the younger pitchers, specifically Stroman. He brought a love of the game and a strong work ethic to the clubhouse, and he was a veteran that you could actually see providing the coveted yet unmeasurable Veteran Presence.
R.A. Dickey (2013-2016)
After the Jays pulled off the Mathis trade, the Jays realized that they still had a hole at the top of their rotation, and they traded for the reigning 2012 NL Cy Young winner. This Cy Young winner was a bit different though, as the 38 year old knuckleballer had just started coming into his own, and obviously wasn’t your typical overpowering ace. Nonetheless, Alex Anthopoulos pulled the trigger on the trade to send future ace Noah Syndergaard and top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud back to the Mets.
The charismatic Dickey had a solid few years in Toronto, overall putting up a 49-52 record with a 4.05 ERA across 130 starts. He was also the 2013 AL Gold Glover winner on the mound, showing that he had some defensive value as well. That amounted to a 7.1 bWAR, but that also doesn’t account for the -2.0 bWAR that his personal catcher, Josh Thole, provided the Jays in that time too.
When the Jays finally made it to the playoffs in 2015, Dickey was right there making the start in game 4 of the ALDS against the Rangers, pitching 4.2 innings while allowing just 1 run. He didn’t fare nearly as well against the Royals in the ALCS however, lasting just 1.2 innings in game 4 while allowing 5 runs to kick off a 14-2 loss. Dickey was around in 2016, but was shut down in September and never made the playoff roster.
Marco Estrada (2015-2018)
The Jays traded fan favourite first baseman/designated hitter Adam Lind to the Brewers prior to the 2015 season to bolster their pitching depth with Marco Estrada. Estrada was meant to go to the bullpen and provide a backup plan if there were holes in the rotation, but mainly be a swingman jumping between the bullpen and rotation as needed. After a month in the bullpen, he made his first start on May 5, and never pitched out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays again.
Estrada and his incredible changeup had some remarkable starts for the Blue Jays, with his best regular season effort coming on June 24 in Tampa Bay. He was perfect through 7 innings, ultimately making it 8.2 innings of 2 hits, no walks or runs, and 10 strikeouts. His ability to limit hits was incredible, and he led the league in hits allowed per 9 innings in both 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately back problems plagued a lot of his time with the Blue Jays, and he was never able to pitch more than 186 innings in any of his 4 seasons.
But he certainly was healthy when it came time for the playoffs. He pitched some of the biggest games for the Jays, including staving off elimination with gems in both game 3 of the 2015 ALDS, and game 5 of the 2015 ALCS. Over 41.2 playoff innings with the Jays, Estrada allowed just 10 earned runs on 29 hits, good enough for a 2.16 ERA. And when he was on, he made batters look absolutely foolish at the plate. (<— you want to click this link)
Who was your favourite post-2000s mid rotation starter?
365 votes total
NHL, players’ association reach tentative agreement on protocols to resume season
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed Sunday on protocols to resume the season, a major step toward the return of hockey this summer.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press there was an agreement on protocols for training camps and games and the sides are still negotiating an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which is crucial to the process.
A person with knowledge of the situation said the return-to-play protocols would only go into effect if each side votes to approve the full package of the CBA extension and return-to-play agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because CBA talks are still ongoing.
To complete a return, two-thirds of the league’s board of governors and majorities of the players’ executive committee and full membership must vote in favour.
If everything is ratified, it will end a pandemic-forced shutdown that began in mid-March. Games would resume in late July or early August with 24 teams taking part in an expanded playoffs, finishing with the Stanley Cup being awarded in October.
The agreement was first reported by TSN.
The 47 pages of protocols outline the health and safety measures the league and players agreed to after several weeks of negotiations. Any player has until 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday to notify his team if he’s choosing to opt out of participating in training camp and games, with an additional deadline expected after ratification of the agreement.
For those playing, each team is limited to 30 skaters and an unlimited amount of goaltenders for camp and total roster of up to 31 players for games. Each team is limited to 52 personnel in its game city, a group that must include two trainers, a doctor and compliance officer in addition players, coaches and management.
They are expected to be quarantined from the general public during play at least for the qualifying and first two traditional playoff rounds. Family members will be permitted to join when play is moved to one city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.
All team and league employees plus hotel, restaurant and arena staff coming in contact with players will be tested daily in the two “hub” cities.
One player’s positive coronavirus test result is not expected to shut down play entirely. The league has said it would isolate any player or staff member who tests positive, acknowledging an outbreak would threaten the remainder of the season.
“The players will be pretty well-protected from being exposed,” Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said during a conference call in June. “It’s going to be a completely different way for you all and us watching hockey and being around a team because players will be really well protected throughout the process.”
The protocols include a provision for Commissioner Gary Bettman in consultation with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr to postpone, delay or cancel games in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Assuming the protocols are approved, teams are expected to open training camps July 13 before travelling to the two hub cities for games. Players have been able to skate and train off-ice in voluntary, small-group workouts since June 8 — nearly three months after hockey was halted March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.
Returning for the playoffs is seen as a stirring victory for the NHL, which like other top leagues faced the prospect of losing millions more without the television revenue tied to the post-season. There were deep concerns about cancelling the rest of the season and word of positive tests didn’t help: 26 players since June 8, in addition to almost a dozen before that.
Boston defenceman Matt Grzelcyk called the positive test results “eye-opening” but expected. A few players expressed concerns in recent weeks about the uncertainty surrounding a return.
“We have obviously a unique situation right now,” Montreal goaltender Carey Price said. “The NHL and the NHLPA are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. Moving forward I’d like to play, but we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of scenarios that need to be covered.”
If the protocols and an CBA extension cover those scenarios for enough owners and players, there will be a path forward to hand out the Stanley Cup. Only twice since 1893 has the Cup not been awarded: in 1919, when the final couldn’t be completed because of the Spanish flu pandemic, and 2005 when the season was wiped out by a lockout.
NHL, NHLPA tentatively agree on protocols to resume play as CBA talks continue – Sportsnet.ca
The NHL and NHLPA have tentatively agreed on protocols to resume play, Sportsnet can confirm. The two sides continue to negotiate an extension to the collective bargaining agreement.
Once a CBA extension is agreed upon, the NHL’s board of governors and the full membership of the NHLPA will vote on both the extension and the return-to-play protocols that were agreed to on Sunday.
The newly agreed-upon protocols cover Phase 3 and 4 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, this includes a framework for how the return-to-play would be called off if the COVID-19 virus cannot be contained.
Similar wording exists for Phase 4
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 6, 2020
According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, the return-to-play protocols include an opt-out clause for any player that does not want to resume play this season without penalty. He adds that coaches will not be required to wear face coverings on the bench during games and no dress code will be imposed upon players on game day.
NHL teams will have no dress code in effect during Phase 4.
Finally, @ShawnMcKenzieSN gets his wish and he won’t be able to see what threads players choose when not required to wear a suit to games.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 6, 2020
Friedman also reports that the return-to-play protocols include a framework for how the league’s two hub cities will be enforced.
“Individuals leaving… without permission may be subject to consequences up to and including removal,” Friedman reports the agreement as saying, adding “violations… will result in, for clubs, significant penalties, potentially including fines and/or loss of draft choices.”
Additionally, Friedman reports that all players will undergo “a Pre-Participation Medical Examination.” If the doctor administring the exam and the team’s infectious disease expert determine a player is unfit to return to play due to the “substantial risk of developing a serious illness” from COVID-19, that player may seek a second opinion.
In the event a Player is diagnosed with a confirmed positive finding for COVID-19 (or has a resulting and/or related illness)…the Player shall be deemed to have sustained an illness arising out of the course of his employment as a hockey player for such period as he may…(1/3)
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 6, 2020
In May, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to a framework for what return to play would look like and the two sides have been negotiating finer details ever since. The return-to-play format will see 24 teams return to the ice in two hub cities, each hosting one conference. The top four teams in each conference by points percentage at the time of the season pause in March will play each other to determine playoff seeding. The next eight teams in each conference have been paired up based on points percentage and will play best-of-five series to determine the other playoff spots.
The NHL initially was considering 10 cities to be hubs for these games, with Edmonton and Toronto expected to be chosen.
The NHL’s return plan has been broken down into four stages. Phase 1 began shortly after the season was suspended and saw all team facilities closed and players allowed to return home. Phase 2 began June 8 and is ongoing, with players allowed to return to team facilities to skate in small groups after testing negative for COVID-19. According to the NHL, from June 8 to 29, more than 250 players were tested under Phase 2 protocols and 15 tested positive. Additionally, 11 players tested positive outside of Phase 2 protocols in that same time period.
Phase 3 of the return plan would cover training camps for the returning teams and eventual travel to the hub cities while Phase 4 would cover playing games. Specific dates for the beginning of these phases won’t be determined until the CBA negotiation is complete and the board of governors and NHLPA membership approve the plans and CBA in a vote.
With files from The Associated Press
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