It’s been almost fifteen long and painful weeks since Spring Training abruptly came to a halt, as the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the United States. What we’ve seen during that time has been quite remarkable, for reasons good, bad and ugly. Let’s recap…
On the bright side, baseball fans all over the globe have enjoyed an unprecedented level of interest in Asian baseball leagues – initially in Taiwan (CPBL), then in Korea (KBO), and most recently in Japan (NPB). Fans have enjoyed watching former big leaguers prolong their careers, or those simply look for a stepping stone that may ultimately reward them with further big league opportunities somewhere down the track.
In Taiwan, Lisalverto Bonilla (5-1, 3.03 ERA) who has previously played for the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds, is having a strong season in a ridiculously offensive-friendly league, while Ryan Carpenter (4-2, 3.21 ERA), formerly of the Detroit Tigers, is also pitching well.
Meanwhile, in Korea, Mel Rojas Jr (1.139 OPS, 14 HR, 40 RBI) who spent seven years bouncing around the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves’ minor leagues, has had stunning success with the KT Wiz. Preston Tucker, Dan Straily, Aaron Brooks and Drew Rucinski are others who lead a strong contingent of former pros from the United States.
And finally, in Japan, Adam Jones (1.015 OPS, 1 HR) has made a strong start with the Orix Buffaloes through their first four games. Among others featuring in the NPB this season are Gerardo Parra, Hisashi Iwakuma, Tyler Austin, Justin Bour and Alcides Escobar.
Here’s the footage of Adam Jones’ first #NPB home run – a 449 ft bomb! pic.twitter.com/PftP0n7T9s
— Dan (@DanClarkSports) June 23, 2020
The disastrous ‘negotiations’ between MLB and the MLBPA are probably lucky to feature in this category – they quite well could have found themselves in ‘The Ugly’ below and would have had it not been for some foul-mouthed big leaguers in recent weeks. Anyway, I digress…
The debacle we’ve seen from both of these organizations these past few months has been nothing short of embarrassing, and most of my rage is targeted at the the 30 owners and Rob Manfred. Tony Clark and the MLBPA are not innocent in this either, though, as they too played a significant role in tarnishing MLB’s brand on an almost unrivaled scale.
The unwillingness to lead, compromise, and find a middle ground has been truly bizarre for something played out in such a public nature, and at times, the bitter bickering back-and-forth was nothing short of embarrassing. Fans and players alike have seen straight through MLB’s stall and delay tactics from the start, enough to make you think Manfred was bathing in Windex. Their ultimate aim, to reduce the number of games and in-turn limit financial losses, may have ultimately proven ‘successful’, however the reputational damage done along the way will haunt the game for years to come. Fans are disengaged and many casual fans will walk away in search of other pastimes.
Oh, and let’s not forget the foolishness of both parties who decided to leak updates and negotiate through the media… Not only was this completely unprofessional and unethical, it was also insulting to the millions of fans who love the game and were forced to watch it play out like the 55th season of Days of Our Lives. Jerks.
They're arguing over 10 fucking games.
— Dan (@DanClarkSports) June 18, 2020
It takes a lot to trump (speaking of ugly – see what I did there?) the sour dispute between MLB and the MLBPA, however the behavior of some current and former big leaguers on social media these past few months has been nothing short of ignominious.
While I strongly backed the #TellUsWhenAndWhere movement and usually love pro athletes speaking out candidly, there comes a point where they really ought to just shut their pieholes. The constant bickering and who’s got a bigger dick contest is not a good look, for either the athlete themselves or the organization they’re affiliated with, and this week’s feud between Trevor Bauer/Marcus Stroman and Aubrey Huff/Curt Schilling has taken online feuds to new heights.
For the record, I (along with 99% of the population) are siding with current stars Bauer and Stroman, however they really need to pause, reflect, and grasp an understanding of who they’re arguing with and what those individuals stand for, then realize it’s best to just look the other way – let them assassinate their own reputations themselves…
"Attention is all you crave."
Also Aubrey Huff:
Wears an Aubrey Huff t-shirt. pic.twitter.com/EeXAC4okxI
— Dan (@DanClarkSports) June 23, 2020
Ok, for those yet to catch up on the latest developments, MLB and the MLBPA have finally agreed to terms and we’re set for baseball real soon – how exciting! Here’s all you need to know:
- Players report to Spring Training camps on 1st July
- Players to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival
- Players to be tested every other day thereafter
- 60 game regular season
- Opening Day 23rd or 24th July
- 40 games against its divisional rivals
- 20 games against the opposite league’s corresponding geographical division
- Games to be played at home ballparks
- The DH rule will be used in both the AL and NL
- The trade dealing will be 31st August
- Extra-innings games will see runners start the inning on second base
- 10 teams to qualify for playoffs
- Extensive COVID-19 safety procedures mandatory for all players and staff
- Players to be paid full pro-rata of their 2020 salary (based on games played)
Ok, I think that pretty much sums it all up. As for me, I have some training to do of my own, or else I’ll probably find myself in the ER come Opening Day…
When MLB returns I'm going to do the 9/9/9 challenge on opening day – 9 beers and 9 hotdogs, in 9 innings. There'll be video.
— Dan (@DanClarkSports) May 12, 2020