Good morning, Athletics Nation!
One feature of the upcoming 2020 MLB season is that players have the right to opt out entirely, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Those who are deemed medically high-risk by team doctors will still receive their salaries and service time, but everyone else is also allowed to sit out with no questions asked — albeit also with no pay or service time.
Monday brought word of the first players to exercise that opt-out, including the following four names:
- RHP Mike Leake, D’Backs
- RHP Joe Ross, Nationals
- 1B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
- OF Ian Desmond, Rockies
Leake was the first whose intentions were made public, by insider Steve Gilbert. Zimmerman and Ross were reported later, by Mark Zuckerman of MASN and Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic. Desmond made his announcement himself, in a lengthy and deeply personal post on Instagram. He concluded by saying:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk that I am not comfortable taking ... With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now. Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys’ questions about Coronavirus, Civil Rights and life. Home to be their dad.”
Zimmerman also wrote publicly on the matter, in a diary entry at the Associated Press last week:
“If you’re going to participate, there are rules you have to follow. The ‘bubble’ is only as good as the people inside of the ‘bubble.’ It’s not like there’s going to be COVID police on our hotel floors. So it will come down to the players and everyone involved and what they do with each and every second of their day. When you start thinking about it like that, it starts becoming a little more complicated.”
The Nationals made it clear there are no hard feelings toward their two players: “We are one hundred percent supportive of [Zimmerman and Ross’] decision to not play this year,” the team said in a tweet.
Leake and Desmond were each set to earn $15 million this year, or a little over $5 million prorated for the shortened season, driving home how seriously they take the situation. Zimmerman was making much less in the final year of a team-friendly veteran hometown discount deal, but Ross is still in his arbitration years and will now have to wait longer to reach free agency.
In addition to this player news, the Twins are sidelining two of their coaches, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The team determined that it’s not safe for bullpen coach Bob McClure or major league coach* Bill Evers to participate due to their age and medical histories, so they will not allow the pair to work games.
* That’s his official title, “major league coach.”
There are still more than three weeks to go before Opening Day, which leaves plenty of time for more players and coaches to step aside or be ruled out. As fans, the important things for us to do are respect their decisions and accept that they don’t owe us any explanation if they don’t want. Stay safe and be well, AN community.
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- Today in Baseball History
Best of Twitter:
This year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues. Learn more at TippingYourCap.com
Today I’m tipping my hat to all the giants in the Negro Leagues, from Satchel Paige to Toni Stone and so many others. Their brave example, first set 100 years ago, changed America’s pastime for the better––opening it up for new generations of players and fans alike. pic.twitter.com/05jWocKs17— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 29, 2020
Oakland briefly had a Negro League team, the Larks
Trailblazing in the Town.— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 29, 2020
We tip our cap to the Oakland Larks and join the baseball world in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. https://t.co/kbql71NN7U#TipYourCap2020 pic.twitter.com/LS3tIWrmbc
Bay Bridge Series after all?
Giants and A's in talks about playing at least two exhibitions before season starts, according to Farhan Zaidi.— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) June 29, 2020
Monday was a big anniversary for Stew