Category Archives: MLB

Angels will furlough non-playing employees on June 1

Count the Angels among the businesses that have succumbed to the financial stresses caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The team will initiate furloughing some non-playing employees in June. The affected group includes members of the player development support staff, minor league coaches and coordinators, and most scouts. All will continue to receive healthcare benefits and have access to a new employee assistance fund, into which the Angels will deposit $1 million for grants.

“We, like businesses throughout the United States, are making difficult decisions to protect our long-term stability,” Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said in a statement. The Angels last month pledged to pay their full-time employees through May. So did most of the 30 teams, including the high-revenue Dodgers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and World Series champion Washington Nationals.

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But the insecurity surrounding a potential return to play in both the major and minor leagues, combined with two months’ worth of revenue losses caused by the lack of regular season games, has forced teams to reconsider their business model heading into June. The Miami Marlins will furlough 40% of their baseball operations staff.

The Cincinnati Reds declared they would furlough at least 25% of their employees effective June 1.

The Tampa Bay Rays were the first to implement aggressive cost-cutting measures, putting some employees on furlough and cutting the pay of others in late April.

The Seattle Mariners chose to avoid layoffs and furloughs. Starting June 1 and extending through October, the Mariners will cut by at least 20% the salaries of baseball operations and field staff employees who make $60,000 or more a year.

The New York Mets applied similar salary cuts for their non-playing full-time employees — with the stipulation the cuts might be extended if the season is not played. The major point of contention is MLB’s proposal of a 50-50 revenue-sharing plan between players and teams.

Players would be forced to take a larger pay cut than the one they previously agreed to — players and teams decided in March salaries would be prorated.

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Yankees didn’t expect Aaron Judge back from rib injury until summer

The wait until Aaron Judge is given a clean bill of health remains. 

On a charity video call Thursday morning, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman revealed that despite growing optimism regarding the slugger’s return, he never expected Judge to be back in game shape until the “summertime.” 

“I always felt it was more likely that we wouldn’t see Judge until the summertime,” the GM explained as reporters like Brendan Kuty of NJ.com listened in.

Cashman’s appearance on the Zoom call benefited Family Centers’ Emergency Family Assistance Fund, as all proceeds will go to providing financial relief to Fairfield County residents affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Judge was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib in early-March, an injury believed to date back to a diving catch attempt in September of last season. Pain in Judge’s right shoulder and pectoral muscle was first reported to the team just before Spring Training started.

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It was later revealed Judge had since recovered from a collapsed lung – an additional setback believed to have been sustained on that fateful play in the outfield last fall.

Judge confirmed he had fully recouped from the pneumothorax midway through March.

The right fielder was forced to sit out all of New York’s Grapefruit League schedule, barely participating in Spring Training workouts. Since MLB’s coronavirus-induced shutdown started, shortly after his cracked rib was diagnosed, the star has remained in Tampa rehabbing at the Yankees’ facility.

He was quickly ruled out for Opening Day, but with the season pushed back due to COVID-19, skipper Aaron Boone was “hopeful” the former Rookie of the Year Award winner could be ready.  Evidently this rare injury is on a longer timetable than the organization and fans alike had hoped. Then again, with MLB’s latest proposal calling for an Opening Day on July 1, the GM isn’t completely ruling out Judge’s readiness as his rib continues to heal. 

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Owners approve MLB season proposal, plan for July start

Major League Baseball owners accepted a proposal that commissioner Rob Manfred plans to present to players Tuesday on a return-to-play scenario that aims to have baseball back in home stadiums by early July, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.

The meeting between MLB and the MLB Players Association on Tuesday will set the stage for what both parties expect to be a contentious negotiation.

Although MLB could benefit long-term from being the first American team sport to return amid the coronavirus pandemic, the logistics of beginning the season remain convoluted and require player support. Money is at the heart of the return, sources said.

Owners, fearful of deep financial losses with fan-free stadiums, agreed in a conference call Monday afternoon to a plan that includes a 50-50 revenue split with the players, sources told ESPN.

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Concerns about the league’s handling of testing and ensuring as safe a working environment as possible will be an issue broached by players on Tuesday and in the coming days, sources told ESPN.

Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle took to social media Monday to set that table.

As the sides are negotiating, the league will continue to seek consent from governmental entities and support from the medical community for a potential return.

The season could begin Fourth of July weekend, with games around the country in home stadiums. The intra-division-heavy schedule would be to limit travel, with teams possibly traveling by bus to nearby cities.

If any ballpark is not available because state or local officials have not approved the resumption of play, Manfred has told owners that he is prepared to move that team to another city to play home games, a team owner and a team president told ESPN.

Spring training likely would not include any matches, and teams could get ready for the season at their home stadiums. The 50 players available would be a mixture of major leaguers and top minor league players, with the minor league season in jeopardy.

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Yankees to have scan, but Aaron Boone upbeat

Aaron Judge is still not out of the woods yet regarding the fractured rib discovered during spring training, according to a source.

The right fielder is scheduled for another CT scan this month and the injury continues to heal.

The Yankees hope to see continued improvement, but while Judge expressed optimism about an early return after the injury was uncovered, the organization thinks he would be out until June or July.

The time frame may prove to be immaterial, since the delay to the start of the regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made the possibility of any matches prior to then extremely unlikely.

In the meantime, Judge’s rib “continues to heal” and the source stated there had been no setbacks.

There remains no formal plan for Major League Baseball to return after the sport was shut down by the coronavirus.

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At the time the injuries — the rib fracture and a punctured lung — were discovered, Judge indicated he expected to be out at least through March. Both injuries are believed to have been suffered on a diving play in right field in September.

The other injured Yankees who may have missed extended part of the regular campaign had it started on time are doing well, Boone said.

Giancarlo Stanton has recovered from the strained calf that sidelined him during the spring and Boone thinks “he should be good to go whenever we get ready to go back.”

Aaron Hicks, who underwent Tommy John surgery following last year’s playoffs, figures to be out until June or July, but Boone had encouraging news on the center fielder.

“He’s doing well,’’ Boone said of the switch hitter. “He’s already doing soft toss from both sides of the plate and throwing 90-plus feet. He’s trending in a really good direction.”

“His rehab has gone really, really well,’’ Boone said.

In the meantime, Boone said he continues to check in on his players and is convinced they will be prepared for whatever this unusual season might have in store.

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Latest hearing on when could MLB actually start

Over the past two weeks, as states have started to plan their reopenings, nearly everyone along the decision-making continuum — league officials, players, union leaders, owners, doctors, politicians, TV power brokers, team executives — has grown increasingly optimistic that there will be baseball this year, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The season could still take many forms with games starting in front of empty stadiums still very likely when play does reopen.

Major League Baseball and its players are increasingly focused on a plan that could allow them to start the season as early as May and has the support of high-ranking federal public health officials who believe the league can safely operate amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN.

The plan, sources said, would dictate that all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields.

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Players, coaching staff and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium, sources said. Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Institutes of Health have been supportive of a plan that would adhere to strict isolation, promote social distancing and allow MLB to become the first professional sport to return.

Rob Manfred said after a conference call with all 30 teams that Major League Baseball will push back Opening Day until mid-May at the earliest after the federal government recommended restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

There are folks at the team level who think that a return in June might be possible but, in the end, may be an optimistic projection.

The realities of the federal and state main directions and the calendar of baseball preparation supports that: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just recommended having no crowds of greater than 50 for the next eight weeks — and assuming that MLB and the players’ association would respect that direction (and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t), that would mean that spring training wouldn’t resume until mid-May, at the earliest.

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Red Sox remove interim tag from manager Ron Roenicke’s title

Ron Roenicke is no longer the “interim” manager of the Boston Red Sox. He’s now Mr. Manager — or as they call it in MLB, just the manager.

The team lifted the interim tag from Roenicke’s title Wednesday after MLB released its report on the 2018 Red Sox sign-stealing scandal. Roenicke was elevated to interim manager when Alex Cora and the team parted ways after Cora was outed as the mastermind of the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal, and Boston chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained the temporary interim tag on a conference call on Wednesday night.

“At the time that we named Ron interim manager, we explained the interim tag was necessary in order for us to respect that there was an ongoing investigation,” said Bloom. “Obviously, with that investigation complete and given the results of the investigation, that interim tag is removed and Ron is now our manager.”

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That investigation did not find any Red Sox coaches of players responsible, outing Boston’s replay operator J.T. Watkins was the main culprit. He has been banned through the 2020 season, and cannot return to his role as Boston’s replay room operator until after the 2021 season.

Roenicke is now the 48th manager in Red Sox history.

He is working on a one-year contract that expires after the 2020 season, Bloom said Wednesday night.

While there are theories that Cora may return to the Boston bench after serving his one-year suspension — which was handed down Wednesday for his action with the Astros in 2017 — Bloom said Roenick will get a chance to earn an extension this season.

Roenicke is a well-respected baseball man and well-liked in the Boston clubhouse. He served as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011-15, posting a 342-331 record over that span.

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MLB can layoff coaches, managers starting May 1

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has made a move that permits teams to lay off or cut the pay of major and minor league managers, coaches, trainers and full-time scouts beginning May 1.

Manfred has suspended uniform employee contracts that cover about 9,000 people, including general managers on some teams. Manfred cited the inability to play games due to the national emergency caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.

”Our clubs rely heavily on revenue from tickets/concessions, broadcasting/media, licensing and sponsorships to pay salaries,” Manfred wrote in an email Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. ”In the absence of games, these revenue streams will be lost or substantially reduced, and clubs will not have sufficient funds to meet their financial obligations.”

”The impact of the suspension of the UEC on your personal employment situation will be determined by your club,” Manfred stated.

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Arizona, Atlanta, Boston, the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, Minnesota, the New York Yankees, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Toronto are among the teams that have committed to paying full-time employees through May, and Miami will pay full-time baseball operations staff through the month.

The Cubs will pay those on UECs and front-office staff through their May 29 paychecks, and Detroit said it has no plans for layoffs or furloughs.

Major League Rule 3(i) demands that UECs must be signed by all managers, coaches, trainers and salaried scouts, and some teams include additional baseball operations staff.

”Pursuant to the terms of the UEC, the club’s exclusive right to your services will remain in effect during the period of the suspension such that you will not be permitted to perform services for any other club,” Manfred wrote. ”I fully recognize the hardship that this health crisis creates for all members of the baseball community. Central baseball and the clubs are doing everything possible to try to minimize this impact for as many employees as possible.”

Manfred stated the Baseball Assistance Team charitable organization ”is available to consider grant applications on an expedited basis for those facing significant and immediate financial hardship.”

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Arizona willing to host all 30 MLB teams at ‘right time’, governor says

Arizona governor Doug Ducey has come out in support of MLB’s potential plan of playing this season primarily in empty spring training ballparks in his state at the time public health concerns authorize.

MLB and the players’ association have discussed starting this campaign with all 30 major league teams based in the Phoenix area, where there are 10 spring training parks plus the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, which has a retractable roof, and several college facilities.

The plan would be contingent upon receiving the go-ahead from federal, state and local governments.

“Arizona, at the right time, is very open-minded to hosting whatever Major League Baseball would like from the state,” Ducey stated on Tuesday.

“At the time it would be appropriate for public health, if Arizona were in a position to reopen, we have the facilities that are here.”

MLB also said Tuesday it is cutting the salary of senior staff by an average of 35% for this year due to the new coronavirus’ impact on the season.

MLB is guaranteeing paychecks to its full-time employees of its central office through May.

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With no clarity on when the shutdown will end, players and staff intently follow the daily developments.

Ducey said he has spoken with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred about the all-Arizona option.

“There’s a number of different scenarios,” Ducey said. “I think the first scenario that was talked about was the idea of these clubs coming, being in hotels and in a way, having their own stay-at-home orders whether it either be at the hotel, or inside the stadium, without fans. It’s something that Arizona is open minded to, and I’m open-minded to.”

Many players and staff are worried about the potential of a long absence from family while sequestered.

Minnesota catcher Mitch Garver wondered how the plan would work,

“Where do we live? Who’s allowed to come with us? Are we only allowed to go to the field and back to the hotel? What kind of hotel? What kind of accommodations are we working with? Is there going to be meal money?” he said. “Then you get into player health, and we’re talking about playing in 120 degree weather on spring training fields potentially living out of a visiting locker room.”

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Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner dies after lengthy illness

Hank Steinbrenner, a Yankees general partner and the oldest of late owner George Steinbrenner’s four children, died in Florida on Tuesday after a long illness, according to multiple reports.

Although the precise cause of death is not known, Hank Steinbrenner’s death was not related to coronavirus, according to the New York Post. He was 63.

Hank Steinbrenner and his brother, Hal, took control of the Yankees when their aging father stepped aside in 2007. Hank took a lesser role in recent years while Hal teamed with team president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman in making executive decisions.

“Hank was a genuine and gentle spirit who treasured the deep relationships he formed with those closest to him,” a statement issued by the Steinbrenner family said. “He was introduced to the Yankees organization at a very young age, and his love for sports and competition continued to burn brightly throughout his life. Hank could be direct and outspoken, but in the very same conversation show great tenderness and light-heartedness. More than anything, he set an example for all of us in how comfortably he lived enjoying his personal passions and pursuits. We are profoundly saddened to have lost him and will carry his memory with us always.”

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Hank Steinbrenner was also the minority partner of Steinbrenner Racing.

Hank Steinbrenner had four children, but was divorced.

While Steinbrenner mostly remained behind the scenes in recent years, he was known for his brashness when talking with reporters. In 2008, he took issue with the phrase “Red Sox Nation.”

“Red Sox Nation? What a bunch of bulls—t that is…That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans…Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order,” he told ESPN.

He got involved in a feud with the Tampa Bay Rays and was unnerved when Chien-Ming Wang injured himself in an interleague match while running the bases.

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Ex-Cardinal Mark Hamilton finishes medical school, set to fight virus

On Friday, under an accelerated schedule prompted by dire circumstances, the former big leaguer is set to graduate a month early from medical school on Long Island.

Next stop for the rookie doc, the firsthand fight against the coronavirus pandemic in one of the world’s hardest-hit areas.

“I could get the call tomorrow, that it’s time to go in,” Hamilton stated this week. “I have had an incredible journey to becoming a doctor over the last four years, and not once did I think that I would find myself entering the field in a time like this.”

“Over both my careers, it’s the same thing. You’ve got a job to do, you’re needed, do them to the best of your ability,” he said.

The 35-year-old Hamilton spent the first half of the 2011 campaign with the Cardinals. He subbed for slugger Albert Pujols a few times and even got a winning hit that ultimately helped St. Louis squeeze into the playoffs by one game.

The left-handed hitter who played 47 games in the majors will join another lineup once he leaves the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

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“That’s a great story, what Mark’s done. That’ll be a high point at this period,” said Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, Hamilton’s manager with the Cards.

Hamilton comes from a family that has accomplished success on and off the field.

His brother played soccer in college, his sister is a top equestrian. His grandfather was a basketball star in the forerunner of the NBA.

Hamilton’s father, Stanley, was the longtime head of pathology and laboratory medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He presently holds the same position at the City of Hope center in Southern California.

“My dad jokes that the athletic ability skipped a generation,” Hamilton said.

A 6-foot-4 power hitter, Hamilton helped Tulane reach the 2005 College World Series. The next year, he was a second-round draft pick by the Cardinals.

“Good size, live bat, good pop,” La Russa remembered. “Good intelligence. He knew what was going on.”

In September 2010, Hamilton got the call to the majors and posted his first two hits. In 2011, he stayed with St. Louis almost all the way to the All-Star break, mostly as a pinch hitter.

Hamilton’s highlight came on July 4 before a big crowd at Busch Stadium. Batting for ace Chris Carpenter with two outs and a runner on third in the eighth inning of a scoreless match, his infield single off Johnny Cueto gave the Cardinals a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati.

After nine productive pro seasons that included over 100 home runs in the minors, he was released in July 2014, three days before his 30th birthday.

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