Major League Baseball is trying to get their season underway with players reporting to camp this week to get ready for a 60-game schedule, which will began late-July.
While most players are planning to report and try to play this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, others have opted out of the season for their health, or other family concerns. Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond belongs to the group of players that will not play this season, but his absence goes far deeper than simply due to health concerns.
Desmond, who is mixed race, posted a nine-page explanation to Instagram for why he won’t playing baseball this season. The main message Desmond articulates is that baseball is failing minorities.
Ever since George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a police officer on May 25th, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained widespread traction. Protests have become commonplace around the country, as the fight for racial equality and the end to police brutality have become the primary concern for many.
In not playing this season, Desmond is using his platform to protest the injustices he sees in the game he has played professionally for over a decade.
Desmond recently returned to his old little league fields in Sarasota, FL and found them in terrible condition. The game that was made available to Desmond at a young age that he used to prosper and grow, is no longer offered to lower-income families from his hometown.
Instead travel baseball has become the main path towards being able to play the game, which is an organization that caters to wealthy families that can afford the cost of traveling all across the state and country.
Desmond is planning on channeling his energies over the coming months to helping youth baseball flourish again in his hometown. He also spoke of his desire to be there for his family, as his wife is pregnant and he has four young kids at home.
As it relates to game of baseball, Desmond hopes that the MLB will look to grow the game so that it is available to minorities and kids from all walks of life. He also hopes to see more diversity at the top of the sport, in front offices and managers.
Rockies fans may miss Desmond on the field this season, but it is clear that he has made the right decision for him, his family and his community.
Major League Baseball Owners Ain’t Paying The Five by Scott Lewis
“I Ain’t Paying The Five!” Martin Lawrence said on his legendary 90s sitcom “Martin” when his landlord, Mr. Lopez raised the rent by 5%. Martin proceeded to boycott the rent increase, and it brought on a zigzag with Mr. Lopez, leading to the heat being turned off in a blizzard with his wife Gina and friends Tommy, Pam, and Cole wanting Martin’s head when they found out that 5% was just $5.
Major League Baseball fans can relate to the same anger that Martin’s friends felt by seeing franchises they’re supporting crying broke when they’re not spending money on high-priced free agents.
There’s a lot of problems with MLB in 2021. The league has the lowest fan interest among the three major American sports; the lack of black players and MLB refusing to market the few black superstars they have.
We’ve been in a global pandemic for almost one year, and it’s starting to affect MLB, which lost up to $3 billion in 2020. Attendance which was already declining year after year, was a non-factor last season as the only objects sitting in the seats were cardboard cut-ups. Team owners will tell you these are the reasons why they’re not spending money in this current 2021 offseason, but that’s a lie.
In 2018 two of the most prized free agents in MLB history, Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and the Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper were ready to hit the open market. Fans worldwide were eager to see one or both of the superstars end up on their team.
Oddly that was not the case, as many owners didn’t even meet with the two superstars. A stand-off would ensue amongst the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Phillies eventually cracked and signed Bryce Harper to a thirteen-year $330 million deal with no opt-outs. The San Diego Padres became the surprise team who would steal Machado from the White Sox to a ten-year $300 million contract.
Growing up as a DIE HARD White Sox fan on the South Side of Chicago, the Padres stealing Machado from them was frustrating when I found out the contract’s difference was $25 million. To the average hard-working person, $25 million is generation changing, but a billion-dollar sports franchise like the White Sox, its mere pennies.
The White Sox took that $25 million that Machado wanted and gave it to Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay instead of doing something smarter and paying Machado. These negotiation tactics to not spend money are the frustrations of fans and teams worldwide. Now, the whole offseason game is a competition to see who can pay the least amount of money and still compete.
There are multiple models of this, such as the tradition of holding young prospects down in the minor leagues for an extra year even if they’re ready to play in the majors so they can keep an additional year of control on their contract. Players are irritated, as you saw, Kris Bryant’s case in 2015 when the Cubs held him back a few months to keep an extra year of contract control. The relationship between the Cubs and Bryant hasn’t improved six years later as Bryant heads into his final year under contract.
There are rare instances where a team will call up a new prospect without a contract as the Padres did with Fernando Tatís Jr. in 2019, but that is not the norm. The White Sox have one of the brightest young talented teams in the league and didn’t call up their prospects Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert until they both agreed to team-friendly deals that locked them in for the next six seasons. There’s a lot of things we can look at to blame this particular situation, but the number one problem is the new style of winning championships where you rely strictly on your farm system instead of spending money on ready-now talent. The Kansas City Royals were the first to start this method when they rebuilt in 2011 and won the World Series in 2015. The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros would follow this model by winning the World Series in 2016 and 2017, although the Astros cheated and that’s a story for another day.
We’ve seen three examples of that model working and another team like the White Sox trying to win with the same method. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of his generation, and he commented on the Cubs trading Yu Darvish earlier in the offseason in his interview with Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“There’s a lot of smart guys in front offices. Figure something out that’s easier to do than trading away a [star]. Just, for example, a potential Cy Young [Award winner] in [Yu] Darvish, who has been one of the top five pitchers in baseball for a year and a half, for prospects that could potentially be good, but they’re 17, 18 years old. And [Kyle] Davies is a great pitcher, but to me, that’s just not . . . For the Chicago Cubs to do that, it’s not good. It’s just not good.”
I loved what Kershaw said because it sums up the player’s and fans’ feelings about where the game is going and not paying these players the money they deserve. The Dodgers combine the two methods of having a great farm system and spending money like they did last year when they traded for former World Series Most Valuable Player, Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox gave up on a 27-year-old generational talent because they wanted to cut costs. The Red Sox are third on the Forbes list of most valuable major league franchise at a little over $3 billion, but they wanted to cut costs; it’s asinine. The Dodgers won the World Series last year and Mookie led the charge. The Dodgers turned up the heat this offseason by finalizing a three-year $102 million deal with the 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer as they attempt to repeat.
MLB has many problems, but until massive market teams start to pay the five, it will be hard to see interest in MLB get better, and that’s not good for anybody.
Noah Syndergaard Forced to Undergo Tommy John Surgery
The New York Mets were dealt with a devastating blown on Tuesday, when it was announced that star pitcher Noah Syndergaard will have to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Syndergaard will have the procedure on Thursday, effectively ending his season before it starts and even putting his status for the 2021 season into question as well.
The New York Mets are luckily covered to deal with Syndergaard’s injury, as they signed Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello to replace departed starting pitcher Zack Wheeler in free agency. With Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz already in place, the Mets still feature a five-man rotation.
Still, the ceiling of the Mets was tied to Syndergaard’s ability to be another ace next to the two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner in deGrom.
Now the Mets have to wonder when they will even get Syndergaard back on the mound, as it usually takes over a year for pitchers to return to full health after this surgery.
This injury could not come at a worse time for Syndergaard, as he is just two years away from becoming a free agent for the first time.
Now Syndergaard’s path to a potential nine-figure contract is likely far more uncertain than it would have been had he remained healthy and productive for the next two seasons.
New York Yankees Minor-League Affiliate Cancels ‘OJ Trial Night’
Minor league baseball teams will do anything to get fans to come out to the ballpark. Gimmicky promotional events drive people to come to these games, but not every idea is worth doing.
The New York Yankees Single-A affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs, made an ill-advised decision to host a “OJ Trail Night”. After receiving immediate backlash they have rightfully cancelled the event.
The RiverDogs have made a name for themselves in Charleston for their wacky promotions in the past. Back in 2002, they hosted a “Nobody Night”, where they did not allow fans into the ballpark until the sixth inning so that they could set a record for the lowest attendance at a game.
This latest promotion was made to give fans a “unique twist” on the most infamous murder trial of the 1990s.
According to the team’s website, the ‘OJ Trial Night’ was described as follows:
“The trial of the century gets a juicy new spin. We will finally receive the verdict that everyone has been waiting for … pulp or no pulp?
“Fans will act as our jury, voting with custom paddles to reach verdicts on various topics throughout the night. The eyes of the nation will be upon us. Fans will receive an “OJ Trial” shirt upon entering the stadium. If the shirt don’t fit, you must … see if we have a different size.”
Charleston’s PR staff completely missed the ball on this one, as they should have understood the backlash that would have come with making light of a murder trial.
Back in 1995, Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.
The families of the victims of that tragedy probably should have been taken into account before the RiverDogs made this promotional event public.
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