Major League Baseball's return has seen some hiccups over the weekend, with delays in COVID-19 test results and teams being forced to cancel or postpone workouts. Those issues are persisting today as at least two teams have suspended workouts, while a few more players around the league have tested positive.
The San Francisco Giants suspended their workouts at Oracle Park while they await the results of tests that were conducted over the weekend, according to Kerry Crowley. Elsewhere around the league, David Ross announced that the Cubs were pushing back their workouts while they await test results.
The delays are not good for many reasons, the biggest obviously that it provides an unsafe environment for workouts while players and staff are not unsure if anyone in the organization is infected. Secondly, it puts teams at a disadvantage when they are forced to delay their workouts while other teams proceed with preparing for the season.
Nationals star left fielder Juan Soto is isolating after coming into contact with someone on the team who has tested positive, according to Jesse Dougherty. This is an example of testing working well and resulting in players doing the right thing, even if it means the Nationals may be without their best player for at least 14 days.
Dougherty also reported that Nats manager Dave Martinez said that two Nationals have tested positive during in-take testing.
Oakland A's starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser. Luzardo had been sidelined from A's workouts for a few days and will now be forced to isolate for at least 14 days.
Luzardo was expected to be part of the A's rotation this year, so this could be a blow to the A's plans.
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With the 2020 MLB schedule released yesterday, we now know exactly what the 60-game season will look like. While the Houston Astros are probably glad the season has been delayed as it means everyone has mostly forgotten about their sign-stealing scandal, they might be a bit worried looking at their new schedule.
After opening the season with a four-game home series against the Seattle Mariners, the Astros welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to Houston. The Dodgers, of course, are the team that the Astros beat in the 2017 World Series, the season during which the Astros were using cameras to steal opposing team's signs.
While there likely won't be any fans in attendance and this series is a home one for the Astros, the Dodgers might be feeling some animosity towards them and there could be some tensions throughout those two games.
As if that's not good enough, on Sept. 12 and 13, the Astros come to LA for a two-game series.
Again, there probably won't be fans at the game, but that's not to say the Astros won't get a taste of how Southern California feels about them. Maybe fans will be waiting for the Astros outside Dodger Stadium, welcoming the Astros with a crowd of boos and jeers.
These two series would be more fun if fans were actually able to be at the games, but regardless, it will be interesting to watch how the Dodgers handle the whole thing. Will they still be angry and feel like they got cheated out of a World Series title? Will they try to retaliate?
Or will everyone have moved on and just want to play baseball?
Either way, you can bet that the build up to these four games will be intense across baseball media.
While many teams around the league were still waiting for COVID-19 test results last night, MLB released the 2020 schedule live on MLB Network. There are clearly some hurdles the league needs to get over before we make it to Opening Day, but for the next few minutes let's just take a look at the schedule and see what we're in store for this year if they do play baseball.
The season begins on Thursday, July 23 with two matchups. The first features last year's World Series champion Washington Nationals taking on this year's World Series favorite New York Yankees.
The first game of the season will presumably feature Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole in the nation's capital, a matchup every baseball fan should be pumped to watch.
After those two teams square off, we'll get a classic NL West rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers will look to win their eighth-straight division title while the Giants are just trying to be competitive again.
Both games should be fun to watch and a great way to welcome MLB back into our lives. I'm really excited for the Scherzer-Cole matchup as it pits two of the best pitchers in the league against each other to kick the season off. Plus, we'll get an early look at how the Nats will defend their World Series title. It's a shortened season, so every game matters.
Braves get five national games
The Atlanta Braves have had two great seasons in a row and are poised to compete for another NL East title. With success comes nationally-televised games, which the Braves will have plenty of in this shortened season.
Atlanta will be featured on three of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts, including the first one of the season on July 26 when they travel to the New York Mets. They'll also be on ESPN on August 23 and 30, hosting the Phillies and then playing at Philadelphia.
Fox will show two games featuring the Braves, one on August 29 at the Phillies and the other on September 19 at the Mets.
As a Braves fan who lives far out of their broadcast region and doesn't pay for MLB.tv, I'm a fan of them being on this many national broadcasts. Of course it's only five games, but that's a high percentage when you consider it's only a 60-game season.
Dates to look out for
Since MLB missed the first three months of the season, there were a lot of special days they had planned that didn't get to happen. Under the new revised schedule, the league is making sure some of them still take place.
Aug. 28 will be celebrated as Jackie Robinson Day, where every MLB player wears Robinson's number 42. The day is usually celebrated on April 15, which is the day Robinson made his MLB debut, but Aug. 28 has some significance as well according to MLB. It marks the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 and is also the date that Robinson initially met with Branch Rickey to talk about signing with the Dodgers in 1945.
The Field of Dreams game will take place on Aug. 13, although with different teams than planned. Due to the regional travel schedule in MLB this season, the game will be between the White Sox and the Cardinals. The teams will play at a new field near the site where "Field of Dreams" was filmed, making it the first ever MLB game in the state of Iowa.
Additionally Roberto Clemente Day will be celebrated on Sept. 9 and MLB will honor the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues on Aug. 16.
I like that the league is still taking time to honor all of these days. Jackie Robinson Day is one of my favorite days on the MLB calendar, so I was sad when it passed by earlier this year and we didn't have any baseball. But the league is doing a good job of fitting everything into the short schedule, and they should be commended for that.
This season is going to be different in a lot of ways. Teams that might not have a shot at the playoffs in a 162-game season are looking like they can compete for 60 games. No fans at the ballparks will be a weird feeling on TV, although it's been done before. Everything will feel a little off, but that's what it's going to take if we want to have MLB baseball in 2020.
Music City Baseball is an organization whose goal is to bring an MLB franchise to Nashville, Tenn., whether it's through relocation or expansion. That organization got a bit of a boost yesterday, with three big names hopping on board.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, Dave Dombrowski, Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart have all joined the organization. Nightengale is also reporting that Music City Baseball hopes to become the first MLB team with African-American majority ownership.
The addition of those three big names should help MCB. With Stewart being a three-time World Series champion player and La Russa winning three as a manager, their names carry some weight.
Dombrowski of course has been an executive with two World Series-winning teams - the 1997 Marlins and the 2018 Red Sox. Getting him on board is certain to help the organization towards its goal, but it seems as if they still have a long way to go.
Jon Heyman reported last night that MLB has no plans to expand to Nashville, or anywhere else.
Nashville has consistently been thrown out as a possible expansion or relocation city for MLB, along with such cities as Charlottes, Las Vegas and Portland.
Nashville, Charlotte and Las Vegas are all currently home to Triple-A Minor League teams, which could be a point of conflict if MLB decides to plant a team in one of those cities.
MCB looks like its making progress by bringing in these big-time personalities, but they'll need some help from MLB if they want to accomplish their goal.
Not long after I finished my blog post this morning about how the weekend wasn't good for the Braves, news came out that right fielder Nick Markakis has chosen to opt out of the 2020 season. Markakis joins Felix Hernandez as the two Braves players to opt out as of today.
Markakis said he was excited to get back to playing baseball, but after he talked to teammate Freddie Freeman, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, he decided it would be best for him to skip this season. Markakis also cited the health of his family, which consists of his wife and three young kids, as a reason for opting out.
The 2018 All-Star added that playing without fans was a big blow for him and that it would be tough to play without them there.
It's now up in the air whether or not Markakis comes back after the 2020 season. The three-time Gold Glove winner joined the Braves in 2015 after spending nine seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. He's a .288 career hitter with 2,355 hits over his 14 years.
In 2018, Markakis had one of the best years of his career, batting .297 with 93 RBIs and 185 hits, earning an All-Star bid for the first time.
Multiple MLB teams have delayed their workouts this morning due to delays in COVID-19 testing. The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros canceled their workouts while the Oakland Athletics have delayed theirs until this evening while they await test results, according to Joel Sherman.
The Nationals and Astros are still waiting on results from tests that were conducted on Friday, and Nats GM Mike Rizzo released a statement today that didn't hold back.
"Per MLB's protocol, all players and staff were tested for Covid-19 on Friday, July 3rd. Seventy-two hours later, we have yet to receive the results of those tests. We cannot have our players and staff work at risk," Rizzo said. "Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning. We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk."
Rizzo is completely correct in this statement. If MLB wants this season to work out, they need to make sure that their testing is accurate and timely in order to keep everyone involved safe and healthy. But when you have issues like these delays, or testers failing to show up at all, it doesn't sound too promising.
I know you've all probably heard this news by now if you follow baseball at all, but I spent my weekend camping and didn't find out until late last night. The Braves had some significant developments over the weekend, including four players testing positive for COVID-19.
Manager Brian Snitker announced on Saturday that four Braves players, including All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman and reliever Will Smith, tested positive for COVID-19. Snitker said that Freeman is battling a fever and is "not feeling great." The Braves skipper added that it'll be a while until the team can get Freeman back.
That's obviously not good news for the team and for Freeman. Hopefully he'll recover and get back to full health quickly, but in the meantime, the Braves will have to look at other options for first base.
Snitker said that Austin Riley, Adam Duvall and Johan Camargo are all options for the first base job until Freeman returns.
In other news for the Braves, former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez has decided to opt out of the 2020 season, according to his agent. Hernandez signed a minor league deal with the Braves for this year, but has decided to skip the season due to concerns about COVID-19.
I'm not sure what this means for the future of the six-time All-Star. It's possible he could return to Atlanta next year, but at 34 years old and declining in performance, he could decided to hang it up now.
So in conclusion, it was a rough weekend for the Braves. There's no real timetable on Freeman's return and they lost a pitcher who was expected to be in the rotation. Only time will tell how this will affect their season once play gets started, but there are obviously bigger issues here, like the health and safety of everyone around the game. Some players aren't sure they should even be having the season, but it doesn't seem like MLB plans to shut things down again just yet.
We've made it to the championship round of the Best Seasons Bracket! The top seed in each league ultimately advanced to the final round, which is expected, although we had hoped for a few more upsets.
But regardless, here we are. It's the 1927 Yankees vs. the 1975 Reds. Two great teams considered the best of all time. Make your votes over the weekend, and we'll see who comes out on top.
When the world shut down at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB players were forced to leave work like many other Americans. Without access to their usual training facilities, they had to work out on their own.
According to an article by The Athletic's Brittany Ghiroli, a few big names decided to get together for training and pick-up games.
Here's an excerpt from Ghiroli's story:
"Luke Jackson had nowhere to throw when baseball shut down. So, the Atlanta Braves right-hander got desperate, watched some YouTube videos, and built a makeshift mound. He was throwing alone in his driveway in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. when he got the fateful text.
“Hey, if you ever need to throw live,” said Eric Cressey, who Jackson has known and trained with since 2011, “we are having a small group of guys here.”
Jackson immediately hopped in the car and drove to Palm Beach, which houses one of two Cressey Sports Performance gyms. With most of the country shut down, it was a quick 90-minute commute. Jackson wasn’t sure what to expect. What he found was a who’s who of Major League stars.
A group that included Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton and more than 30 other big leaguers had quietly been working together - from a safe distance. They formed a secret baseball group while playing at Palm Beach Gardens High School.
What a sight that must have been. Imagine driving down the street or taking a stroll through the town of Palm Beach gardens and you see a group that includes three Cy Young winners and two MVPs playing pick-up baseball. These matchups almost sound better than what you would see at the MLB All-Star Game.
The story from Ghiroli says that the players kept their distance from one another and were careful throughout their time playing together, keeping their health in mind.
During the final week of June, the players organized two nine-inning games so they could get some live reps in before heading to summer training.
If you want to be the best at your craft, you've got to face off against the best. It's good to see these players took things into their own hands when they weren't able to play league-sanctioned training games anymore. Now in a few weeks we'll see how much these pick-up games really helped them.
It's time for the Final Four! Some of the matchups were pretty close in the last round, but the best teams have prevailed so far and now we're just two rounds away from picking a winner. Go ahead and get your votes in by Thursday night to see who moves on.