The good news is that there will be baseball season. The pandemic jeopardized and cut last year’s schedule. Next year is an open question as the collective agreement between the players and the owners expires on December 1st. However, the coronavirus has largely stayed away from spring training camps and the opening day for the 2021 season is almost here.
“Knowing what it took to run the 60-game season last year, what the protocols were then and what they are now, gave our boys a point of reference,” said Tony Clark, the players’ chief executive. Club said in an interview Thursday, a week before the April 1st openings. “And they have taken on that responsibility and responded admirably to doing everything they can to keep the game on the field and to be able to play.”
Play on the field will, however, continue to involve pitchers hitting in National League parks, just like any season except 2020. It will continue to do so, although both player and owner want the universally designated batsman. The lack of the universal DH paints a somber portrait of the game behind the scenes, with neither side trusting the other.
The collateral damage in this Cold War will inevitably result in a launcher being injured when hitting or operating the bases.
“This is a health and safety issue,” agent Scott Boras said Thursday. “I want these owners to understand that they are putting the game and any investments they make in pitchers at great risk. Hamstrings, ankles, broken fingers – if you’re not walking the bases and haven’t been colorful in over a year and a half, you’re asking top athletes to do things they haven’t done. “
Boras continued, “If you are doing all of these things for Covid, and you are doing all of these things to protect the league’s health and safety, then this is a major area. Because the reality looks like this: This will cost the players more time and more injuries than Covid. “
Arizona Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen, a Boras customer who has quietly become one of the game’s better starters, was diagnosed this week with a hair break stress fracture in the right forearm, an injury that occurred during punch training on March 10th. Gallen is still able to throw but cannot use his curveball due to the injury and will likely miss at least two weeks.
“How about Blake Snell?” Said Boras, referring to another customer traded from Tampa Bay to San Diego in December. “He’s been in the American League all his career. He’s going to the National League, and now he’s going to have about five bats and then go to a Major League season. What does he mean the padres for the next three or four years? Come on.”
Snell is 0 for 8 in his career; Gallen is 2 for 19. Other pitchers who are vital to the future of their teams will score for the first time, even if this is only the case in interleague games.
“I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it,” Detroit Tigers’ # 1 Casey Mize told MLB Network Radio this week. “I think pitchers hit, this could probably be the last year. I think getting a bat or two would be cool, but I’ll be excited when that’s over. I don’t think I’ve ever faced anything over 90, so I think it would be pretty scary to witness that. “
Putting an overmatched pitcher in the racket’s box is comedic value and strategic intrigue about when to pinch a punch. On rare occasions, pitchers actually contribute to the bat: Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner has 19 career homers, and Houston’s Zack Greinke, who has nine career homers and nine steals, said this spring that the only milestone he cared about was to get 10 each; The last pitcher to reach both career totals was Bob Gibson.
By and large, however, the risk of injury is not worth it. How would a Mets fan like it if Jacob deGrom smashed his fingers in a colorful attempt? Imagine the reaction in Philadelphia when Aaron Nola pulled an oblique muscle that crashed on a two-stroke pusher.
The Yankees reached the playoffs every season from 1995 to 2012 – with the exception of 2008, when their top starter, Chien-Ming Wang, tore a ligament in his foot while running the bases in an interleague game. By this point in his career, Wang was 54 to 20 years old and had an earned run average of 3.79. He wanted to make a fortune with another strong year or two, but he was never the same after the injury, with an ERA of 6.01 for the rest of his career.
Again, there has always been an inherent risk in the NL rules, and while the DH has been part of the AL game since 1973, there have been no previous injuries to pitchers while hitting or running – for Wang, Randy Johnson, Adam Wainwright, Jimmy Nelson or other – change brought about. Only the pandemic could do that. The 2020 regional schedule, set to limit travel, meant teams would play a higher percentage of interleague matches. That in turn made it logical to only use the DH.
The logic should prevail again, and if MLB gave in to the issue before opening day, the union would eagerly accept it.
“Although the league recognizes that there is still a week left in spring, should we have it in 2021, should the league decide,” said Clark on Thursday.
Major League Baseball reiterated in a statement that the universal DH had been implemented due to the unusual circumstances of the 2020 season and that while the league had done its best to compromise on this issue in 2021, it was too late to do so to change rules for 2021.
“National League games have always been played without DH and will be no different this year,” the statement said. “We have tried several times to reach an agreement on DH with the Players Association, to no avail, and it would be unfair for clubs that have already set their squads for the 2021 season to change the rules of the game so close to opening day.”
MLB proposed a universal DH to the union this off-season but made an expanded playoff format a requirement for the deal. The final proposal would also have postponed the opening day, reducing the schedule to 154 games (on full pay) with frequent double heads. The union turned down the offer in February and the 2019 format remains in place.
Last year’s playoff field expanded from 10 to 16 teams, allowing the league to sell a new level of content to television stations to make up for some lost revenue. While both sides would obviously benefit financially from a similar regulation in 2021, the league needs the approval of the unions.
That makes the expanded playoff format a valuable bargaining chip for the upcoming CBA negotiations, at a time when the union may be pushing for major changes. Boras believes that the universal DH should be separated from these conversations.
“This is not like watching TV for the playoffs,” he said. “That is a different topic. This is a safety issue and you need to stop putting it into an economic parameter as you are responsible for putting the players at risk. “
The union is also taking a risk, of course, calculating that the possible long-term benefits of a cheaper CBA outweigh the short-term risk of pitchers being hit in NL parks in 2021.
Aside from a late concession from both sides, it’s back to the old days of the pitchers, and everyone – players, owners, and fans – is hoping they can make it back to the hill intact.