MLB Analysis: The NBA has burst the “bubble,” will MLB follow suit. A discussion

Jason Collins, Brooklyn Nets

For MLB, the New York Yankees, and all the other baseball teams from coast to coast, the 2021 baseball season holds as many questions as they had as they negotiated the 2020 season. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association took many lessons from their bubble experiment at Disney World this summer. Still, the most important was a humbling admission: There is no perfect solution to the coronavirus pandemic for an American professional sports league.

They may have learned much, but one thing that will not continue is games in the “bubble.” The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to start their 2021 season with no bubble. The MLB learned a lot, too; not the least was that by holding the 2020 baseball postseason entirely in the bubble, they prevented an outbreak of the coronavirus and completed the season on time.

The 2020-21 season begins today, December 22, 2020, and runs through March 4, 2021! After leaving the NBA’s “bubble” at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, teams likely anticipated a bit of a layoff between seasons. Early reports indicated the 2020-21 campaign wouldn’t begin before mid-January at the earliest and March at the latest. Due to financial considerations, that start date has been bumped up to today. The first game will be tonight on TNT featuring the Golden State Warriors vs. the New York Nets. There will be no bubble, but there will also be no fans in the stands at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

However, for other games in some parts of the country, a limited number of fans will be allowed in the arenas according to state and city regulations. The NBA and NBAPA have come up with strict health protocols to conduct a safe season. However, the two governing bodies will not make taking the coronavirus vaccine a demand.

Now the question is, will MLB follow the NBA’s lead? With the start of spring training, no decisions have been announced for the 2021 baseball season. The MLB owners and the MLBPA (player union) will have to come together to iron out all these details. After contentious negotiations last year, you can expect the same and maybe even greater conflicts to getting the season going. The owners have already requested a shorter season, one that could lop off the first month of the season, shortening it to as few as 130-135 games. MLBPA director Tony Clark immediately shot that down.

Clark made it clear that the players union is sticking to the CBA that calls for a 162 game season at full pay. The owners feel with so much unknown that it will be difficult to complete a 162 game season after just playing 60 games in 2020. Clark and Meyers reiterated that:

“We’ve seen anonymous quotes attributed to club sources casting doubt on the start date and length of the season, “Bruce Meyer, the MLBPA’s senior director of collective bargaining and legal, said in a statement on Tuesday. “To be clear and ass we’ve made clear to the league, players are planning on showing up on time for spring training and for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the leagues previously issued schedule.”

So, already disagreements are arising on how long the season will be. But there are a host of other issues to be ironed out. Not the least of which is if the universal DH will be continued, if the man on second base after nine innings, if the three batter rule, and how long the season will be. In recent years the MLB and the MLBPA have had some pretty poor relations. With all the issues to be solved before starting the 2021 baseball season, look for some sparks to fly.

New York Giants OT Nate Solder Opts Out Of 2020 Season

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants have had their first player officially opt out of the 2020 NFL season: offensive tackle Nate Solder.

Nate Solder announced today that he will be opting out of the 2020 season due to serious health concerns. Nate’s son, Hudson Solder, has been fighting an ongoing battle with cancer. Hudson is at high-risk if he were to contract the coronavirus. The Solder family has also welcomed a baby boy as a new addition to the family this spring. Nate Solder has eliminated certain risks by opting out of this year’s NFL season to protect his family’s health.

Nate Solder released this official statement on Twitter below:

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to numerous opt-outs across the NFL. Nate Solder is the twenty-sixth NFL player to opt-out of the season, the first member of the New York Giants to do so. Training camp began yesterday for the Giants. Players underwent their first round of COVID-19 testing and will continue to be tested until they are cleared to practice.

With this news, the Giants have lost one of their two starting offensive tackles. This leaves the door wide open for rookie Andrew Thomas to start immediately at left tackle in 2020. Solder opting out also frees up $19.5 million on the Giants’ 2020 salary cap. But the money does roll into 2021 and likely extends Solder’s career with the Giants.

Nate Solder’s opt-out could also have a ripple effect across the Giants’ offensive line. This creates even more uncertainty over who might start at both right tackle and center. Nick Gates could see himself take a starting role this season and rookie Matt Peart might now have a shot at the right tackle position.

Nate Solder’s family is the top priority. He has made this careful decision to protect the health of himself and his loved ones and he deserves respect and admiration for doing so.

New York Yankees: DJ LeMahieu returns to the lineup

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

After sitting out on Opening Day, DJ LeMahieu will make his season debut for the New York Yankees on Saturday. He arrived to camp late after testing positive for coronavirus in early July.

LeMahieu was by far the best player on the Yankees roster in 2019. Finishing 4th in MVP voting, the second-baseman bat .327 with a career-high 26 home-runs and 102 RBIs. He had a .375 OBP, a .518 slugging, and a 136 OPS+.

LeMahieu returned to camp at the end of last week and participated in a few scrimmages. He seemed perfectly fine and didn’t show many signs of rust.

The 32-year-old will return to his leadoff spot for Saturday’s primetime match-up against the Nationals. Game time is at 7:15pm on FOX, where we will see the debut of virtual fans on the broadcast. The Yankees were expected to face Stephen Strasburg, but he was scratched due to a nerve issue. Erick Fedde will now start for Washington, while James Paxton gets the ball for the Yankees.

The Yankees won the season and series opener 4 to 1 on Thursday, getting the best of Max Scherzer. Giancarlo Stanton hit a home run and drove in three to lead the Yankees. Stanton is hoping to have a great 2020 season and stay healthy as injuries derailed his 2019 season.

The bombers will put out their number one lineup for the second game of the season, with Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Giancarlo Stanton batting in spots two thru four. Aaron Hicks will bat fifth, with Luke Voit following batting sixth. Rounding up the order will be Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, and Brett Gardner.

NASCAR is reinvigorated as new eyes shift to its incredible change

NASCAR was one of the first professional sports leagues to return following COVID-19. The desperate longing for sports and gambling has driven diehard sports fans to all forms of sports. Soccer has become a little more recognized by some that had ignored it in favor of NBA or MLB during the early summer.

The AFL and KBO have gained more mainstream notoriety in recent weeks as their fan bases expand to the United States. The sport that’s had the most successful return, NASCAR. NASCAR has experienced a reinvigoration in terms of both public image and ratings.

New Eyes On NASCAR

In the last few weeks since their return, over the span of 11 races, including some primetime week races, some races on FS1, and the usual summer dip, NASCAR has had an average of 3.08 million viewers per race.

In terms of comparison against pass races this time last year, the numbers are higher even if they’re on FS1. Publicly NASCAR being back also turned eyes to the sport with the uproar of the Black Lives Matter Movement and allowed them to take a vocal stance in support of the movement. More eyes are tuning into the sport, and more money is being spent on merchandise than before.

With that said, is it sustainable? As the NBA and MLB attempt to navigate their returns, those same fans that gravitated to NASCAR in the absence of sports may return to watching the more familiar sports. Not only that but as coronavirus spikes in the south, that’s not good for NASCAR, which has most team shops primarily based in North Carolina. Now, Jimmie Johnson has been diagnosed with COVID, and that could also spark some worries as the first case they’ve had since their return.

Still, with sports like MLB struggling to return and missing out on an opportune time to gain mainstream attention and the NBA trying to navigate the new normal, eyes will still be on the sport for now. At least for now, a sport that was deemed by some to be on the ropes just a short time ago has experienced a rejuvenation.

 

MLB: 31 players have coronavirus in preliminary testing

As Major League Baseball players and staff returned to home stadiums for “summer camp”, they had to undergo coronavirus testing. With everyone now tested and results available, the league has released the general results of the tests.

3,185 tests were conducted across the league between players and staff, with just 38 positive results. 31 of the positive results were for players. 19 of the 30 teams had at least one player or staff member come back positive.

When you crunch all the numbers, it comes back to be a 1.2% positive test rate. That number is actually quite good.

New York State is a state that has beaten and lowered the coronavirus curve. Although the state saw a high infection and positive test rate this spring, the virus is now under control. Right now, the state has a 1.38% positive test rate. The MLB’s rate is lower than the rate of one of the best states right now, so that’s impressive. In contrast, Florida is seeing a 14.59% positive test rate.

The test results are very encouraging in terms of getting the season started as planned. Obviously, things are still very fluid and can change very quickly, but the league is in good shape right now.

Now that players are back in home cities, they should be able to cut down and limit their contacts to reduce the chances of picking up the virus on the street. Although the league isn’t in a “bubble”, players need to be super cautious about where they go and who they see away from the stadium.

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, and that’s very exciting. Hopefully, baseball can prove to be a great distraction during these unprecedented times.

New York Giants: Expect A Slow Start And Strong Finish In 2020

New York Giants, Joe Judge

The New York Giants have rebuilt their roster and coaching staff once again. They fired Pat Shurmur and hired new head coach Joe Judge as his replacement. Judge constructed an experienced coaching staff full of like-minded individuals. Judge has many previous connections with the members of his staff, whether that be from Alabama or New England.

Now the youthful New York Giants will enter the 2020 season with brand new offensive and defensive schemes, along with a new locker room culture. There is a lot to be excited about. Daniel Jones is entering his second NFL season with a new and improved offensive line and offensive coordinator. Along with a fully healthy Saquon Barkley, there are many reasons to believe the Giants’ offense will be successful this season.

The same goes for the defensive side of the ball. The Giants have built a talented secondary with standout names such as Xavier McKinney, Jabrill Peppers, and James Bradberry. Combine that with the new, man-coverage and blitz-heavy defensive scheme from Patrick Graham, and there are reasons to believe the Giants’ defense will be a vastly improved unit.

I believe the Giants will see improvement in 2020. There was a lot of talent acquired this offseason and I believe Joe Judge and his staff will be a major improvement. However, I do not see the Giants achieving overnight success. This has been a historically tumultuous offseason, and even with all these improvements, the Giants are going to get off to a slow start in 2020.

Getting Up To Speed

The New York Giants have a completely new coaching staff entering the 2020 NFL season. Both sides of the ball will need to grow accustomed to the way the men in charge run things. There are new playbooks to be learned and mastered. All of this needs to be done despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is keeping players and coaches separated.

One would hope that the team has any inconsistencies ironed out by the time the season begins. Whether the timing on some route combinations is a second off or the disguise on some blitzes is too complex, there are going to be hiccups for this young New York Giants team. Even with a full offseason and no pandemic, there would still be hiccups.

The Giants are new and improved. But they might not play like it until the end of the season. Joe Judge has been dealt a really bad hand. He has seen two of his players get arrested this offseason and has had to work through the internet due to a world pandemic. Every team has to deal with the stress of coronavirus, but not every team has to deal with such a challenge with a rookie head coach. The Giants will work through these challenges but expect to see numerous hiccups along the way.

MLB: How players around the league are responding to concerns about 2020 season

Could the New York Yankees pursue Max Scherzer in a trade?

Major League Baseball is one of the only professional sports leagues that cannot seem to come to terms for putting together a season. Due to these disagreements between MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA, there are concerns that a season may not happen at all.

Rob Manfred told ESPN on Monday that he’s “not confident” there will be a 2020 season and that “as long as there’s no dialogue” with the MLBPA, “that risk is going to continue.” This is a complete turnaround of Manfred’s comments from last week when he said he was “100% confident” that there would be a 2020 season.

Manfred has also said, “The owners are 100 percent committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100 percent certain that’s gonna happen.”

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark responded to Manfred’s comments, “Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told Players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season. Any implication that the Players Association has somehow delayed progress on health and safety protocols is completely false, as Rob has recently acknowledged the parties are ‘very, very close.”

Although there are some players that have come out publicly and said that they are not interested in playing a modified season with reduced pay, there are a lot of players that have expressed their willingness to play under any circumstances.

Here is what some of the MLB players in the league have said about what is happening:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBeTuccDQ02/

WNBA unveils their plan for a Florida-based return

The WNBA rolled out a plan for return on Monday, which involves players getting 100 percent of their salaries and social justice initiatives.

The WNBA is inching closer to tip-off after a Monday announcement, in which the league revealed that it is closing in on an agreement to stage a 22-game season without fans at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Players are set to receive their full 2020 salary and benefits, according to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

“We are finalizing a season start plan to build on the tremendous momentum generated in the league during the offseason and have used the guiding principles of health and safety of players and essential staff to establish necessary and extensive protocols,” Engelbert said in a statement. “We will continue to consult with medical experts and public health officials as well as players, team owners and other stakeholders as we move forward with our execution plan.”

“Despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic to our 2020 season, the WNBA and its Board of Governors believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA, and therefore, players will receive their full pay and benefits during the 2020 season.”

The WNBA’s 24th season of competition was originally scheduled to begin on May 15 but was indefinitely delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. A virtual draft was help without incident in April with the New York Liberty choosing Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu with the top overall pick. The Washington Mystics are the league’s defending champions, having taken a five-game set from the Connecticut Sun last fall. Over the offseason, the league and its player’s association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that includes new benefits such as increased salaries ($68,000 being the new veteran minimum) and full paid maternity leave.

IMG is a private preparatory boarding school and sports training facility based in Bradenton. The 450-acre property will serve as the site for games, practices, and housing for each of the league’s dozen teams. League statements indicate that they will be in constant contact with medical specialists, public health experts, and government officials to ensure the plan can be safely conducted.

The league will also include “a devoted platform led by the players that will aim to support and strengthen both the league and teams’ reach and impact on social justice matters”. Numerous players, including Kia Nurse and Amanda Zahui B of the local Liberty, have spoken in support of the nationwide demonstrations against police brutality against African-Americans. This support will continue on the court if and when the games get rolling in Bradenton.

“The WNBA opposes racism in all its forms, and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are the latest names in a list of countless others who have been subject to police brutality that stems from the systemic oppression of Black Lives in America,” Engelbert said. “It is our collective responsibility to use our platforms to enact change.”

“In our discussions with the league, we emphasized and they agreed that a strong commitment to a 2020 season will give the WNBA the chance to show the world that it's taking the steps needed to secure our livelihood and well-being, while also providing the opportunity to amplify our collective voice,” WNBPA President and Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike added. “This is not only necessary from a humanitarian perspective, but it may be one of the biggest opportunities that this league has and will ever have.”

While a starting date has not been announced, Engelbert told Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press that she’s hoping that her original target start date of July 24 (six days prior to the tentative resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season in Orlando) “will stick”. A potential postseason would follow the WNBA’s traditional playoff format, in which the top eight teams advance regardless of conference. The top couple earns byes to a best-of-five semifinal round while the first two runners-up get a single bye to the single-elimination quarterfinals. They play the winners of a five vs. eight/six vs. seven single-elimination first round en route to the WNBA Finals.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

 

 

 

MLB: “Small Market” Owners Need to Worry About Their Players, Not Their Inflated Wallets

I am a pretty capitalist thinking individual because money runs the world. Freedoms and liberties on how you spend your money have always been a luxury Americans have had because other than taxes and bills most Americans aren’t obliged to pay for anyone else other than who they care-take for.

MLB owners are obliged to sign the check for acquisitions and costs for baseball operations for a franchise. Owners like the Steinbrenners for the New York Yankees and the joint-owners of Guggenheim Baseball Management for the Los Angeles Dodgers have signed checks and been team-first owners. This is not the case with all of baseball however, as with the MLB’s plans to start a season crumbling, the Oakland Athletic’s owner John J Fisher will stop paying MiLB players $400/week, paying them nothing instead. This isn’t just wrong, this is an example of these greedy, no-good, awful “small market owners” being the money first baseball second owners they’ve always been.

Are These Owners Really Not Able to Pay Their Players?

Let’s look at the Oakland A’s owner John J Fisher, who is not able to “afford” to pay his players because of COVID-19. Let’s look at how much he is worth, shall we? John J Fisher’s current net worth is $2.1 billion dollars. That’s with a payroll of $93.78 million dollars and then to pay his minor leaguers from June 1st to the end of the season would be an estimated $1.3 million which is in total: $94.08 million dollars for the season, and that’s without even considering MLB player’s reduced salaries. That’s a mere 4.48%% of his total net worth, which is the equivalent of paying $480 dollars for something if you’re the average Triple-A player (as they make around $10,000 a year).

That’s absolutely ridiculous to believe that they call themselves “Small market” when they make $255 million dollars, and while that’s lower than most MLB teams, losing half of that still means you make a nearly $10,000,000 profit without reduced salaries, with reduced salaries you’re making a near $50,000,000 profit. These owners aren’t poor owners incapable of spending money, they’re cheap owners who put an extra sports car over their franchise and players.

Luxury Tax Money Should Be Changed

The MLB Luxury Tax or Competitive Balance Tax is a tax made for teams like the Yankees or Dodgers to be penalized for spending too much, and that penalized money would go straight to teams who are small market ones. That money doesn’t go to helping these teams win though, the owners usually stash it away in their pockets. This money should go to the MiLB system to help aid these struggling minor league baseball players who are making money below the poverty line.

The MLB economic situation has been stacked in favor of the owners, and we should not side with these billionaires over players who aren’t. Not every player is Mike Trout, a lot of these guys are making less than a million dollars, with Spotrac finding that $42.8% of MLB deals are worth less than $1 million dollars per year. Let’s end this drought of no MLB ball, but if the “Small Market” owners making billions of dollars aren’t willing to pay the small percentages of their net worth to do so, then they aren’t doing their job.

Denver Broncos Von Miller Takes a Bite Out of Hunger to Help Those Affected by Coronavirus Pandemic

Should the New York Giants look into Von Miler next offseason?

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller may be a force to be reckoned with on the field, but this powerhouse could not be nicer.  Miller is one of the most philanthropic people you will ever find, always giving back in any way he can.  Whether it be aiding underserved communities or providing opportunities for vision care and correction for disadvantaged youth, Miller makes it his mission to help others.

During these unprecedented times, Miller has found a way to spread joy and turn a negative into a positive.  Miller’s latest charitable venture includes a campaign titled “Von Sacks COVID” in which fans can bid for the chance to win absolutely unbelievable prize-two tickets to Super Bowl LV.  Winners will also be able to meet with Miller himself.  Not many people can say that they mingled with one of the greatest defensive players in the league!

Along with local charities, Feeding Colorado, Brazos Valley Food Bank, and the North Texas Food Bank, Miller’s goal is to help eradicate hunger for all.  Noting that some student’s only source of sustenance is from school and many of them have had to close, Miller is hoping to offer assistance to students who are affected by this pandemic.  These students suffer from school closures as their only meal source comes from these institutions and little by little Miller is hoping to alleviate some of these issues.

In just a few weeks since this campaign has been enacted, Miller has already been able to help countless underprivileged individuals, providing more than 300,000 meals to those in need and hopes to nearly double it.  These meals provide critical nutrition and can truly make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering from hunger due to this ongoing pandemic.

Those looking to win this wonderful package or any other awesome prizes can bid from now until the end of May.  These packages are truly unique and vast and offer NFL fans unbelievable experiences that would surely make anyone’s day.  They are extraordinarily special and there is something for almost everyone.   Some of these fantastic prizes include a video message from Miller, a private cooking class, a signed Von Miller Denver Broncos jersey, tickets to the 2021 ESPY Awards which include hotel accommodations and round-trip airfare and so much more cool prizes.   Be sure to visit vonsackscovid.org so you can get your bids in to win your most coveted prize, make a donation, purchase merchandise, or enter to win the sweepstakes, all of which will help Miller reach his goal and stomp out hunger for those with food insecurities.  You can also sign up for updates to be in the loop about this incredible campaign.

Offenses are no match for Miller and neither is the Coronavirus.  Miller has made it his duty to ease the problems stemming from this pandemic plaguing so many.  Throughout his entire career, Miller has assisted numerous individuals in so many ways, and in these times of need, it is no different.  Miller is an absolute class act and it is certainly no surprise that he is there for those who need it most.  He is truly one-of-a-kind and so admirable and we need more people like this not only in the NFL, but the world!