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CORONAVIRUS

MLB players have ‘wide-ranging’ questions to owners’ opening proposal

A sign announces that Phillies Florida Operations and Spectrum Field, spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies, has been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A sign announces that Phillies Florida Operations and Spectrum Field, spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies, has been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.Mike Ehrmann/Getty

The Major League Baseball Players Association issued what it termed a “wide-ranging” response on Thursday to the 67-page health and safety protocol manual the owners presented last Friday.

After consultation with players and its own panel of health and medical experts, the MLBPA delivered notes to MLB that touched on a number of topics from the “2020 Operations Manual” draft that served as the opening framework for allowing baseball to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the topics the union responded to were:

▪ testing frequency

▪ protocols for positive tests

▪ in-stadium medical personnel

▪ protections for high-risk players and family

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▪ access to pre- and postgame therapies

▪ sanitization protocols

The owners’ proposal was far-reaching, and put forth a strenuous testing regimen along with details about social distancing, mask-wearing, quarantine, and other preventive measures.

The players and owners are trying to come to an agreement on the health and safety front but also the economic front as it relates to player compensation.

Major League Baseball has yet to make a proposal to the union about how it would like to pay the players for a shortened season that could begin as early July.

The players say that issue was settled during a March agreement that spelled out prorated salaries based on games played.

The owners say a clause in that March agreement can determine salaries anew if games are not played in front of fans.

The players’ read on that clause is 180 degrees different.

In a presentation made to the players earlier this week and in public comments, MLB laid out a scenario for how damaging a shortened season would be for its revenues without fans.

In response, the players asked Major League Baseball to deliver financial details about its revenues and expenses. MLB has been gathering that information this week. As of Thursday it had not presented the details to the union, but the players expect an economic proposal soon.

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Cubs, Pirates trimming payroll

The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates are trimming payroll while they await word on the fate of the season. The Cubs are instituting pay cuts because of the coronavirus crisis, but there will be no furloughs through the end of June. The Pirates announced Thursday they are instituting furloughs for several employees in business operations beginning on June 1. Chicago’s cuts were based on compensation, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and president of business operations Crane Kenney took the highest reductions. Reportedly, 80 percent of associates are taking a pay cut of 20 percent or less.

USOPC cuts positions

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is eliminating 51 positions and furloughing 33 more as part of a dramatic cut in staffing designed to trim up to 20 percent of its budget to respond to shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of this change. It is significant,” CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Olympic stakeholders and obtained by The Associated Press.

The letter said 32 employees had been offered different roles in the organization, setting up the possibility that not all the eliminated or furloughed positions will result in a temporary or permanently lost jobs. Still, the moves, combined with more than 30 employees who previously took buyout offers, will result in a staff of about 500 being reduced by nearly one-fifth.

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These are the most drastic cuts since 2009, when the federation laid off 54 employees to handle recession-related shortfalls.

Hirshland did not go for across-the-board cuts, instead choosing areas that were designed to have the least impact on athlete support. But every facet of the U.S. Olympic movement is bound to feel some pain as a result of the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Games combined with the shutdown of sports, which is devastating many of the individual sports organizations that make up the backbone of the Olympic team.

“It has become clear that it will take months, and not weeks, for us to return to full operation, particularly at our training centers in Colorado Springs and Lake Placid,” Hirshland said.

The USOPC brought in $172 million in broadcast rights after the last Summer Olympics (2016), and stands to receive as much or more if the Tokyo Games take place next year.

European Tour targets August

The European Tour hopes to resume its season the first weekend in August in England as part of a four-tournament “bubble” in England and Wales, according to a report by Golf Digest. The British Masters, scheduled for July 30 to Aug. 2, would be followed by three tournaments offering 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in prize money at Forest of Arden and Hanbury Manor in England, and Celtic Manor in Wales. The British Masters at Close House in northeast England is the same week as the World Golf Championship in Memphis, Tennessee. The following week is the PGA Championship, the first major of the year, in San Francisco. The magazine said a May 7 memo it obtained from In a memo, European Tour chief Keith Pelley assured players the tour is ensuring all safety measures, including testing, and he pledged a schedule described as “robust.” Nine tournaments have been postponed and another eight cancelled because of the pandemic.

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Little League lessons

Little League is offering youth baseball organizations a pathway forward as they eye a restart amid COVID-1, releasing a series of “best practices” guidelines this week that highlight how to create a safe playing environment whenever state and local authorities give youth sports in a given area the the all clear to restart. Little League canceled the 2020 Little League World Series and other championships because of the pandemic last month but remains hopeful a regular season may still be possible.

While president Stephen Keener stressed the decision will ultimately be made by each family, he believes it was important to show parents that playing “can be done, we think as safely as possible. . . if you follow these guidelines.” The recommendations include eliminating all non-essential contact and banning the postgame handshake line in favor of lining up along the respective baselines and tipping caps to opponents. All players should wear masks while in the dugout and coaches and volunteers should wear masks and protective medical gloves at all times, the guidelines said. Players should also be separated by six feet while in the dugout or in the stands and the shared use of equipment is prohibited when possible. Umpires would move from behind home plate to behind the pitcher’s mound and game balls would be switched out every two innings. Concession sales would also be prohibited. So would ballpark staples like sunflower seeds and spitting. The recommendations also include limiting the amount of family members allowed into a facility to watch games.

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Positive tests

More than 10 workers who are renovating Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium recently tested positive for the coronavirus, with concerns that the number is far higher among the large number of crew members involved in the $107 million project that began in November. Work on the stadium was briefly shut for a deep cleaning over the weekend, said a construction company working on the project. The university said “all necessary steps to help prevent the spread of covid-19” had been taken. Construction is expected to be completed in time for the team’s Sept. 12 home opener against Georgia State . . . A fourth player at German soccer club Dynamo Dresden has tested positive for the coronavirus. The already quarantined second-division club said the latest case of COVID-19 was found in a fifth wave of testing that was conducted on Wednesday. Another “category one” close contact of its coaching staff also tested positive. Dresden’s entire team was ordered by local health authorities into 14 days of quarantine on May 9 after two players tested positive for the virus, bringing its total to three. The rest of the team will be able to resume training on Saturday, in advance of resuming play May 31 against Stuttgart. As of Thursday, Germany had reported 180,000 positive tests.

Man U takes a hit

Manchester United said the coronavirus outbreak cut the soccer club’s third-quarter revenue by about 23 million pounds ($28.1 million). The earnings update included a 15-million-pound rebate United will pay to broadcasters for soccer fixtures halted because of the pandemic. United and its English rivals have resumed training under instruction from the Premier League to maintain social distancing. The league had previously targeted June 12 as a possible date for fixtures to resume, but the restart is now expected to be pushed back, the BBC reported . . . IndyCar, which is slated to finally begin June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, has made more revisions to its schedule. The June 27 race in Richmond, Virginia, and the street course race in Toronto on July 12 have been canceled. IndyCar will not race after Texas until an event July 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race scheduled for June 21 at Road America in Wisconsin has been changed to a doubleheader on July 11-12 . . . FINA, the governing body of swimming has postponed the short course world championships scheduled for December in Abu Dhabi until Dec. 13-18, 2021, in the United Arab Emirates . . . The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has canceled its August 7th induction ceremony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. because of health and safety concerns related to the pandemic. This year’s inductees will go in with the class of 2021.




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Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB