Athletics

Why Mark McGwire believes MLB players should wear masks on field in 2020

Why Mark McGwire believes MLB players should wear masks on field in 2020

If Major League Baseball starts the shortened 2020 season as scheduled next month, former A's slugger Mark McGwire wants to see players on all 30 teams with a new part of their uniform.

Masks.

"I think the players should play with them on," McGwire said Monday on "Dodger Talk" on KLAC-AM. "You learn how to do it. They did it back in 1918 (during the flu pandemic), and not a lot of players got sick. A few of them did, but not a lot of them. Obviously, that was the flu. We're dealing with something a lot worse than the flu." 

MLB's season was delayed and shortened due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with July 23 and 24 targeted as Opening Day for the now-60-game season. Non-playing staff will be required to wear masks in the dugout and in the bullpen, but players will not.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends everyone who is at least 2 years old wear a mask in public and when near people who don't live in the same household, "especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain." Research indicates that respiratory droplets play a big role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, and that cloth face coverings reduce the spread of those droplets when people are within six feet of one another. Infield bases are 90 feet apart, but batters in the box and on-base would easily be within six feet of opposing players.

Exercise often causes higher rates of breathing, potentially increasing the spread of respiratory droplets. Wearing a mask while exercising can cause greater difficulty breathing or even lightheadedness, but exercise science experts told The New York Times earlier this month that there are breathable models that would help limit transmission.

[RELATED: Projecting A's initial 30-man roster for 60-game season]

South Korea's KBO, among the first professional team sports leagues in the world to start or resume its seasons amid the pandemic, did not mandate players wear masks when the season started in May. The country's coronavirus response set an example for the rest of the world, with just 316 confirmed new cases in the last seven days.

Over that same time, the United States has had over 255,000, with spikes in multiple states leading to questions whether or not MLB and other leagues can safely start or resume their seasons. People around the country question -- or actively push back on -- local governments and businesses mandating the wearing of masks, and McGwire said he envisioned a similar dynamic playing out in clubhouses.

"I just think it's going to be interesting to see because you know you're gonna have those players walking in the clubhouse not wearing a mask," McGwire explained, "and then you're gonna have these players be yelling at 'em going, 'Wait a minute, put your mask on,' just like you're seeing right now out in public. People are [going], 'What do you mean? I don't need to wear a mask. Shoot, our President doesn't wear a mask. I don't need to wear it.' "

Jake Diekman's wife appreciates Bob Melvin's message to A's players

Jake Diekman's wife appreciates Bob Melvin's message to A's players

A's reliever Jake Diekman is considered a high-risk player for the 2020 MLB season, but as of now, he has no plans to opt out.

So that means his teammates need to be extra cautious regarding the coronavirus. If one of them contracts the virus, they could pass it to Diekman. That outcome could end up being very bad.

Since the age of 11, Diekman has had ulcerative colitis, a disease that affects the colon. In 2016, Diekman underwent surgery to remove his colon. A year later, he had a second procedure where doctors used his small intestines to create a "J-Pouch," a replacement colon.

No one understands the risk to Diekman more than A's manager Bob Melvin.

During a Zoom conference call with A's reporters Saturday, Melvin mentioned that he plans to address his team Sunday about taking the coronavirus precautions as seriously as possible.

“How important it is to try to stay in as much of a bubble as we possibly can,” Melvin said, according to The San Francisco Chronicle's Matt Kawahara. “It is literally like it is in real life, understanding that you’re doing this for the person next to you, too.

"You’re staying healthy for not only yourself and your family but your teammates and their families.”

Melvin will be sure to mention Diekman.

“His name will come up as well, that it’s very important to take this seriously,” Melvin said, according to Kawahara.

Melvin's comments made their way to Amanda Diekman, Jake's wife.

[RELATED: Diekman dominated TikTok during stoppage]

Melvin is widely loved by his players, and this is another example of why. He cares about all the guys.

The A's acquired Diekman last July from the Kansas City Royals, and re-signed him to a two-year contract this offseason. The 34-year-old is expected to be a key piece of Melvin's bullpen this season.

Cleveland Indians follow Washington, could change controversial name

Cleveland Indians follow Washington, could change controversial name

Have we seen the last game between the A's and the Cleveland Indians as they're known today? Just hours after the NFL team in Washington announced it would consider changing its racist nickname, Cleveland's MLB franchise released a statement indicating that the team was open to discussions on changing the "Indians" nickname.

The franchise has used the "Indians" moniker for over a century, switching over from the Cleveland Naps back in 1915. Broncos, Bluebirds, Lake Shores and Bustlers all also are nicknames the franchise has had in its lengthy history.

[RELATED: How Black MLB players are confined by baseball's conservative culture]

 

Cleveland's management clearly has understood how the nickname could be considered offensive, as it removed the controversial "Chief Wahoo" alternate logo from the team's uniforms and most apparel at the end of the 2018 season.

Public pressure has mounted in the wake of sweeping support across the nation for reform to fight systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. 

It won't be a surprise if we see not one, but two major American sports franchises completely rebrand with a new nickname and mascot before 2020 wraps up.

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]