White Sox

MLB owners approve proposal to start 2020 season, but will players agree?

MLB owners approve proposal to start 2020 season, but will players agree?

Major League Baseball's owners approved a proposal to start the 2020 season Monday.

The plan outlines a resumption of the sport that's been on hold since March while the country has battled the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Details include a second spring training starting in mid-June, an Opening Day in the first few days of July, teams playing an 82-game regular season schedule against division opponents and opponents from the same division in the opposite league, expanded rosters and expanded playoffs set to wrap up in early November.

It gets fans who have waited for their favorite teams to return to the field excited.

But will the players agree?

The league will present the proposal to the union Tuesday, according to various reports. But despite the proposal including the first instance of revenue sharing in baseball history, it's apparently far from a slam dunk.

Games are expected to be played without fans present, and that paired with the regular season being cut in half means a significant dip in revenues for this multi-billion dollar entertainment industry. Without anywhere near as much cash as usual expected to come in, the owners are searching for ways to save money, and that includes decreasing the financial commitment to players, who agreed to prorated salaries earlier this year.

The league is looking for further reductions in player pay this year, and their proposed solution is a 50-50 split of the season's revenue, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Revenue sharing is happening in the NFL and NBA, but it's never happened before in baseball.

But even that step might not be palatable to the union, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post called the revenue-sharing pitch a "non-starter" with the players.

Of course, a financial fight between the owners and the players would represent some of the poorest optics imaginable as the country grapples with public health and economic crises that have left tens of thousands dead and tens of millions unemployed.

RELATED: 2020 Major League Baseball Draft will reportedly have only five rounds

But money isn't the only thing expected to come up in these discussions, as players also need to be assured they will be safe going back to work with the coronavirus is far from under control in many parts of the country. While certain states reopening in recent weeks have provided optimism that baseball will be played in 2020, there's a difference between being allowed to stage games and it being safe to do so. Just last week, The New York Times reported that the relaxing of social distancing measures in certain states is projected to lead to a steep increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Baseball's plan for starting the 2020 season is subject to change as the public health situation continues to evolve. All previously discussed plans have been contingent on widespread and frequent testing, which has been slow to improve in the United States. The league would have to test players, coaches, front office staff, training staff, food service staff, transportation staff, hotel staff, stadium staff and those required to broadcast games on TV on a regular basis, all while the rate and reliability of testing remains well below where experts say it should be nationwide.

Players balked at an idea to quarantine the season in one or two locations, especially if it meant being away from their families. The proposal approved Monday suggests teams play in their home ballparks, which are located in 28 different cities across 17 states (including the District of Columbia), which have varying degrees of preventative measures in place. The Toronto Blue Jays make this an international endeavor, as well.

Nonetheless, baseball is forging ahead.

Here are some more of the reported details from the league's proposal:

— A second spring training slated to begin in mid June, with Opening Day following between July 1 and July 4.

— Teams will have the choice of staging the second round of spring training at their home ballparks or at their spring training facilities in Arizona or Florida. The hope is all regular season games will be able to be played in home ballparks. If that's not possible, teams would have the choice to share a big league ballpark with another team or play their home games at their spring training facility.

— A regular season schedule of 82 games, played exclusively against division opponents and opponents from the corresponding geographic division in the other league. So, for example, the White Sox would play games against their four AL Central rivals and against the five teams from the NL Central, without seeing teams from the AL East or the AL West.

— A universal designated hitter, with nearly half the games pitting AL teams against NL teams.

— Expanded rosters, growing from 26 to 30 players per team, as well as a 20-man "taxi squad" of available minor leaguers.

— Expanded playoffs, growing the number of teams in the postseason from 10 to 14, that would be set to end in early November, as to avoid playing during a feared "second wave" of COVID-19 infections.

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Luis Robert is the current AL MVP, one White Sox teammate says

Luis Robert is the current AL MVP, one White Sox teammate says

White Sox relief pitcher Evan Marshall was just running down the list of his hot-hitting teammates Wednesday. He praised Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada, José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez.

But when he got to Luis Robert, he really had something to say.

"Luis Robert is probably the MVP in the AL right now," Marshall said.

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Robert's major league career is just 11 games old. And he's already an MVP candidate?

Certainly that's the kind of hype the five-tool threat brought into the shortened 2020 season. After he wowed minor league crowds last year, he was expected to be among the popular preseason picks to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He was the talk of "Summer Camp," with his teammates and coaches talking him up as a future superstar.

In his brief taste of big league action, Robert's already showing that hoping to be the Rookie of the Year might have been shooting a little low.

Through 11 games, Robert is hitting .364/.429/.568 with two home runs, three doubles, six RBIs, eight runs scored and an AL-leading four stolen bases.

The number that's really got people talking in certain circles is WAR. For the uninitiated, Wins Above Replacement puts a whole bunch of important baseball stuff in a blender — defense included — to quantify just how valuable players are compared to an average replacement player. Well, Robert leads the American League in that metric, according to the folks at Fangraphs. He's been worth 1.0 WAR through 11 games, better than every player in baseball besides San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, who has been worth 1.1 WAR. Over at Baseball-Reference (the stat varies depending on who's calculating it), Robert ranks sixth in baseball and third among American League position players, worth 0.9 WAR.

In other words, Marshall's claim isn't quite the biased teammate praise it might seem at first blush. Robert is having as good a season as anyone, albeit in a small sample size.

RELATED: White Sox sending Nick Madrigal to IL, but team's injuries might not last long

While other young stars in the making have taken their time to adjust to the major leagues upon their arrival on the White Sox big league roster, Robert seems to be bypassing that step.

"I mean, he just turned 23 on Monday. He’s a hell of a lot more mature than I was at 23," general manager Rick Hahn said of Robert on Wednesday. "It’s just been really fun to watch just how seamlessly he seemingly made this transition. And not just the transition to big leaguer, but even at-bat to at-bat in terms of adjustments that he makes almost on the fly and instinctually, it’s really impressive.

"Anyone can see the athleticism. Anyone can see the tools. ... Until you are around him and you understand the work ethic and the focus and the ability to block out the hype or the expectations, it’s hard to really appreciate the makeup and the character. We are all seeing it first hand.

"Whether it’s the money or the prospect rankings or whatever, people are very excited to see this player this year. And he’s just made it seem like he’s been able to block all that out and focus on his performance and make adjustments against major league pitching on the fly. It has been fun to watch."

If Robert can keep this up, maybe it will really fun for the White Sox to see the 23-year-old rookie be the franchise's first AL MVP since Frank Thomas in 1994.


White Sox sending Nick Madrigal to IL, but team's injuries might not last long

White Sox sending Nick Madrigal to IL, but team's injuries might not last long

Nick Madrigal is going on the injured list.

But that being as bad as the news gets would generate a sigh of relief from the White Sox and their fans.

The rookie second baseman separated his shoulder when he slid into third base during the third inning of Tuesday's game in Milwaukee. Madrigal tried to go from first to third on a sharply hit Luis Robert single but was thrown out by former White Sox outfielder Avisaíl García. No one much cared about the outcome of the play, though, when Madrigal popped up clutching his left arm in pain and the replay showed him slamming his arm into the ground on the slide.

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But the news from general manager Rick Hahn was relatively positive Wednesday. Madrigal will go on the injured list ahead of Thursday's roster-reduction deadline. The White Sox were required to trim their 30-man group to 28 anyway, and Madrigal will be one of the players removed from the active roster when he goes on the injured list.

Those fearing a repeat of 2018, when Madrigal fractured his wrist sliding into home plate in a college game, seem to be in the clear to breathe easier. Hahn said Madrigal could be back in the White Sox lineup before the calendar turns to September.

"We are optimistic that with some treatment and rehab Nick will be able to return to action for us at some point before the end of this month," Hahn said Wednesday. "However, there is the potential at some point, perhaps in the offseason, that he's going to need a procedure to stabilize the shoulder long term. That's a preliminary estimate.

"Right now he is headed to the 10-day (injured list), but again, we are optimistic he'll be able to rejoin us on the field, active, by the end of this month."

Madrigal's status was of great interest, and it should have been considering he was hurt in just fifth big league game. Watching him exit with a grimace on his face brought back memories of Michael Kopech, who required Tommy John surgery after just his fourth major league start in 2018. He hasn't pitched since and won't until 2021 after electing not to play this season due to personal reasons. Losing another big piece of the White Sox long-term puzzle to a long-term injury would have been a tough blow. Instead, Madrigal could be back relatively soon.

But Madrigal was not the only injured player Hahn needed to discuss Wednesday, nor was he the only injured player from Tuesday night's game. Fortunately for the White Sox, the news on their slew of injuries was all relatively promising. It's true that every game means a lot in this shortened season and being without key cogs for any length of time has the potential to swing the entire season in one direction or the other. But "a couple of weeks" is a heck of a lot better than "a couple of months." And for a team focused on the long-term future as much as the 2020 season, keeping the young team healthy for future runs at a championship is even more important than keeping the current winning streak intact.

RELATED: Eloy Jiménez thriving in loaded lineup: 'Thank god I'm part of the White Sox'

On to the rest of the updates.

— Edwin Encarnación will not go on the injured list after he left Tuesday's game early with shoulder soreness suffered while swinging the bat. Hahn reported that Encarnación is suffering from SC joint inflammation and that the designated hitter is day to day.

— Carlos Rodón, who made an early exit from Monday's game, departing after two innings of work with shoulder soreness, is hoped to be able to rejoin the team in a couple of weeks, per Hahn. The preliminary scans on his left shoulder were clean, and he remains on the injured list, where he was placed Tuesday, with shoulder inflammation.

— Tim Anderson, who went on the IL on Saturday after suffering a groin strain in Kansas City, will report to the White Sox alternate training site in Schaumburg on Thursday, where he will have a rehab assignment of sorts. Hahn said the team is optimistic Anderson will be back with the big league club at some point next week when his mandated 10-day stay on the injured list is through.

— Reynaldo López has already been on the injured list for more than a week, sent there after he recorded just two outs in his first start of the season and had to leave that game with shoulder soreness. His rehab, according to Hahn, has been delayed after he dealt with a non-COVID stomach illness that cost him a couple of days of rehab. But he's in Schaumburg, too, on a throwing program, and Hahn said López could be back with the team "at some point in the next few weeks."

Again, that's all relatively good news. Considering how hard the White Sox have been bitten by the injury bug in the early going — though a sixth of the way over, the season is just 11 games old — that all those major pieces of the puzzle escaped injuries that would keep them on the shelf for significantly longer is a better case scenario than certain alternatives, especially as teams around the league seem to be announcing season-ending injuries left and right.

As mentioned, things are different this season. Being on the injured list for the typical 10-day period is the equivalent to missing a month's worth of games in a normal season. But considering what the White Sox have shown so far — that their offense is extraordinarily capable, even at less than full strength, and their bullpen is possibly lights-out and their starting rotation has a couple dependable chuckers — they would seem able to keep experiencing many of the good things they have during this six-game win streak and stay in playoff position while guys heal up.

And if that's where they are come the end of August, when Anderson, Rodón, López and Madrigal could all be back in action, then the White Sox could finally have the roster they thought they'd have this season, making the final month of this dash to October quite interesting.