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Union rejects latest proposal, MLB expected to implement 60-game season soon

Union rejects latest proposal, MLB expected to implement 60-game season soon

Another rejection, more delays, and still we are without word of what a 2020 baseball season could look like.

Monday, the players' union voted to reject Major League Baseball's most recent proposal for a 60-game season, opting to preserve their right to file a grievance against the league and take legal action as the state of labor relations in the sport worsens by the hour.

The union's statement following the vote reaffirmed their "when and where" stance and seemingly put the ball in commissioner Rob Manfred's court. He's expected to use the power granted to him in the March agreement between the two sides to implement a season of however many games he and the owners choose, reportedly a 60-game campaign beginning late next month.

But even that decision does not appear to be imminent.

That's not entirely surprising, considering the things that still need to be ironed out between the two parties, most importantly the health and safety measures the league will take while the sport is played in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.

But indeed the financial fight drags on. Perhaps it's paused for now, though the union seemed to put its foot down and end negotiations more than a week ago, only for Manfred and union chief Tony Clark to sit down in Arizona days later, renewing optimism that a deal might be reached. The two sides traded proposals again — something that supposedly caught the owners off guard, as they believed the Manfred-Clark meeting ended in an agreement — and ended up just 10 games apart, the owners pushing for a 60-game season and the players a 70-game season.

Still, no compromise.

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As has been the case all along, the battle has been about money, and the financial stakes are undoubtedly high. The players seemed to have won their crusade for full prorated salaries, which they agreed to in March, though perhaps at the cost of a great number of regular-season games. The owners, warning of gigantic losses in a season played without fans in the stands, have not provided the evidence to back those claims up, fueling a lack of trust on the players' side.

It's been speculated that either side could take legal action by filing a grievance, the players arguing that the owners did not try to play the greatest number of games, and the owners charging the players did not try to work out an economically feasible solution. A ruling in favor of the players, it's been guessed, could come with a nearly $1 billion price tag for the owners.

But a lack of a deal could also scuttle plans for some interesting changes to the game amid these unprecedented circumstances, ones that might have set the groundwork, perhaps, for long-lasting change in the sport. The designated hitter was expected to come to the National League. The postseason was pitched to expand from 10 teams to 16 teams. There was a discussion of adopting new rules for extra innings. Players might have been mic'd up in enhanced broadcasts. And teams might have been allowed to sell advertisements on their uniforms. None of that can happen without the two sides agreeing.

While the very public disagreement between the two sides is being decried as damaging to the sport's long-term reputation — there are ominous predictions of a work stoppage coming when the current collective-bargaining agreement ends after the 2021 campaign — often lost is the fact that any shortened season would take place during a pandemic. And rather than focus on baseball's supposed "missed opportunity" to draw a few extra eyeballs, how about some attention on the health risks facing players, coaches and the myriad staffers required to stage a season?

According to a report, 40 people in baseball tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Four teams experienced positive tests in one day, spurring the league to shut down all spring training facilities.

And outside the walls of major league ballparks and facilities, the number of COVID-19 cases is rising dramatically in many states, including 11 that are home to a combined 19 major league teams — two-thirds of the league.

So, in the end, no matter when the season starts, it will be unknown if it will be able to finish, given the evolving state of the pandemic.

But any number of games is greater than zero, which is how many have been announced to this point as we continue to wait for baseball.

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Field of Dreams game postponed, White Sox still involved, MLB eyes August 2021

Field of Dreams game postponed, White Sox still involved, MLB eyes August 2021

Major League Baseball built it, but whether the teams will ever come remains to be seen.

A day after it was reported the Field of Dreams game between the White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals was off, Major League Baseball officially postponed the Iowa-based event set for next week, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the reason why.

"We made every effort to go ahead with a first-class event for the people of Iowa, admirers of the film and fans generally," commissioner Rob Manfred said in the league's announcement. "Unfortunately, we have come to the conclusion that it would not be prudent to ask clubs to step outside their normal routines, given the evolving public-health challenges. We hope to host this event in Iowa in 2021."

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"Hope" is not "will," of course, though perhaps it's an appropriate choice of verb considering how unpredictable everything is right now. The league seems to be taking a day-to-day approach to simply keeping the 2020 season running as multiple teams have now experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in the first week and a half of regular-season action.

The Cardinals are one of those teams, with seven players testing positive for COVID-19 in recent days. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, who first reported the Field of Dreams game's postponement Monday, said the league wasn't calling the game off due to the Cardinals' situation, though it remains to be seen whether they will resume play by next weekend's scheduled series against the White Sox, which would now figure to take place in its entirety on the South Side. The Cardinals did not play their scheduled weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin, and their scheduled four-game series with the Detroit Tigers this week in Michigan was postponed Monday. They're scheduled to take on the Cubs this weekend in St. Louis.

Major League Baseball said Tuesday that it hopes to include the Field of Dreams game on next season's schedule, played in August, with the White Sox against an undetermined opponent. But considering the 2021 schedule is already out, we can take a look at the White Sox schedule for the month of August and try to guess who the opponent would be.

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The obvious and logical choice: the New York Yankees, who were originally scheduled to be the opponent in the Field of Dreams game this summer before the league moved to a regional schedule for the 2020 campaign. The White Sox are scheduled to play hosts to the Yankees on Aug. 13, 14 and 15 of 2021, with an off day preceding that series Aug. 12.

Considering the original 2020 schedule had those two teams facing off in Iowa on a Thursday, with an off day Friday, then playing two more games on the South Side on Saturday and Sunday, the exact same scheduling could be put into place for 2021 by just moving the first game of that series to Aug. 12 and having an off day Aug. 13.

Another possibility could be the Crosstown-rival Cubs. Both Crosstown series are set for August weekends next season, and it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the league to schedule one of the games between the two Chicago teams as a nationally televised weekend game. There's also a shared off day following the conclusion of the second Crosstown series Monday, Aug. 30, that could provide some breathing room for a potential schedule adjustment, say playing in Iowa on Saturday night, with an odd Sunday off day, then returning to Chicago to wrap the series Monday.

Baseball has few bigger draws than the Yankees and Cubs, and the league is trying to make this an attention-grabbing showcase event for a national-TV audience. The White Sox playing the Yankees or Cubs in Iowa surely would accomplish that goal.

Of course, like everything, circumstances have to allow for the game to be played at all. Baseball is getting a taste of the challenges of trying to play a brief regular season in empty home ballparks in the middle of the pandemic. Depending on where things stand next summer, circumstances still might work against the Field of Dreams game happening. But we'll see.


White Sox put Carlos Rodón on IL as pitching depth keeps getting tested

White Sox put Carlos Rodón on IL as pitching depth keeps getting tested

It's a good thing the White Sox had all that pitching depth, because just 10 games into the 2020 season, they've had to use an awful lot of it.

The team sent Carlos Rodón to the 10-day injured list with shoulder soreness Tuesday, a day after he was removed from his start against the Milwaukee Brewers after a significant dip in velocity in just two innings of work.

"We were looking at him from the first inning. He was kind of fidgeting quite a bit," manager Rick Renteria said after Monday's game. "He came in, went right in, didn't complain about anything. He went back out, obviously his velocities were down a little bit — well, not a little bit, enough.

"He came in and we were already talking about it, and once he came in, he just said he was feeling a little something in his neck and the ball wasn't coming out of his hand right, which is what we could see. We were already prepared to make a change at that point, because we saw what it looked like, and then we had him checked out."

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It's the second member of the Opening Day rotation the White Sox have sent to the injured list with shoulder soreness just a week and a half into this shortened season. Reynaldo López recorded just two outs in his 2020 debut before exiting with shoulder soreness, and he also landed on the injured list the next day.

That's 40 percent of the rotation on the shelf — not to mention Michael Kopech, who elected not to play this season for personal reasons — and even the depth behind those five has decreased. Jimmy Lambert, who just returned from Tommy John surgery, went on the injured list with a forearm strain after making his first two career appearances as a member of the White Sox bullpen. He was moved to the 45-day injured list Monday.

Rodón, too, just returned from Tommy John surgery, and the layoff allowed him to be a full-season option for the White Sox instead of the midseason acquisition he was slated to be under normal circumstances. He made the Opening Day starting staff, and before the season started, he emotionally spoke about his road back from not only that injury but the numerous arm injuries that have cost him time over the past several years.

"Getting hurt is not a thing that anyone wants to do, any athlete. That's not our goal. That's the last thing you think about when you get drafted or you become a professional athlete," he said last month. "But sometimes, it doesn't quite go your way.

"Through my time with the White Sox, we've had a few ups and downs, and that's kind of where I've had to learn how to mature and I think I've grown a lot through them. It hasn't been easy, especially this one (the Tommy John surgery) coming off a shoulder (surgery). Honestly, having my baby girl, Willow, kind of got me through the TJ. And it's been a ride, man.

"Getting a chance to not only be able to pitch and come back, but to be able to start the season with my teammates is a blessing. I've been saying this a long time, feels like it's been three or four years, but I keep saying this: It feels like I've got something to prove, just being hurt all the time. It's not fun, that's for sure."

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Meanwhile, the White Sox need a fill-in member of the starting rotation for the second time in a little more than a week. Gio González, who figured to be a part of the starting five had the season started in March, was moved from the bullpen to the rotation in place of López. After the White Sox called up Brady Lail to take Rodón's spot on the active roster, it seems the most logical outcome is Ross Detwiler, who has excelled in a relief role so far this season, taking Rodón's turn in the rotation.

But the much discussed starting-pitching depth has taken a pretty sizable hit in no time. After Detwiler, the next starting-pitching option would figure to be highly touted prospect Dane Dunning, though the White Sox signed 36-year-old veteran lefty Clayton Richard to a minor league deal Monday, providing another option at the team's alternate training site in Schaumburg.

Injuries are tearing through pitching staffs all across baseball right now, with many blaming the brief ramp up to Opening Day following the months-long layoff. The White Sox are no exception. Even with health, the starting pitching past Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel at the top of the White Sox rotation was the biggest mystery coming into the 2020 campaign. Now, the team can't even reap any positive answers to such big questions, as two-thirds of the group of Rodón, López and Dylan Cease are on the injured list.

While the White Sox offense continues to rake during the team's five-game winning streak, there is reason to be concerned about what the future holds from a starting-pitching standpoint as the South Siders are burning through their supposed depth in that department. Obviously, this is what pitching depth is for, to meet the challenges of injuries. But the White Sox surely didn't want to use this much of it this soon, and now the safety net is undoubtedly thinner.