MLB's COVID-19 safety protocols include some big, complicated hurdles for players

MLB's COVID-19 safety protocols include some big, complicated hurdles for players

Major League Baseball has released its medical protocols proposal to the MLB Players Association, and reports from the 67-page document paint a detailed look at how to play baseball amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It also seems a bit complicated.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Phillies insider Jim Salisbury joined Mike Tirico's Lunch Talk Live on Monday to break down the proposed protocols, which include limits and rules on things like hotel stays, traveling to and from ballparks, and even showering after games.

Salisbury said he sees some rules that will be tough for players to embrace, and others that seem hard to enforce.

"I think of some of these pitchers who love to do the hot and cold compresses, the hot and cold whirlpools, the contrast whirlpools, after games," Salisbury said Monday, "and I guess they wouldn't be able to do that. Sitting in the dugouts, sitting in the stands, you can't talk to the third base coach, throwing out balls after you use them and touch them.

"It's going to be - I think baseball players are really creatures of routine, and creatures of habit. I mean, they spit a lot. They don't even know they're spitting. It's in their subconscious. It's in their ballplayer DNA. Things like that are going to be very, very difficult for these guys to break. Chewing sunflower seeds in the outfield.

"I just wonder how this stuff is going to be policed, and is there going to be a punishment if you do stuff like this?"

The question of policing these rules is a big question, considering these are uncharted waters for MLB, and for pro sports at large.

Tirico asked Salisbury whether he thinks, if these protocols can be shaped into something player-friendly, and things seem to be safe for all involved, the players and owners will be able to find common ground in terms of fair pay for a compromised season.

"I do, Mike, and here's why," Salisbury explained. "Usually, when these two sides, the old warring factions of the owners and the players, get together and start talking about money, they draw lines and they dig in, there's rancor early, and they eventually work their way to the middle. 

"One of the things with this coronavirus crisis, this shutdown, is you notice there's a real sense of community out there. You see it in your neighborhoods, in your town, with people. Baseball needs to show that same sense of community. The owners and players need to come together. If health and safety can be worked out, they need to find a way to work out those finances and play some ball.

"Come together, show some community, get back on the field if - and only if - it's going to be safe for everyone." 

If all that comes together - a big if, no doubt - when could we realistically see games played again?

The popular proposal floating around baseball circles right now, originally suggested by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal in late April, has placed a big target on July 4 as a possible start date.

Tirico asked Salisbury if he thinks the holiday restart is feasible.

"I hope so," Salisbury said, "and I hope we see it right here in Philadelphia. What better place to go on the Fourth of July?"

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Citing huge losses in revenue, Phillies make salary cuts

Citing huge losses in revenue, Phillies make salary cuts

Projecting losses of "substantially more than $100 million," Phillies ownership on Monday instituted salary cuts for its top-earning employees.

The cuts, effective immediately, apply to employees earning more than $90,000 per year. Employees making $90,000 or less are not subject to cuts.

"Our senior executives have made significant and deep non-payroll expense cuts across the organization, but even with their best efforts, the Phillies will lose substantially more than $100 million this year," managing partner John Middleton wrote in a letter that was emailed to full-time employees and obtained by NBC Sports Philadelphia.

"These staggering losses have forced ownership and senior management to make difficult but necessary decisions, as have other clubs and businesses confronted with the impact of Covid-19, to protect the financial viability of our organization and to ensure our future. All of us, beginning with me, must make sacrifices."

Employees making over $90,000 will have a percentage of their pay reduced on a graduated basis; the higher the salary, the bigger the cut. The reductions will continue through October 31, the end of the team's fiscal year. In his letter, Middleton stated that he would forego his compensation for the balance of the year.

"While I remain hopeful that we will see baseball at Citizens Bank Park this summer, any games played will almost surely be played without fans in the ballpark which is regrettable," Middleton wrote. "The absence of fans creates an enormous financial challenge, as approximately 40 percent of our total annual revenue is generated by attendance — tickets, food and merchandise concessions, parking and sponsorships. With no fans in the stands, these sources of revenue evaporate."

Middleton stated that employees would be treated the same, whether they were on the baseball side or the business side.

In recent weeks, Phillies ownership pledged it would not cut jobs or employee benefits through October. Employees from some other teams have not been so fortunate. 

The Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A's, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds are teams known to have issued furloughs. Many other teams, including high-profile clubs such as the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers have instituted pay cuts. According to reports, 80 percent of Cubs employees have been subject to a 20 percent pay cut and Dodgers employees making over $75,000 have been cut up to 35 percent. Red Sox employees making over $50,000 have received cuts ranging from 20 to 30 percent.

"This salary reduction plan does not come close to eliminating our 2020 losses," Middleton wrote. "As a result of the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Buck and Middleton families must now invest an additional $100 million in the Phillies over the next year to ensure the continued stability of the club. During these uncertain and distressing times, our decision-making must address both short-term and long-term financial ramifications, especially since none of us knows when and how this pandemic will end. Our success historically has been defined by a culture of collaboration, and I am asking all of you to continue working with me to meet this challenge."

As the calendar turned to June on Monday, Major League Baseball and the players union continued to negotiate a way to bring the game back for a shortened season this summer. The sides remain apart on financial issues. A resolution must come in the next week or so if a season is to commence in early July.

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Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman react to the MLBPA's latest proposal, the Roy Halladay documentary and recall some of their favorite moments from the Phillies' opening playoff series in 2008.

• Are players and owners closer to a financial resolution?

• It seems like the two sides are having completely separate conversation.

• What's more likely: 82 games or 114?

• Our takeaways from the Roy Halladay documentary.

• Halladay may have ended up coaching with the Phillies.

• 1-on-1 with Cole Hamels about 2008 playoffs.

• Best moments and memories of that 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers.

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