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MLB teams agree to pay minor-leaguers ‘lump sum’ to cover lost spring wages

MLB teams agree to pay minor-leaguers ‘lump sum’ to cover lost spring wages

Major League Baseball announced a league-wide initiative Thursday to pay minor-league players who lost out on the expected stipends or allowances they receive during spring training. A lump sum equivalent to the amount of money each player would’ve earned by Opening Day will be paid out by each organization, with no plan given on how minor-leaguers will be compensated after April 8.

“Since last week, Major League Baseball has been engaged in a variety of discussions with stakeholders to identify ways to blunt the wide-ranging impact of the national emergency resulting from the global coronavirus pandemic,” the league’s public relations department said in a statement.

“MLB is taking this initial step today because of the effects of the season’s postponement on Minor League players and their families. MLB intends to continue working with all 30 Clubs to identify additional ways to support those players as a result of the delayed 2020 season.”

Minor-league players aren’t paid a salary during spring training. Teams typically provide housing and meals while giving allowances or stipends to each player. When MLB issued a memo to its clubs Sunday recommending that they send all players not on 40-man rosters home, many minor-leaguers lost out on those stipends and, in some cases, food and housing they were counting on.

The lump sums that will be handed out as a result of this initiative will cover those stipends, but it’s not immediately clear if the players will be compensated for the loss of meals and living spaces as well. The announcement also doesn’t explain how players will be paid once the season begins, but says MLB “will continue to monitor ongoing events and undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts to protect fans, players and ballpark workers.”

According to the Associated Press, the minimum weekly salaries were expected to range from $290 to $502 this season. Multiple outlets reported in February that minor-league salaries would be raised to a range of $400 to $700 beginning in 2021.

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Champs with an asterisk? Not this year's World Series champ

Champs with an asterisk? Not this year's World Series champ

Just because the eventual 2020 World Series champion will have played fewer games, don't expect the rest of Major League Baseball to look at them with a scoff. 

In fact, it's apparently viewed by players as an even taller task given the circumstances of this year. 

"I did a story, this was a couple weeks ago, I talked to managers, GMs, players, and they all swore, you know, up an down, that's it's gonna mean even more, just because of what you've been through," USA Today's Bob Nightengale said on the Nationals Talk podcast. "Starting Spring Training. Stopping Spring Training. Not knowing when you're going to pick up again. So emotionally, physically, it's a very challenging season. So, the managers will tell you this might even mean more than just a regular season."

There's no question baseball is in the middle of something they've never experienced before, and it would be a lazy argument to brush aside the accomplishments of any successful team in 2020, let alone the one that wins it all.

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The number of regular season games played is minuscule compared to the mental toll the last couple of months has taken on everyone involved in the sport.

The human element of sports is far too often overlooked, and anyone deciding to put an asterisk on this season would be doing just that. 

Unique circumstances tend to bring out the best in the best. How this year's best, whenever the season gets going, reacts to those circumstances, will truly be a remarkable achievement. 

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How Stephen Strasburg changed his narrative in one postseason run

How Stephen Strasburg changed his narrative in one postseason run

When Stephen Strasburg entered the 2019 season, he had a reputation of fragility and, as a result, unavailability when it came to the playoffs.

The former No. 1 overall pick had missed two of the four playoff series the Nationals had appeared in since drafting him as one of the most hyped pitching prospects in a generation. While he had certainly shown more than a few flashes of the potential Washington saw in him, there were few instances when he was able to put it all together and stay on the field in time for the postseason.

That all changed last October, when Strasburg led the National League in innings (209) and placed fifth in NL Cy Young voting before cruising through the playoffs to the tune of a 5-0 record with a 1.98 ERA and 47 strikeouts across 36 1/3 innings. He also took World Series MVP honors, highlighted by a Game 6 near-complete game, as the Nationals claimed D.C.’s first baseball championship since 1924.

Now, Strasburg didn’t touch his career high in innings (215 in 2014) nor did he claim his best finish for the Cy Young award (placed third in 2017). He even once struck out 12 Chicago Cubs over seven scoreless innings to stave off elimination in the 2017 NLDS while battling the flu.

The signs were all there, but Strasburg’s historic playoff run changed the narrative around his career and cemented him as one of the premiere playoff pitchers in all of baseball.

USA TODAY baseball columnist Bob Nightengale joined NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas, Nick Ashooh and Chase Hughes on Wednesday's episode of the Nationals Talk podcast and weighed in on how Strasburg improved his reputation on a national scale.

“I think [he has] just the warrior mentality now—taking the ball, winning big games, a clutch performer,” Nightengale said. “I think that with the Nationals’ World Series run, I think it benefit his reputation more than anybody else. [He’s now] seen as a tough guy. He’s probably always been that way but I don’t think he had that perception from peers, fans, media, that sort of thing.”

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Before the year began, critics were skeptical that Strasburg would exercise the first of the two player options in his contract to remain in D.C. rather than test free agency. Fresh off parading down Constitution Avenue, he opted out of that deal and scored a new one: seven years and $245 million, giving him the largest contract in Nationals history.

Of course, there are still plenty of questions surrounding Strasburg’s ability to remain healthy and productive all the way through his age-37 season (the final year of his contract). Prior to 2019, he was on a streak of four straight seasons with fewer than 30 starts and 200 innings—and only once in that span did he eclipse 25 starts and 150 innings.

But with a World Series MVP award on his resume, there’s now no question the Strasburg can perform in the playoffs even after handling a significant workload during the regular season.

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