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Nationals’ decision to stall workouts shows just how precarious MLB season is

Nationals’ decision to stall workouts shows just how precarious MLB season is

The structure of the Major League Baseball season is built on a wobbly and shallow foundation. It took just three days for it to begin shaking.

The participants in the 2019 World Series cancelled their workouts Monday. Both the Nationals and Astros are concerned with and irritated by the lag in testing results being returned from the league. They followed league protocol Friday by taking their issued saliva tests. Results are supposed to be ready in 24-48 hours. They were not available Sunday. They were not available Monday. Both organizations shut their workouts down.

Mike Rizzo delivered a pointed statement following the testing failures by the league:

“Per MLB’s protocol, all players and staff were tested for Covid-19 on Friday, July 3rd  Seventy-two hours later, we have yet to receive the results of those tests. We cannot have our players and staff work at risk. Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning. We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

RELATED: TWO NATIONALS PLAYERS TEST POSITIVE FOR THE CORONAVIRUS

Monday morning began with pom-pom waving about the league’s pending schedule release in the evening. A few minutes later, the Nationals announced their decision to pause their workouts. The Astros followed an hour later. The Angels moved their workouts from the morning to the afternoon in hopes their test results would be in beforehand. Nick Markakis opted out of the season in Atlanta after talking to teammate Freddie Freeman, who tested positive for COVID-19.

“Hearing the way he sounded on the phone kind of opened my eyes,” Markakis told reporters. “Freddie didn’t sound good.”

All of this occurred a day after several players wondered out loud about the stability of the season. Some, like David Price and Félix Hernández, wanted to observe what protocols looked like before they made a decision. They chose to leave after seeing the processes.

Sean Doolittle formulated a personal plan -- he and his wife, Eireann, who is high-risk -- will live apart, but close. Doolittle remained unsure three days into the process if he would continue participating while also saying he thought the on-site medical teams were doing everything possible to keep players safe.

“Like a lot of players, [I think] the opt-out provisions are not great,” Doolittle said. “There’s a lot of players right now trying to make decisions that might be participating in camp that aren’t 100 percent comfortable with where things are at right now. That’s kind of where I am. I think I'm planning on playing, but if at any point I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health with all these things that we have to worry about and just kind of this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I'll opt out.”

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Monday’s news was more potshot than salve for those concerns. The league, yet to respond about the testing lag, received a clear and public jab from two of its most important franchises, though the majority of teams moved forward with their workouts as planned. Players are beginning to talk to each other about the actual risks. And, Monday’s bumps will reboot discussions at home. Expect more players choosing not to play this week. They already don’t trust the league. That lack of trust has been validated with the early botches in testing. It could switch their prior perspective.

The problem also exists within the most important thing: test results. Players who worked out Sunday in Nationals Park didn’t know if they tested positive Friday. But, they were all back to work, operating under all of the team’s mitigation efforts.

If players can’t trust the process, they can’t trust the testing. Then they can’t trust being on the field for two months or more while traveling. Which means they can’t play baseball in 2020.

The only upshot for the league is this happening now. Their window to fix it is tight. They likely don’t have time to shift to on-site, or at least local, testing instead of running everything through their converted lab in Salt Lake City. But, they can issue an apology, outline their course correction, try to restore faith in their system.

What they can’t do is guarantee anything. Those involved knew that all along. The questions existed around what they were willing to accept. A lag in testing is on the list of things they cannot.

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Juan Soto makes former Nationals INF Mark DeRosa’s All-MLB team

Juan Soto makes former Nationals INF Mark DeRosa’s All-MLB team

Juan Soto’s 2020 season is barely over a week old and he’s already earning selections on lists of the league’s best players.

MLB Network analyst Mark DeRose, a former MLB infielder who spent one year in Washington, released his All-MLB team and slotted Soto in at left field.

Entering play Thursday, Soto is hitting .423 with four home runs and three doubles over his first seven games of the year. The 21-year-old missed the first week and a half after testing positive for the coronavirus just hours before the Nationals hosted the New York Yankees on Opening Night.

Soto’s biggest challengers for an outfield spot include Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Charlie Blackmon, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mookie Betts. Though he may not have yet earned the hardware that some of those other players have in their careers, Soto has evidently impressed DeRosa enough to earn a spot above all of them.

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Suspended Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly slams Astros for being ‘rats’ amid scandal

Suspended Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly slams Astros for being ‘rats’ amid scandal

Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly didn’t hold back when discussing his thoughts on how the Houston Astros handled Major League Baseball’s investigation into their sign-stealing scheme, calling them "rats" and "snitches" in a podcast released Thursday.

Kelly, who was suspended eight games (reduced to five on appeal) for throwing pitches behind the heads of Astros infielders Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, joined teammate Ross Stripling’s podcast The Big Swing. He explained that his issue with the Astros lies with how they avoided punishment after the scandal and not necessarily the cheating itself.

"The people who took the fall for what happened is nonsense," Kelly said. "Yes, everyone is involved. But the way that [sign-stealing system] was run over there was not from coaching staff...They're not the head boss in charge of that thing. It's the players. So now the players get the immunity, and all they do is go snitch like a little b----, and they don't have to get fined, they don't have to lose games.

"When you take someone's livelihood...to save your own a--, that's what I don't like…Cheating? They cheated. Everyone knows they're cheaters. They know they're cheaters. It's over. That's been there, done that. But now they mess it up by ruining other people's lives, so they f---ed it up twice...When you taint someone's name to save your own name, this is one of the worst things that you could probably do...That really friggin' bugs me. I think I'll be irritated forever."

RELATED: WITH NO ACCESS TO IN-GAME VIDEO, TREA TURNER’S SWING HAS TAKEN TIME TO ADJUST

Last offseason, the Astros were found to have carried out a sign-stealing scheme during their 2017 championship season, using hidden cameras at their home stadium and a trash can to relay opposing catchers’ signs to their hitters in real time. The organization was fined the maximum $5 million and stripped of multiple top draft picks. Manager A.J. Hinch, GM Jeff Luhnow, former bench coach Alex Cora and former player Carlos Beltran were all suspended for the 2020 season and lost their jobs. No players were fined or suspended as a result of the investigation.

Kelly played under Cora as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2018. He wasn’t on the Dodgers team that lost to the Astros in the 2017 World Series but didn’t shy away from making his feelings about them known when he faced them July 28. After sailing fastballs by the heads of Bregman and Correa, Kelly mocked Correa on his way back to the dugout and both benches cleared.

Though the podcast was recorded before Kelly’s suspension was reduced, he didn’t feel that he deserved a suspension at all.

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“I socially distanced. I walked away. I didn't get close, and I followed all the guidelines of the CDC, and people on the other side didn't,” Kelly said. “They walked out of their dugout, walked toward us. Carlos Correa f---ing spit at our team. I don't know if it was [at] me. He spit out of his mouth...This guy walks over to our dugout and then spits, while I follow all the rules, and I get eight games.

“They have a manager [Dusty Baker] on their side, verbatim, yelling at me, ‘Get your little skinny ass on the mound.’ So my cuss words get eight games, and his cuss words get zero? That makes complete sense, right? Welcome to planet Earth. A debacle.”

The Astros faced heavy scrutiny early in spring training but were spared such treatment from fans when MLB decided to proceed with the 2020 season without opening stadium doors. Kelly was placed on the 10-Day Injured List and will serve his suspension upon his return.

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