MLB Springs a Leake, More Defections Follow

Rocky Road to MLB Season

Now that the billionaire owners have come to an agreement with millionaire players on the conditions of what will be a truncated MLB season, there are still many hurdles to overcome. The COVID-19 pandemic still lingers and shortly before the deal was struck to return to action, training facilities were shut down after the Phillies announced several of their players had tested positive for the virus.

However, now that a date has been set to resume the agreed-upon 60-game regular season, teams are opening up shop in their own stadiums to train, but we have seen cracks in the armor as some players are refusing to play. Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher, Mike Leake, was the first to go public and his agent, Danny Horwitz, stated, “This was not an easy decision for Mike. He wishes the best of luck and health for his Diamondback teammates this season and he’s looking forward to 2021.”

The nature of Leake’s concerns were not made clear but Major League Baseball has agreed to allow players with compromised immune systems or preexisting medical conditions to sit out the abbreviated season. It is not clear whether Leake falls under either category but we do know he will be forgoing his prorated salary of $5.5 million for what would likely be a dozen games at most.

Arizona general manager, Mike Hazen, commented on the degree to which Leake’s absence will have on the ballclub, considering he is a back of the rotation option, “It definitely impacts us. Certainly, he’s a good major league starting pitcher. To what extent it’s going to impact us, it’s hard to say. I think I would probably have a different answer if it was over 162 [games] as opposed to if it was over 60.”

The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals saw two of their own follow Leake’s lead when Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross stated they too would be taking a hard pass on the 2020 season. In a statement released by his agent, Zimmerman explained, “I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”

The winner of three Silver Slugger Awards, Ian Desmond, of the Colorado Rockies has also chosen to remain on the sidelines and offered, “With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now. Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys’ questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.”

The Minnesota Twins have a pair of 60-something coaches, Bill Evers and Bob McClure, who will not be allowed to return to the diamond by order of the organization but will remain on the payroll and could serve in advisory capacities this season.

The tenuous nature of the season is exacerbated by what will likely be more defections around the league as well as those players who will test positive for the virus and sidelined indefinitely. It is not unreasonable to believe that we will see many minor league players filling holes that will be left by the major leaguers who are put in quarantine. Even the bookmakers will be adjusting their lines depending on who sits and who plays.

Red Sox Ready to Roll

The news is not all doom and gloom as we see that the Boston Red Sox have a full complement of its roster prepared to participate when camp opens up at Fenway Park. Sox manager, Ron Roenicke, stated, “I don’t know any of our guys who are on the fence about playing. They’ve told me that they’re ready to go. Is there a couple guys that are concerned? Yeah, there is. But as far as I know, what they’ve told me from today, yesterday, the day before, that I expect everybody to come in.”

After holding a Zoom meeting with the team over the weekend, Roenicke acknowledged there were players who voiced concerns, but none loud enough to preclude anyone from attending camp, “I think we’ve got enough veteran leadership that when we’re on the road or home, they’ll direct the guys the right way and also realize that when you’re young and you think you’re invincible, that you do things a little bit different. So hopefully we’ll address this enough where guys know and hey, they have a responsibility, not just to themselves and staying healthy, but they can bring this virus in and give it to other guys, so they know how important it is and hopefully enough to where we’re going to stay pretty clean as a team.”