BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 07/01/2020

Thiel: No ball in T-town, Everett; Mariners ready

Minor-league baseball season officially became ashes Tuesday. The Mariners get workouts underway Friday in the sanitized T-Mobile bubble. Health drama begins.

Cheney Stadium won’t look like this in 2020. / Richard Trask, Tacoma Rainiers

The Mariners are open for the business of baseball training in Seattle Wednesday. Tuesday in Tacoma and Everett, baseball was closed for the season.

News of the fate of the the Mariners’ Class AAA affiliate to the south and the Class A affiliate to the north was no surprise. It is hard is to play baseball without players.

Since MLB suspended in March the working agreement between MLB and the minors because of the pandemic, the agreement has not been reinstated. So the teams have not been supplied with players. Nor will they be.

Minor League Baseball’s Board of Trustees made official Tuesday what was obvious for months — there is crying in baseball, especially if you like it affordable and accessible.

The broader cause of the seasonal expiration was the coronavirus. MLB teams are going to extraordinary, even ridiculous lengths in an attempt to ensure the safety of players and personnel at home ballparks where they will play a 60-game season starting July 23-24. There’s no way the same resources will be made available to minor league clubs.

But in the safety-first absence of spectators, MLB can at least get revenues from national media contracts. The Tacoma Rainiers, Everett AquaSox and every minor league team are all about ballpark revenues and sponsorships. They can’t afford to hire their own players.

So in the absence of players, there are no games AND no fans. What there likely will be, is bankruptcies, for some clubs in smaller markets. Some fans will want ticket refunds, but those who accept credit toward 2021 season tickets means less fresh income for that season.

Cruelly, maybe the outcome is what MLB wants: Allowing the virus to cull the number of teams to save money in order to keep a little blood off its hands.

In the off-season, MLB’s owners proposed to lop 42 of 162 teams formally affiliated with big clubs. The list was fluid, and never publicly announced, the most recent negotiations April 22. Now, without a 2020 season, the scythe is free to swing.

Regarding players, it isn’t clear whether each MLB club will continue to pay the $400-a-week stipends to each player for the balance of the season. The Mariners have committed to paying though Aug. 31.

Club employees face a similar uncertainty, unless the owners can rent out the ballparks for socially distant outdoor dining, swap meets and movie nights sufficient to keep the lights on.

The Mariners probably will use Cheney Stadium and Funko Field for workouts with players who aren’t part of the active roster. But even that is laborious with all the sanitizing that has to take place before and after workouts.

While the minor league season is officially ashes, MLB released Tuesday its changed rules and new health protocols for the 60-game big-boy season, summarized here by the Seattle Times.

Players are reporting to T-Mobile Park starting Wednesday and the first workout is Friday. One who won’t be playing is their best player, OF Mitch Haniger. Recovering from multiple surgeries, including one on his back Feb. 13, he’s on the 60-day injured list. Since the 60-day list this season has shrunk to 45 days, he will, once healthy, be eligible to play.

In a Zoom conference with reporters last week, general manager Jerry Dipoto said “more than one” player has tested positive for the virus, but didn’t say whom.

“We’re not yet sure with the testing coming this weekend how much of that will affect our 40-man roster,” he said. “But with the cases popping up, especially in some of the hot spots around the country, we’ve had a few players test positive. Right now, they’re asymptomatic, and they feel great.

“We are aware that they’re positive, and, obviously, they will not be in the environment when we open up until we’ve determined either, A, they are part of the roster group, or B, they’re healthy enough to be a part of that.”

Besides the 40-man active roster below, each club is allowed an additional 20 players in camp because of the absence of the minor leagues. That group includes top prospects OFs Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez and pitchers Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock, the latter the club’s first-round pick (sixth overall).

The season will start with an active game roster of 30. The remainder will be on a taxi squad. After 14 days, the roster is pared 28, then 26 in another 14 days.

Assuming, of course, the coronavirus is abruptly stopped on its current home-run trot across America and is called out.


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YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    “We shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best.” (Rand Paul)

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      As an ophthalmologist, Rand has pink eye covered. Covid, not so much. PSA announcement.

      • art thiel

        You’re saying he’s not a visionary?

        • 2nd place is 1st loser

          I just report it, you decide. 😎

    • art thiel

      Fortunately, Rand was never put in charge of NASA, or we’d be shooting arrows at the moon with astronauts attached.

      • Husky73

        Perhaps we could get Rand’s neighbor to beat him up again? In the words of Joe Pesci, “I could use a good ass kicking.”

        • art thiel

          The neighbor had his shot, an now has to move to the back of a long line.

  • Alan Harrison

    Okay. So when the virus closes this all down next month, we’ll have a sense of what the Mariners’ priority list for 2021 (2022?) I would have rather seen the 60 man roster rather than the 40 since the latter is not really going to be used this year. But this is all moot, at least as I see it.

    • art thiel

      Your mootness is probably accurate. It would be nice see all 60, but the Mariners and every club would be foolish to play top prospects in a throwaway season, not only for reasons of injury but the starting of the service-time clock. If they do play these kids now, feel free to be angry.

  • Kirkland

    A few years back, I decided to take in both Aquasox and Rainiers games. The two experiences were fun, and certainly affordable. Everett was more kid-friendly, with air castles and kids volunteering for a late-innings trash collection in the crowd. (I’d even recommend taking your young kid to the Sox for their first baseball experience, and see that they like that before blowing a paycheck at T-Mobile Park.) Tacoma’s stadium is a great minor-league park, and I’d love to return for another Rainiers game or even the Reign, despite baseball stadiums not being suited for soccer.

    Instead at eliminating some minor league teams, why not look at the distribution of teams? From what I’ve seen, the Mariners and most teams have about 5-6 farm teams in the various classes, while the Yankees have nearly 10. Do the Yankees have that many more prospects than the average team, that they need more farm clubs? Shouldn’t there be a standard number of farm teams, like how NHL teams have one in the AHL (AAA-level) and one in the ECHL (AA)?

    • art thiel

      Here’s the affiliations list. Mariners have seven, Yankees nine. Seven to nine is the MLB span, so there’s obviously no mandated number.

      http://www.milb.com/milb/info/affiliations.jsp

      I think standardization is among the goals of the cuts. TBH, romantic as are the minors, it is a bloated business. So many minor league players have zero chance for MLB, and the pay, beyond high-round bonuses, is miserable.

      More background:

      https://www.si.com/mlb/2020/04/22/minor-league-baseball-cut-40-teams-2021

      • Kirkland

        Thanks for the info, Art. It looks to me like the extra affiliates come from rookie league and winter ball, instead of the A-AA-AAA levels. Should’ve caught that.

        All for increased minimum salaries for the minor league players, especially if you mandate cost-of-living-adjustments. The pre-MLS Sounder players and coaches out of financial necessity all had day jobs; because baseball is a daily game, that’s unworkable for minor league baseball players, and they need that extra compensation more.

      • Husky73

        I think (always dangerous) that we may see some type of reorganization of what is now the lower minor leagues. Governments and individuals have invested many millions in facilities, and they need players and leagues to provide a product to sell.

        • art thiel

          Look at the line in the above answer for options.

  • Speez

    Art,
    In lieu of playing the Star Spangled Banner at US based sporting events featuring US based teams – how about a modified version of Imaging (Beatles) classic? Perhaps edit to less than 2 minutes? This would serve as a song to unite and might bring the home fans together? Saving the National Anthem for international events.

    • Kirkland

      A lot of people hate that song. Many Christians dislike it for its allusions to Eastern mysticism, many capitalists dislike it for its perceived promotion of collectivism. And then you have the backlash against Gal Gadot’s celebrity-filled video of the song when the pandemic hit.

      • Husky73

        “Imagine no possessions” by the man worth $150 million.

        • art thiel

          He asked to imagine, not to do it.

      • art thiel

        You’d be good with liner notes.

    • Husky73

      Imagine isn’t a Beatles song. It was a John Lennon song after their break up.

    • art thiel

      Uprooting the song from its place in the sports tradition probably isn’t worth it, mostly because no one could agree on a replacement other than America the Beautiful. It’s a custom, not a rule, and became a sports thing only after a grim outlook for WWI. Kirkland below vetoes your choice for reasons stated.

      My vote at sports events is for Little Richard’s Tutti Fruitti.

      • Husky73

        A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom

      • Kirkland

        “God Bless America.” Ask the Philadelphia Flyers.

      • Seattle Psycho

        With no fans in the stands and the TV audience usually not brought in until after the anthem, I’d say for this year there is no need.

  • jafabian

    I’m waiting for a team to lose its best players for an extended period due to COVID19. Guarantee they’ll cry foul. Especially if it’s the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox.