March 19th, nearly three full months ago, marked the day Major League Baseball put a halt on all professional scouting. The coronavirus pandemic settled in, baseball at all levels completely ceased, and the idea of the long-term view of the sport took a very obvious back seat to simply trying to weather the day to day problems at hand.
Fortunately, some baseball has begun making its way back. While MLB and the MLBPA are still at a frustrating impasse - more on that below - amateur baseball tournaments have begun popping back up across the US, their purpose being to help players get both experience and showcase exposure for advancement up the baseball ladder. The only way that works, though, is if there are scouts there to watch them, and as ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel relayed earlier today, the go-ahead for scouts to get back on the road was handed down by MLB on Monday.
It will still be quite restrictive - no more than three scouts per team, per event - and that paired with the shrunken number of overall events means that scouting in 2020 will still be undeniably different than ever before. Still, McDaniel notes that the Pefect Game National showcase is set to begin in Birmingham on Wednesday, and it’s no coincidence that it being cleared to go ahead was always going to go hand in hand with having MLB scouts in attendance.
At this point, who the heck knows what MLB or the 2021 MLB Draft will look like, but at least there will be some scouting information to turn to should the sport actually be chugging along semi-normal next June.
The MLBPA formally rejected MLB’s latest ‘proposal’ for a modification of the March agreement reached by the two sides, the one that saw players agree to prorated salaries based on the number of overall games played. Since then, owners have argued for larger cuts to player salary given their interpretation that the March agreement held no stipulations for if fans - sweet, sweet, revenue-generating fans - were to be allowed to attend, chug beer, and smear pretzel cheese on one another. Nay nay, have said the MLBPA, who contend that was baked into the March agreement, and thus our state of baseballless frustration. The MLBPA subsequently has requested that commish Rob Manfred use the powers granted to him in that March agreement to put a season together himself, but as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported, that will still need both sides to meet ‘in good faith.’
Considering how little ‘good faith’ has been present in the owners’ proposals, that should make for an interesting pow-wow. Considering the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires next year and these two will have even more chance to bicker then over pertinent points that have leaked into getting just the 2020 season in play, that should make for a very, very interesting pow-wow. FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards has more on the numbers behind MLBPA’s latest decision, effectively noting that since the owners have more more less told the players over and over they’ll only pay out a fixed total of payroll for the year, there’s no sense continuing to argue to play more games if they’re just going to get shorted on their per-diem.
It’s a frustrating reality that these two sides are hung up on how to divide copious amounts of money, but it’s also frustrating as hell given that there is still very much a pandemic in place and that the players, not the owners, are the ones putting themselves at risk. Therein highlights another pertinent aspects of the impasse, one that can be pretty well emphasized in two points:
1) Today, star NFL running back Ezekiel Elliot tested positive for COVID-19, showing just how vulnerable sporting locker rooms are (and prime athletes are) to getting this dreaded disease, as well as potentially spreading it while asymptomatic.
2) Yesterday, MLB and Turner Sports agreed to a billion-dollar deal for TV rights to the MLB postseason (Division and League Championship Series), highlighting just how lucrative the MLB postseason truly is. Of course, actually getting to the postseason is the issue here, since any flare-up of the virus and disruption before that would potentially prevent a postseason from being played, and those games are the true revenue-drivers with no fans in stands for regular season games.
In other words, the least number of regular season games both saves owners more money and, presumably, mitigates the risk of having to cancel a postseason where they can actually make money, so that’s their goal. Ugh.
In other, more fun news, MLB Network is set to air its documentary series on Ken Griffey, Jr. on Sunday, which I personally cannot wait to watch nine times.
In other, more transactional news, the Reds made a pair of signings on Sunday once the window to ink undrafted free agents began. As Doug Gray noted at RedsMinorLeagues.com, Princeton pitcher James Proctor and Florida Atlantic infielder Francisco Urbaez both signed for the max amount of $20,000, and he’s got some quick scouting reports on both. Urbaez, in particular, is an interesting get, as he plied his trade first at Chipola Junior College before transferring to FAU to finish his collegiate career, in the process paving the way for another Reds prospect, too. You’ll remember that 2019 4th round pick Ivan Johnson was a Chipola product, one who transferred in from the University of Georgia to get more playing time. Well, Johnson effectively picked up the PAs and infield innings vacated by Urbaez’s transfer, and now both are farmhands of the Reds.