Opening Day for the KC Royals would have been almost a week ago. When and how baseball will return and other questions remain unanswered.
Some KC Royals Midweek Musings while contemplating a few of the unknowns surrounding the game:
When will we see major league baseball again? There is simply no answer to this question; obviously, bigger issues must be resolved before Major League Baseball can determine when, and how, to bring the game back. An April Opening Day is impossible and May is almost certainly off the table, even for a late-month return to spring training. June or July may be more realistic, but even those months may be best-case scenarios.
Trying to narrow down a start date on even a “give or take a few weeks” basis is at best difficult–such a determination depends on almost innumerable variables that are…well, too variable. No one knows when the COVID-19 transmission rate will flatten out, if people can become re-infected, when fans can safely reconvene in the numbers required to fill sports venues and under what conditions that can happen, and what impact any travel restrictions and local stay home orders might have on the game.
And those are just a minuscule subset of the questions looming over baseball at all levels; they and others will require answers before the KC Royals, baseball, and society can seriously consider scheduling Opening Day.
Opening Day ceremonies. Who should throw out the traditional Opening Day “first pitches” in every major and minor league park when the game comes back? Doctors, nurses, ER and EMS personnel, police officers, firefighters, hospital maintenance and all other hospital workers, COVID-19 survivors and family members of those lost to the virus, and all others involved on the front lines of the pandemic.
Opt-out update. Last Thursday would have been Opening Day and, as discussed here in last week’s Midweek Musings, the deadline for Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland to decide whether to exercise the opt-out clauses in their minor-league contracts. Such provisions, designed to afford players the opportunity to shop themselves elsewhere if their current circumstances seem unfavorable, were in question because neither Rosenthal or Holland had announced their intentions and the Royals hadn’t selected their contracts.
Half the uncertainty was resolved after our last Midweek Musings went live–the club selected Rosenthal’s contract, meaning he’s officially a Royal and will be in the bullpen when the season starts. But KC didn’t select Holland’s contract and a roster freeze imposed late last week further clouds the issue.
It’s unlikely the players’ union or clubs will press opt-out clause issues until a game-wide start-up date is in sight; because Holland was pitching well, with just a couple of bumps in the road before spring training stopped, it’s likely he’s still interested in the Royals, and they in him. If not, Holland’s spring performance (eight strikeouts and just one walk in six innings, with a 4.50 ERA skewed primarily by one bad inning) is probably enough to spark interest from other teams.
Minor league compensation and benefits. Baseball has extended certain compensation and benefits for minor leaguers. Major league teams pay the salaries of players in their own organizations, but usually only during the minor league season; however, all teams recently agreed to pay those players a weekly $400 stipend through April 9. Now, those stipends will continue, and players will receive medical benefits through the end of May. In the unlikely event the season starts before then, previous contractual arrangements will control compensation and benefits.
Eric Skoglund. The KC Royals DFA’d Eric Skoglund last week to make room for Trevor Rosenthal on the 40-man roster. Arm tenderness limited Skoglund to one spring training appearance, a dismal two-thirds inning stint in which he gave up three runs, three hits (one home run) and a walk. He’s won only two games in three disappointing years and served an 80-game PED-related suspension last season.
But we may not have seen the last of Skoglund. Because he’ll probably clear waivers and the Royals seem inexplicably attached to him, and they sometimes wait too long to cut ties with non-performing pitchers, don’t be surprised if the club outrights him to one of its minor league affiliates–the chances of another team making a waiver claim are remote.
That’s all for this week. Please join us for next week’s KC Royals Midweek Musings. Stay safe and well.