Yesterday should have been Opening Day. Instead, it was the first day the baseball shutdown really hit me. There’s just something about Opening Day that’s special and I felt really empty without it. I love to watch Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS – I’ll watch that bad boy every time it’s on – but it’s not the same. It just isn’t. Oh well.
On to today’s mailbag, I guess. It’s the best we can do! There are four good questions today. As always, please feel free to reach out to us by email at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions. We answer our favorites each week.
Joseph Asks: Does a shortened season World Series victory mean as much in the history of the sport as a regular-length season World Series victory?
We covered this on this week’s podcast, but I wanted to touch on it again here because it’s been an ongoing discussion in baseball-land these days. This seems to have all started when Mariano Rivera got his best Goose Gossage on, saying that a 60-game regular season wouldn’t produce a “real” champion because that isn’t long enough for a baseball season. I understand this sentiment – the marathon season is one of baseball’s distinguishing characteristics – but I don’t agree with it.
To me, a “real” baseball season is any season in which baseball is played. I don’t care about anything else. We collectively spend too much time worrying about things like this. These are sports. They’re basically all fake anyway and just exist to entertain us. This is all to say that if the Yankees win the World Series in 2020, if a season even happens, I will lose my damn mind with joy. I don’t care how it happens, just bring me number 28.
To really drive this point home, I want to bring up a historic example. I’m sure every reader here remembers the 1918 World Series. That Fall Classic is seared in baseball’s collective memory, especially for Yankee and Red Sox fans. (At least it used to be.) Obviously, the Red Sox won the World Series in 1918, traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees after it, and did not win again for 86 years. Did you know that Major League Baseball shortened that season due to the First World War? Do you think that stripped any meaning from the title? Reader, I posit to you that it did not. (Yes, I know they still played 140 games, but still. The point holds. It didn’t even come up as a taunt by Yankee fans.)
Jamie Asks: The Yankees are one of the richest sports clubs in the world. Does anyone know if they’re taking care of their minor Leaguers during these troubling times? (I mean from a salary standpoint. I know they’re delivering food to the quarantined kids.)
This is a bit of a complicated question, so let’s start with the basics. Last week, Major League Baseball announced that teams would support MiLB players with a “level of uniform compensation” in a lump sum. The total is equivalent to what the players would have earned through April 8, which comes to $400 a week ($57 per day). It doesn’t apply to players who are receiving housing, food, or other services from their teams, which is unfortunate. The full release is here:
The Yankees are a unique case because two players in their system tested positive for COVID-19. Of course, that meant that players were quarantined for two weeks per the CDC’s recommendation. The Yankees, to their credit, provided a lot of support to those players (who I imagine represented a sizable portion of the system).
Per James Wagner’s reporting in The New York Times, the Yanks hired a local catering company which prepared three meals a day for each player. (They’d drive to a team hotel to pick up their meals.) The team also increased the daily meal stipend from the usual $25 to $75 for the mental burden of the quarantine. It was a good gesture from the Yankees and it should not go unnoticed. Now that the quarantine is over, qualified players will receive the $400 a week like everyone else.
I’m on record here as saying that I don’t think this shutdown is going to be over anytime soon, let alone by April 9. Let’s all hope that the teams take this decent first step even further and provide even more support for MiLB players, who often live paycheck-to-paycheck as it is. (I’ll have more thoughts on this later when I write something up about last night’s new agreement between MLB and MLBPA.)
George Asks: Getting cabin fever, so here’s an off the field ( or off the wall) question. Who was the Yankee who was the best overall athlete? Dave Winfield comes to mind.
This is a tough question but a fun one. Winfield fits the bill to me from everything I’ve read about him, but I never saw him play. So those are going to be my rules: if I didn’t see a player play, he doesn’t count for me. That leaves mostly players from the mid-90s onward, where there are still a ton of options.
Alex Rodriguez comes to mind first. Obviously one of the most talented players in baseball history, A-Rod was also a superstar quarterback in high school. He was so good that Miami University offered him a scholarship to play quarterback. Here’s what Miami’s head of recruitment told Ken Rosenthal: “He had size, he had speed, he had smarts. They were recruiting him for baseball, but we were recruiting him for football, too.” Not bad!
Another option is also obvious: Mariano Rivera. Teammates often referred to him as an incredibly understated athlete and he was a fixture in center field during batting practice. (I’m sure we all remember his devastating 2012 injury.) Rivera even wanted to play center field in a game before retiring. I think he’s certainly a contender for this unofficial crown.
I’m not sure the answer, really, since baseball doesn’t highlight athleticism in the same way that, say, basketball does. I imagine that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, for example, would come across much differently in a different sport. So, while this is a bit of a cop out, it’s a fun question. All that really matters is that they’re all much better athletes than you and I are. That’s for sure.
Brian Asks: There is some evidence that the Marlins are run on a shoestring budget (apparently they have looked for additional funding, slashing payroll, etc.). Do you have any reason to think that a prolonged shutdown could systemically endanger their ability to operate?
Rumors about the Marlins have been going around since the new ownership group, which includes Derek Jeter, purchased the team back in 2017. As Jon Tayler noted at Sports Illustrated, Miami missed out on the regional sports network bonanza that floods the game with cash. Barely anyone goes to the games, so they’re not making that up at the gate. These issues are compounded by the fact that the ownership group is either unwilling or unable to fund a competitive payroll.
When the Miami Herald reported that the team was planning to strip payroll after the 2017 season, which it then did by selling off Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, ownership was on record as saying that it had “little liquid capital” to put into payroll. Worse, MLB knew this before approving the sale.
The group sought additional investment just months after purchasing the team, after all, and there was a legal dispute with Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and the Marlins over profit-sharing from the sale of the team. (That’s because off clever offshore registration.) You could make a compelling argument that the league should never have approved this deal in the first place. For what it’s worth, the team did recently commit $1 million to help support ballpark workers during the shutdown.
As for what the shutdown will do to the ownership group, I could not even fathom a guess. I’d hope that the team’s finances are stable enough to withstand this, but who knows? Certainly not me. It’s worth watching though, for sure.