MLB, MLBPA reach agreement on winter ball participation


From our friend Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports:

Major league players will be allowed to compete in winter leagues this season after Major League Baseball and the players’ association reached an agreement on restrictions that will limit pitchers’ participation but loosen limitations on position players, sources with knowledge of the deal told Yahoo Sports.

That’s not such big news here in the United States, but it’s cause for great celebration in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Mexico — where the four biggest winter baseball leagues operate. There was some concern that players on Major League Baseball’s 40-man rosters would be barred from participating in those winter leagues this year because of tense back-and-forth negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA that just concluded this past Friday.

Major League Baseball was aiming to limit the use of young and injury-prone starting pitchers and the union was pushing for as much freedom as possible for its players. Those winter league teams do pay salaries.

Passan has the breakdown of the new winter league rules that were officially ratified on Saturday:

Starting this year, Double-A starting pitchers – those on the 40-man roster with a majority of their time spent at Double-A – cannot participate in winter ball if they threw 140 or more innings. The previous threshold was 155. Similarly, Double-A relievers cannot have appeared in more than 45 games, while in years past it was 55.

Pitchers also are ineligible if their workload in games or innings grew 25 percent over the prior season. The caveats: They must’ve reached 60 percent of the games-or-innings threshold the previous season, and players switching from the rotation to the bullpen or vice versa don’t count.

Instead of a 502-plate appearance threshold for major league position players, those with up to 552 now can play winter ball. Moreover, the past procedure of declaring a “physical incapacity” – teams simply had to provide documentation – now has strict rules. Unless a player finishes the season on the disabled list or spent 60 days on the DL (including 15 over the final 60 days of the season), a team cannot declare him physically incapable. The exception is pitchers who have undergone major surgery in the previous 18 months.

Off-field improvements for players include the requirement of MLB-certified trainers, higher-quality equipment and increased standards for fields, clubhouses and bathrooms, with a compliance program to address issues.

The Venezuelan Winter League and the Mexican Pacific League began play late last week and the most popular of the four — the Dominican Winter League — is scheduled to get underway this coming Friday.

The A’s are considering rising sea levels in planning their future ballpark

Oakland Athletics
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The Oakland Athletics ballpark saga has dragged on for years and years and years. They’ve considered San Jose, Fremont and at least three locations in Oakland as potential new ballpark sites. The whole process has lasted almost as long as the Braves and Rangers played in their old parks before building new ones.

In the past several months the Athletics’ “stay in Oakland” plan has gained momentum. At one point the club thought it had an agreement to build a new place near Peralta/Laney College in downtown Oakland. There have been hiccups with that, so two other sites — Howard Terminal, favored by city officials — and the current Oakland Coliseum site have remained in play. There are pros and cons to each of these sites, as we have discussed in the past.

One consideration not mentioned before was mentioned by team president David Kaval yesterday: sea level rise due to climate change. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Kaval mentioned twice that the Howard Terminal site would have to take into account sea-level rise and transportation concerns — and he said there have been conversations with the city and county and the Joint Powers Authority about developing the Coliseum site.

The Howard Terminal/Jack London Square area of Oakland has been identified as susceptible to dramatically increased flooding as a result of projected sea level rise due to climate change. On the other side of the bay both the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors have had to consider sea level rise in their stadium/arena development plans. Now it’s the Athletics’ turn.

Sports teams are not alone in this. Multiple governmental organizations, utilities and private businesses have already made contingency plans, or are at least discussing contingency plans, to deal with this reality. Indeed, beyond the Bay Area, private businesses, public companies, insurance companies and even the U.S. military are increasingly citing climate change and sea level rise in various reports and disclosures of future risks and challenges. Even the Trump Organization has cited it as a risk . . . for its golf courses.

Fifteen of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams play in coastal areas and another five of them play near the Great Lakes. While some of our politicians don’t seem terribly concerned about it all, people and organizations who will have skin the game 10, 20 and 50 years from now, like the Oakland Athletics, are taking it into account.