Baseball’s new pace of play rules were officially announced on Friday. Among the changes: batters will be expected to keep one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a handful of events occur (such as swinging or bunting); a stricter timing of breaks between innings and pitching changes; and managers can issue a replay challenge from the dugout. Craig went over the changes in much greater detail here, so make sure you check that out.
With players reporting to camp, some of the various writers decided to collect some opinions on the new changes from those affected by it most. Here’s a sampling from the Nationals and Brewers, via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post and Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, respectively.
- Craig Stammen, RP: “It’ll be a good thing. I don’t think it’s a big deal to speed the process up a bit instead of just jacking around wasting time.”
- Casey Janssen, RP: “To say that a certain pitcher has to run with a certain tempo to get to the mound so he gets his allotted warm-up pitches is such a silly rule, especially if at the end of the day you want to make sure he’s loose so he doesn’t get an arm injury.”
- Jonathan Lucroy, C: “It bothers me to see that because as a hitter when you rush in the game of baseball, it’s not going to work out. I like taking my time, relaxing, gathering my thoughts. This game is tough enough without being up there rushing.”
- Kyle Lohse, SP: “I understand trying to speed up the game. I mean, I don’t like sitting through a 3-, 3½-hour game on the bench. I get on some of our younger pitchers when they take too much time in between because you should already have an idea of what you want to do.”
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.
The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.
In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.
The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.
We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.