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Nationals to extend protective netting during All-Star break

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Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner announced on Thursday that, during the All-Star break, the protective netting at Nationals Park will be extended to just short of the outfield corners. Lerner notes that they will use a new style of netting, Ultra Cross Knotless Dyneema. The knotless style supposedly offers more transparency for fans. Lerner also added that the netting will be designed in a way that will allow it to be raised and lowered to foster pregame interactions between players and fans.

Lerner said he became emotional when a four-year-old girl was struck by a line drive during an Astros-Cubs game last month and was heartbroken seeing the reaction from Albert Almora, Jr., who hit the line drive.

The Nationals join the White Sox and Rangers among teams to announce plans to extend protective netting. Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he would prefer to allow the teams to decide for themselves whether or not to extend netting rather than create a league-wide policy.

Beyond the obvious moral imperative to keep fans safe, it’s just good business to extend the netting. It costs teams relatively nothing to install, protects them from lawsuits which they would have a non-zero chance to lose, and doesn’t allow the opportunity for bad P.R. situations when a fan is very visibly injured in the stands. Fans who are against the extension of protective netting will forget it’s there very quickly — just ask the people who sit in the more expensive seating behind home plate, which has been protected by netting for a long time, or ask baseball fans in Japan. We should be seeing more teams join the Nationals, White Sox, and Rangers in the coming months.

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.