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MiLB teams sue insurance providers over denied virus claims

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Fifteen minor league baseball teams have filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract by insurance providers after being denied claims for business-interruption insurance due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Major League Baseball announced Monday that it will attempt to play a 60-game regular season, but its minor league clubs – many under threat of losing affiliations amid negotiations with MLB – are unlikely to play until at least 2021.

Minor league franchises said in the suit filed Tuesday that even though they continue to pay yearly premiums to insurance providers for business-interruption insurance, they have been denied coverage after Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred indefinitely suspended their seasons in March.

Minor league teams are mostly small, independently owned businesses, and their model depends on affiliates receiving players, coaches and other team personnel provided by major league clubs.

Government restrictions on mass gatherings are also precluding minor league teams from hosting fans at their ballparks, by far the greatest source of revenues for those franchises. Over 40 million fans attended minor league games involving 176 affiliates last season.

The suit claims teams are stuck with over $2 million in expenses on average, including as much as $1 million in ballpark lease payments, marketing costs, food and beverage supplies, and salaries and benefits for permanent employees.

Teams say providers are citing two reasons for denying claims – because losses are not resulting from direct physical loss or damage to property, or because policies include language excluding coverage for loss or damage caused by viruses.

Teams say the loss of use of their ballparks due to government restrictions on fan gatherings and their inability to obtain players qualifies as physical loss. They allege the latter clause is void because it’s unenforceable and inapplicable.

The likely loss of the 2020 season comes at an already challenging time for the minors. The Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and minor league team owners is set to expire after this season, and MLB proposed reducing the guarantee minimum of affiliates from 160 to 120.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, names Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., Acadia Insurance Co., National Casualty Co., Scottsdale Indemnity Co., and Scottsdale Insurance Co. as defendants. Defendants did not immediately responded to requests for comment.

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Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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