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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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Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season

Kopech has opted out
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Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season. The White Sox starter informed the team of his decision today, and the team issued a press release to that affect a few minutes ago.

The statement from general manager Rick Hahn. said “we recognize that reaching this decision is incredibly difficult for any competitive athlete, and our organization is understanding and supportive. We will work with Michael to assure his development continues throughout 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our clubhouse for the 2021 season.”

Kopech, 24, has only four big league starts under his belt, all coming in late August and early September of 2018, but after a strong spring training he was likely to make Chicago’s rotation at some point in the 2020 season after sitting out all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery. Kopech was among the players sent to Chicago from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade back in December 2016. Others involved in the deal included Yoán Moncada, Victor Diaz, and Luis Alexander Basabe.

Now, however, Kopech has opted out.