White Sox, Rangers, Marlins could play in front of fans this season

Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

For the most part, MLB games won’t be played in front of fans during the 2020 season due the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league is leaving it up to individual teams to decide on that, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Some states have relaxed their rules to combat the virus, reopening businesses such as bars and hair salons. As such, some — if not all — MLB teams will try to play at least some games in front of fans.

Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers are one of the teams considering playing in front of fans. Nothing is official yet, but if they do make it happen, season ticket holders would get first priority and the stadium could be filled to 50% capacity. GM Jon Daniels said that he’s not concerned about players and staff as fans would be far enough away from the field. Daniels is, however, worried about fans staying safe.

Danny Parkins of 670 The Score adds that the White Sox are planning to play in front of fans and the Cubs could possibly do the same. Guaranteed Rate Field seats 40,615 but Parkins notes that the current thought is to only fill the stadium to 20% capacity, or just north of 8,100 fans.

Andy Slater of Fox Sports 640 South Florida reports that Carlos A. Giménez, Mayor of Miami-Dade County, is considering allowing fans to attend games at Marlins Park starting next month. However, the Marlins must submit a plan to the county illustrating how fans would be able to socially distance.

Expect more teams to join the White Sox, Rangers, Marlins, and Cubs in the pursuit of opening their gates to fans for the 2020 season. The owners contended throughout negotiations with the MLB Players Association that they would suffer great losses for games played without fans, so they will try to recoup as much money as possible if they’re allowed to sell tickets.

As for the actual implementation, fans would almost certainly be required to wear masks and subject themselves to temperature checks before being allowed entry. There would likely be six-foot distance markers throughout the walkways not unlike what you see in many stores right now. Seating would likely be staggered. One wonders if teams might have to put up netting all around the stadium to discourage fans from chasing after foul balls and thus not being socially distant. Teams might also have to keep their concession and merchandise stands, and clubhouse stores closed. Teams are still in the early stages of figuring this out, so more concrete details should come out later.

The 2020 season is expected to begin on July 23 or 24. Players will report to “spring” training next week (July 1) in their home cities.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.