Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson, calls for justice continue

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PHOENIX — Andrew McCutchen has relished these past few days in the Philadelphia Phillies clubhouse, having difficult, important conversations with baseball teammates about racial injustice.

As a Black man in a sport that’s filled with mostly white and Hispanic players, he doesn’t feel it’s a burden to lead in the discussions. He’s just glad that on Jackie Robinson Day, they’re conversations that everyone is willing to have, even if the answers aren’t always clear.

“People want to know what’s next, want to know the answers,” McCutchen said. “It’s OK to not have the answers, it’s OK to not know what’s next.

“What’s not OK is not caring what’s next.”

Major League Baseball observed a Jackie Robinson Day like no other Friday, with teams celebrating a man who broke the sport’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. More than 70 years later, the racial reckoning continued.

Eleven games were postponed this week as some teams joined other leagues like the NBA, WNBA and MLS in protesting social injustice.

The Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros took the field Friday night and then left after a moment of silence, draping a Black Lives Matter T-shirt across home plate as they chose not to play. They will play a doubleheader Saturday.

Teams across the league were celebrating the day in various ways. As usual, players, managers, coaches, umpires and other on-field personnel were wearing Robinson’s No. 42.

For Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, Jackie Robinson Day comes at a good time.

“I did find it almost crazy and kind of great, after everything that went down yesterday in baseball and in sports and with our organization as well, that we come right back here today and wear No. 42 and we go out there and celebrate Jackie Robinson and everything that he’s done for our game, and really, for the nation,” Baldelli said.

Jackie Robinson Day is usually on April 15, but the celebration was moved to Aug. 28 this season to accommodate the COVID-19-altered schedule, which started in late July. The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963 and also the day in 1945 when Dodgers GM Branch Rickey met with Robinson to discuss breaking the color barrier.

In Boston, players from both teams lined up along the baselines before the game and the Red Sox played a clip of Robinson speaking in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964. During a recording of the national anthem by Ruth Pointer, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. – the only Black player on the Red Sox – knelt as did Alex Verdugo next to him.

During the national anthem at Angel Stadium, Black players from the Angels and Mariners stood together in center field and linked arms with Los Angeles’ Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and David Fletcher.

“I think (Robinson) would want us to talk about change,” said Rockies outfielder Matt Kemp, who is Black. “Coming up in the Dodgers organization and the name Jackie Robinson, it just meant so much more. I wore the jersey that Jackie Robinson wore back in the day. To be around guys like Don Newcombe and Maury Wills, some of the legends that were with the Dodgers, you get to hear stories about things that people have never heard.”

Added Seattle’s Dee Gordon: “I think (Robinson would) be happy today to know that we stood up.”

According to a recently published study on diversity in baseball, only 7.5% of opening day rosters consisted of Black players, the lowest percentage in the game since the study began in 1991.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone broke down in tears during a media briefing and left the room when he was asked about his two Black adopted sons Friday. He returned a few minutes later, still shaken.

“I would just say, I know I’m talking to a lot of people out there, it’s a hard, heavy year, and a heartbreaking year in so many ways,” Boone said. “For my family, too. But I think that’s the case for a lot of people of all different backgrounds and races.

“My prayer is just that we can continue to, even though we’re going through some dark times, at the end of this, we’re better for it. That’s my continued prayer.”

Boone was emotional throughout the briefing, saying he had spent the previous hour talking to Yankees players about protests in recent days. New York was off Thursday and has not opted out of any games.

Boone and San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler also said they will donate their Friday salary to The Players Alliance, a group of more than 100 current and former Black major leaguers working to combat racial injustice. The Players Alliance made a video tribute on social media thanking Robinson that included past and present Black MLB players like Mookie Betts, Curtis Granderson, David Price, Jason Heyward, Torii Hunter, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder.

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, who is Black, was among the players who also donated their Friday salary to The Players Alliance.

“I feel like this past week, things have definitely escalated, people have talked and done what they can try to do to push that needle forward,” Bell said.

The decision by several teams not to play Wednesday and Thursday night were in response to the shooting by police of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin over the weekend. MLB let teams decide whether they would play or not. Some games were postponed while others went on.

The New York Mets and Miami Marlins jointly walked off the field after a moment of silence, draping a Black Lives Matter T-shirt across home plate as they chose not to start their scheduled game Thursday night.

Mets outfielder Dominic Smith, a 25-year-old Black man, hit the go-ahead home run in his first game since tearfully pleading for help combating racial inequality, helping his team beat the crosstown Yankees 6-4 in the opener of a doubleheader Friday.

Baseball’s recent postponements came after the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks didn’t come out on the floor for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series with the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. NBA games scheduled for Thursday and Friday were also postponed.

MLB announced Friday that its partnership with the Jackie Robinson Foundation would extend through 2023. It includes $3.5 million to support the foundation’s Scholarship Program, the Jackie Robinson Museum and the annual JRF ROBIE Awards.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.