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Friday Bird Droppings: Where sports are coming back, but not baseball

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The NBA has finalized a plan for a late-July return. Meanwhile, MLB is still putzing around, accomplishing nothing.

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game One
One of these two commissioners has deftly spearheaded his league’s return to action. The other is Rob Manfred.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Major League Baseball, please take note: it is possible to get a sports league back in action, even in the age of coronavirus.

Yesterday, the NBA finalized a proposal to resume its season at the end of July. Under the plan, 22 teams — all but those that have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention — will gather at the Walt Disney Sports Complex in Orlando to begin play on July 31. They’ll play eight regular season games each, followed by the playoffs. And while there are still some details to be hashed out, such as the protocol for if a player tests positive for COVID-19, the overall plan is in place. The NBA’s board of governors approved the proposal last night, and it’s expected to be a formality that the players’ union will sign off on it today.

Basketball is returning. The NHL is in discussions to return, too. And yet baseball seems nowhere close to doing so, largely because everyone involved seems to have their heads up their butts.

Granted, the two situations aren’t quite the same. As ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle wrote, MLB faces a tougher task in resuming play than the NBA or NHL do. Part of it is bad luck, schedule-wise; MLB hadn’t yet started its season when everything was shut down by the coronavirus, while the NBA and NHL had both already played nearly a full regular season, with fans in the seats. That put both the leagues and the players in much better shape, financially, than MLB currently is. There’s not much that baseball could do about that.

But MLB only has itself to blame for some of its other deficiencies. Part of the reason the NBA was able to finalize a plan is because Adam Silver is a popular commissioner who is widely respected by the players. Rob Manfred, meanwhile, is, um, none of those things. Under Manfred’s “leadership,” conflict between MLB players and owners has only seemed to grow by the day. And that leaves baseball in the current quagmire, with the MLBPA reaffirming last night that they won’t consider any further pay cuts from owners. Negotiations, so far, are going nowhere. And there’s not much time left for the sides to reach an agreement if there’s going to be any baseball in 2020.

As millions of Americans sit at home, desperate for a joyous distraction from their miserable circumstances, baseball had a chance to be the first sport to return to action. Instead, the NBA — among other sports — has stepped up, while MLB’s billionaires and millionaires squabble over money.

Nice going, guys.

Links

Former union official thinks there's room for compromise in baseball negotiations - BaltimoreBaseball.com
So will there be baseball in 2020 or not? The former communications director of the MLBPA puts the chances at “50-50 at best,” which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

John Angelos: Perspective key to understanding - Orioles.com
The jury may still be out on the Angelos brothers’ acumen as owners, but give them credit for saying all the right things about the current cultural atmosphere in the United States. John Angelos is out here quoting James Baldwin. (Not the former Orioles pitcher.)

Orioles’ 2020 amateur mock draft: Looking at targets for each of their six picks – The Athletic
Dan Connolly gamely tries to predict each of the Orioles’ six picks in next week’s draft, which is five more than I’d be able to.

A look at Baseball America's surprise mock draft O's selection - Steve Melewski
While most pundits are predicting the O’s to draft Austin Martin with the No. 2 pick, Baseball America zig-zagged by pegging them for high school outfielder Zac Veen as an underslot guy. Here, JJ Cooper talks to Melewski about the surprise mock selection. I trust the O’s front office, but I admit I’d feel a little uneasy about that strategy.

“I have a horseshoe up my ass and I know it”: Inside the Beat, 2012 Orioles – The Athletic
Britt Ghiroli’s season-by-season recap of her beat writing career continues to 2012, and it’s chock full of surprising tidbits, such as the O’s PR staff “toasting to Jeremy Guthrie being gone” and a sleazy O’s player trying to seduce Ghiroli in his hotel room. Ugh. Men are creeps.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! One former Oriole was born on this day: right-hander Russ Ortiz, who turns 46. Ortiz appeared in 20 games for the 2006 Orioles and compiled an 8.48 ERA, which sadly was only the eighth-worst ERA of any Oriole that season. It was not a good year for O’s pitching, you guys.

On this date in 2008, the MLB amateur draft was held, with the Orioles selecting lefty Brian Matusz from the University of San Diego with the fourth overall pick. Matusz was considered the most polished pitcher in the draft, with a four-pitch mix that figured to carry him to the majors quickly. He did get to the bigs quickly, just over a year later, but topped out as a lefty specialist before his MLB career ended in 2016. (Incidentally, the overall No. 1 and No. 2 picks in that 2008 draft, the RaysTim Beckham and the PiratesPedro Alvarez, later ended up as teammates on the 2017-18 Orioles.)

The O’s have had a bunch of dramatic victories on this day in history:

  • In 1974, the Orioles scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth at Memorial Stadium to stun the Royals, 5-4. Reliever Doug Bird gave up an RBI single to Brooks Robinson, a game-tying sac fly to Elrod Hendricks, and a walkoff double to Mark Belanger.
  • In 1978, after blowing a lead to the Angels in the ninth on second baseman Billy Smith’s two-out error, the Orioles jumped right back ahead with a four-spot in the 10th, led by an Eddie Murray home run, in an eventual 6-2 win.
  • In 1999, the Orioles squandered a three-run lead over the Phillies in the ninth when Arthur Rhodes walked the bases loaded and Mike Timlin let all three runners (plus one of his own) score. But the Birds tied it in the bottom half on a Delino DeShields two-out single, then walked off in the 10th on Mike Bordick’s RBI hit.
  • In 2012, with the Orioles leading at Fenway Park in the ninth, Jim Johnson surrendered a two-out, game-tying home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Undeterred, the Birds plated two in the 10th on RBI singles by, of all people, Ronny Paulino and Endy Chavez. Johnson held the lead in the 10th, giving the O’s their seventh straight extra-innings win, a streak that would eventually grow to 16.