2020: Year of the AAAA player?

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 31: Detroit Tigers shortstop Gordon Beckham (29) celebrates his three run home in the eighth inning with Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) during the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheimon July 31, 2019, at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire)

Gordon Beckham should not be accused of dialing up a globe-rattling pandemic to avoid retirement, and don’t let anybody attempt to convince you otherwise.

It’s just another favorable turn for a guy who has been able to dodge the end of the line for longer than most.

Entering his age-33 season, Beckham averaged just a .209/.278/.338 over his previous five seasons. He’d fallen down the stairs of the league, from second-division starter to depth for decent teams to depth for a 114-loss Detroit Tigers team. Earlier this year, he went 0-for-14 with five walks for the San Diego Padres in spring training, and they released him in late March. This probably should have been it for his career, and if it was, it wasn’t a bad one. He didn’t meet expectations, but he didn’t let his ego get in the way afterward. He accepted demotions and minor-league contracts to get those extra chances. Nine-plus years of service time is no small feat.

But with teams eligible to carry 20 players who aren’t on the 40-man roster, the New York Mets pulled Beckham out of thoughts of retirement for one more job …

… as well as Melky Caberera …

… and Ryan Cordell.

It’s easy to #LOLMets this list, but they’re not alone in collecting former White Sox who are resisting the ends of their lines. The Rays have Ryan LaMarre. The Reds have Matt Davidson. The Athletics have Ryan Goins. The Diamondbacks have Trayce Thompson and Jon Jay.

If the White Sox hadn’t already experienced these players firsthand, they could very well be White Sox themselves. Instead, the Sox have their own group — Drew Anderson, Ross Detwiler, Cheslor Cuthbert and Andrew Romine, and that’s just out of 44 players.

This tier of players is maybe the only group that benefits from a season such as this. Below them, prospects are missing out on development time, especially those who don’t have the means to establish their own training center. Above them, pre-arb players lose a chance to establish themselves during their primes, and established players are just trying to get through it like anybody else.

Meanwhile, for guys like Beckham and Jay who are just short of fully vested pensions and had the odds stacked against them, this might be their last opportunity. And while they might not be anybody’s first choice, they could find themselves sifting through plenty of garbage time if COVID-19 cases take out chunks of rosters, or if seasons take a wrong turn and front offices would rather just get the year over with.

They’re like the replacement players of 25 years ago, except nobody will hold these extra lives against them. And that’s assuming they stay healthy themselves.

* * * * * * * * *

Outbreak Outtakes

*The Minnesota Twins have sidelined two of their coaches — bullpen coach Bob McClure and major league coach Bill Evers — due to concerns about being in vulnerable populations. McClure is 68, Evers is 66. It seems relevant to point out that Don Cooper is 64 and Nick Capra is 62.

*The Toronto Blue Jays, who are trying to figure out the best way to gather in Toronto for summer camp, are starting by gathering at their spring training site in Dunedin, Fla., then chartering everybody up to Canada following a screening process. There are reasons to doubt the safety of this course.

*Ian Desmond is the latest notable player who is opting out of the season. While he cited COVID-19 concerns (his wife is pregnant), he also wrote in remarkable detail about his discomfort with baseball’s shrinking African-American player population, and its connection to greater racial injustice. He sees an opportunity to do some work at the ground level.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCCp7aSptTr/?hl=en

*While Desmond wasn’t afraid to explain his rationale for opting out of the season, Nationals beat writer Mark Zuckerman makes the case that players don’t really need to offer reasons if they don’t care to.

It’s probably in their best interest to have a considered thought process, if only to offer it to teammates and current and future employers. But I agree that fans aren’t owed anything if the player doesn’t feel comfortable sharing. Joe Ostrowski and I talked about this on his show Monday evening regarding James McCann, who expressed discomfort about the conditions. McCann is speaking as a catcher and a union team representative, but he also could be speaking as a father of twins born two months premature. We don’t know what anybody is really going through right now, or how close calls may register with certain players over the course of the season, so they should be given the freedom to prioritize the safety of those closest to them. As I mentioned above, there’s an entire subset of fringe players who will be grateful for those opportunities.

(Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire)

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ParisSox

Well reasoned but I still like to #LOLMets.

As Cirensica

I am still skeptical of this baseball season. First I was worried because of the general unrest and protest in the USA, and now seeing the covid-19 cases rising up to levels even higher than in March when we ACTUALLY suspended the baseball (and other sports) season. This just does not add up. Games will start, then somebody will get the virus, then a player, and so on. A major outbreak within a team, and that’s it.

ParisSox

I agree with this

As Cirensica

NHL and NBA does not move that much personnel and they don’t have a 26 men roster…the odds are against baseball. What I don’t get is how we can have baseball now and not in March when things were relatively better. Covid19 cases are growing out of control in the USA.

asinwreck

At this point, I am hoping the various professional sports’ attempts to restart will end in time for the thousands of colleges across the nation to rethink their announced plans to offer in-person classes (as well as football games) in the fall.

soxfan

FWIW, cases today are not equivalent to cases in March. We are doing a lot more testing even though the positive test rate is dropping, so while the number of identified cases is up I wouldn’t necessarily assume that means the virus is more prevalent now than three months ago.

As Cirensica

Yet, the fact remains that the season was suspended with lower known cases per day than today. The positive rate is dropping because more tests are done now where in March a large number of people with symptoms were tested vs today where tests are more available to everyone not necessarily with symptoms, so logically the rate drops

iowasox1971

The pro leagues have said they will consult with health officials on these matters, so I take them at their word. If national and health officials give the OK to play, then I see no reason why the leagues should avoid having the games. Players who don’t want to play do not have to play.

Each day, tens of millions of Americans work in far more dangerous environments as far as COVID-19 goes. (Supermarkets, gas stations, retail stores are some examples.) Many of these Americans, unlike major league baseball players, do not have a powerful union on their side fighting to make sure precautions are taken in their specific work areas, etc. In my view, with all the testing and everything else, the games will be safe environments for the players.

Is there a chance a player or players could get infected during a game? Sure. But, these past few months, unless these guys live in a cave, these same players also have been in danger of exposure at supermarkets, gas stations, retail stores, beaches, bars or even parties. Does each MLB player wear a mask each time he leaves his house or apartment? Does each MLB player avoid social gatherings? Has every MLB player avoided going to a bar or a beach? I doubt it. Why? Recent stories have surfaced about some NFL players failing to follow social distancing rules, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some MLB players are doing the same thing.

As far as I know, the only guys who will be playing in the upcoming games are ones who test negative, so it’s hard to see how playing in such games will be more dangerous for players than their current situation, in which they do not know for sure the COVID status of each person they might come into contact or near contact with.

Eagle Bones

Yeah I’m kind of split on this. While I agree with AC in that it feels weird to be trying to restart baseball with all of this still going on and I feel kind of gross for wanting baseball back right now, I also acknowledge that no one is being forced to do anything here (though there is probably some unspoken peer pressure coming at guys to play). These guys have the option to sit out if they so choose (which I am completely supportive of if that’s their choice). The guys that want to play and/or feel they need to play because they haven’t banked 10 years of service time and many millions and are willing to take the risk are able to make that choice just like many other Americans right now who are making a similar choice of work/income vs. increased safety (albeit for much less money in most cases). It’s by no means a perfect situation, but as long as they are at least attempting to take the proper precautions and not just sticking their heads in the sand and hoping all the medical stuff figures itself out, I’m ok with them trying.

Eagle Bones

How much of this is just all the unknowns we had back in March vs. how much more we know now? I don’t disagree with the numbers, but that may not be strictly what they were and are basing their decisions on.