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Giancarlo Stanton sounds off on Astros’ 2017 scheme

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TAMPA Fla. — New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Wednesday called out Houston Astros owner Jim Crane for saying that his club’s illegal sign-stealing system “may or may not have” had an impact on the competition on the field.

Stanton, acquired by the Yankees before the start of the 2018 season, led the majors with 59 home runs in 2017 as a member of the Miami Marlins, the most home runs by a major league player since 2001.

“If I knew what was coming in ’17, I probably would have hit 80 plus home runs,” said Stanton, who quipped, “He knew. He knew,” when told of Crane’s ambivalence in addressing the impact of sign stealing.

“It would have been better if there was an apology or explanation on their side,” he added. “We know that (the Astros) don’t really care to give an apology or explain their side, and it showed by their response. As players, we know that. You know the repercussions of doing something like that, and you’re only really sorry because you got caught.”

Stanton also agreed with teammate Aaron Judge, who stated that Astros players should not have only being directly punished by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, but should also vacate their 2017 championship.

“They did their investigation and it was clean cut that they cheated that year, which means it should be taken away. I mean, if i if you cheat in another way during the season you can’t even be in the playoffs, so therefore would be eliminated. So it’s pretty much the same, same difference,” Stanton said. “I don’t think the penalties were harsh enough player-wise. I think that, at the end of the day it gives more incentive to do that, if you’re not going to punish the players that took part in it.”

Mike Fiers, the former Astros pitcher who was the whistleblower that spurred the investigation led by MLB that confirmed the club had cheated by using a camera-based, sign-stealing system during their 2017 World Series-winning regular season and playoffs, and during part of the 2018 regular season, has a long history with Stanton.

In September 2014, Fiers was pitching when he hit Stanton in the face with a fastball, causing severe injuries to the then-Marlins star and effectively ending his season. Fiers’ pitch struck Stanton on the left side of the jaw and he had to be carted off the field. Since that incident, there has been no love lost between Fiers and Stanton.

When asked whether he had gained respect for Fiers for speaking out, Stanton said it didn’t change anything between the two.

“No, not really,” he said. “This isn’t about me and him. This information would have come to light eventually; maybe not as soon, but it has nothing to do with me and him.”

After struggling with biceps, shoulder, calf and knee injuries throughout the season, Stanton said that 2019 was without question the most frustrating year of his career. After playing in only 18 regular-season games, and being limited during the 2019 postseason due to a quad strain, Stanton claims he has fully rehabbed his injuries.

“I didn’t have much time off. I got my rest, but I had to rehab the moment the season was over and then by the time I was done rehabbing, I had my normal offseason training. Just getting my knee and quad to full strength,” he said. “I did everything I needed to do. (This spring) I have no limitations; just have to be smart with the workload, getting back into it. But no limitations.”

Manager Aaron Boone said the 30-year-old’s role, whether he’ll start primarily in left field or as designated hitter, remains “fluid.”

“Whatever works best for the team. That’s kind of like we did my first season here. It’s just like, here’s a plan for the next three days. What do you think? How can we make it better?” said Stanton when addressing whether there was an ideal balance between playing the field and DH’ing. “Just go with the flow. Whatever works.”

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MLB, MLBPA agree on stipulations for return of 2020 season

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Major League Baseball owners have approved a plan to address salary and service-time issues amid the indefinite delay to the start of the regular season, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

The owners completed an agreement reached between MLB and the players’ union Thursday night, which came after nearly two weeks of morning-to-night negotiations that involved players, owners, agents, executives, union officials and commissioner’s office staff.

As part of the agreement, obtained by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the players and MLB primarily agreed that the 2020 season will not start until each of the following conditions were met:

  • There are no bans on mass gatherings that would limit the ability to play in front of fans. However, the commissioner could still consider the “use of appropriate substitute neutral sites where economically feasible”;

  • There are no travel restrictions throughout the United States and Canada;

  • Medical experts determine that there would be no health risks for players, staff or fans, with the commissioners and union still able to revisit the idea of playing in empty stadiums.

While there was no formal framework in the agreement, owners and players both want to play as many games as possible. The flexibility of both sides was seen in the willingness to extend the regular season into October, play neutral-site playoff games in November and add doubleheaders to the schedule.

Players pushed to receive a full year of service time, which counts days toward free agency, arbitration and pension, even in the event of a canceled season. When MLB agreed to grant that, the path to a deal coming together was forged, sources said.

The union agreed not to sue the league for full salaries in the event that the 2020 season never takes place, and MLB will advance players $170 million over the next two months, sources said. The MLBPA will divvy up the lump sum among four classes of players, with the majority of it going to those with guaranteed major league contracts. If games are played, the advance will count against final salaries, which will be prorated.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has the discretion to shorten the 2020 draft to as few as five rounds, and it will be moved from June to sometime in July, sources said.

Manfred also can delay the 2020 international signing period, which was supposed to run from July 2, 2020, through June 15, 2021, to at latest Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 15, 2021. MLB also has the right to shorten the 2021 draft to as few as 20 rounds and push back the next international signing period as well — though international free agency might well be gone by then, as the league plans to pursue an international draft at the conclusion of the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs out in December 2021.

Sources said players drafted in 2020 will get only $100,000 of their bonus this year. The remaining amount will be split into payments made in July 2021 and July 2022.

Also, teams will be unable to trade draft picks or international slot money, sources said.

Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman, among others, are guaranteed to be free agents come November regardless of the season’s status. If the year is canceled, Betts might never play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded for him this offseason.

A transaction freeze will go into effect when owners make the deal official that bars teams from signing free agents, trading players and making roster moves.

A rejiggered setting for arbitration, the system that awards players with three, four and five years of service time with higher salaries. While arbitration is a numbers- and precedent-based system typically, the sides will change that to acknowledge the shorter schedule.

Any players punished with a drug suspension will serve the penalty in 2020, even if there is no season, sources said.

While both sides believed they made concessions, they settled around an obvious point: No sports league wants to be seen as bickering about billions of dollars amid an international health and financial crisis. In addition to the agreed-upon financial particulars, the parties engaged in significant discussions about the most vital issue now and in the future: how to proceed amid the outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

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Rays hope all the pieces fit

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Spring is here and Eric Karabell misses baseball, so he is going to write about all 30 MLB teams over the next few months, covering myriad player values and his general thoughts for what he hopes will ultimately be a fruitful 2020 season.

Let’s continue our look into the 2020 season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Top fantasy storyline: In 2018, left-hander Blake Snell won 21 games with a 1.89 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. Last season, right-hander Tyler Glasnow posted a 1.78 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP over 12 starts. Wow, what a duo! They should both be top-10 fantasy starters! Well … Snell’s compromised left elbow necessitated a cortisone shot in March, and he would have missed the start of the season had it begun on time. Glasnow missed much of 2019 with forearm tightness, which is often a precursor to major elbow surgery. Sure, these fellows could be great, but do not assume a shortened season aids them.

Oh, and one more thing: When will Wander wander into the major leagues?

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Noah Syndergaard has Tommy John surgery, expected back in 2021

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New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Thursday, a source tells ESPN.

The Mets announced Tuesday that Syndergaard would need the surgery. He is expected to return some time during the 2021 season.

Syndergaard, 27, who is one of the hardest-throwing starting pitchers in baseball history and has among the best arsenals of pitches in the game, was expected to anchor the Mets’ rotation alongside ace Jacob deGrom.

Syndergaard threw a career-high 197 ⅔ innings last season, and while his ERA was a career-worst 4.28, the combination of good health and stuff foretold good things. However he has had a tough time staying healthy.

Injuries wiped out most of Syndergaard’s 2017 season and shortened his 2018. This season he planned to join deGrom and Marcus Stroman atop the Mets’ rotation, with Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha filling out the last spots.

Syndergaard, acquired by the Mets in 2012 when they traded Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto, was an instant phenom. His fastball consistently hit 100 mph, he ripped off sliders as fast as 93 mph, and he struck out 166 batters in 150 innings as a 22-year-old rookie in 2015. His best year came in 2016, when he was an All-Star and posted a 2.60 ERA in 183 ⅔ innings.

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