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Our first-ever Universal DH Power Rankings for all 30 MLB teams

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Let me get this part out of the way: I don’t like the idea of the universal designated hitter. At the same time, I recognize it as the best option for what will already be a strange season, if we get even that. However, we shouldn’t let this be the end of one of baseball’s most prevalent debates. We’ll just table the discussion for now.

Obviously, the temporary institution of the DH-for-all rule will help some teams more than others. American League teams have already built their rosters around the idea of having a DH for almost all of their games. National League teams obviously have not, and it makes for an intriguing subplot when and if baseball’s 2020 season restarts. Depth in quality hitters will be a key. But don’t overlook defense in this calculation. Some teams have chosen offense over defense at a key spot, a choice that they might be able to avoid in a DH world. Thus, not only could these teams adding a DH help their run production with another bat, they could actually improve their defense, as well.

Here, I’ve ranked each team’s DH situation according to projected run production from that spot, as measured by projected runs created per 162 games in a ballpark-neutral context. However, defense must be taken into account: For some NL teams, I’ve forecast DH plate appearances based on moving former regulars into that slot while getting a better glove in the field. In the commentary accompanying each team’s ranking, I’ve noted these decisions.

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Minor League Baseball cuts hundreds of players amid pandemic, sources say

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Hundreds of minor league baseball players were cut Thursday and hundreds more are expected to lose their jobs as the sport grapples with the near certainty that the minor league season will be canceled, sources told ESPN.

Team officials said a vast majority of the players would likely have been released toward the end of spring training even if baseball were not halted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to sources, but the cuts en masse, which could wind up numbering more than 1,000, nevertheless reverberated around the game, sources said. Released players expressed fear that their careers would be over, and those whose teams hadn’t yet made cuts prepared for a tenuous next few days, sources said.

In recent weeks, owners of minor league teams have begun laying off front-office and gameday workers and citing the cancellation of the season as the reason, according to sources. Minor League Baseball has not officially canceled its season, according to a spokesman, though the suspension of the Professional Baseball Agreement that governs its relationship with Major League Baseball precludes big league organizations from providing players to its minor league affiliates.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he would inform Minor League Baseball if and when it planned to allow players to join affiliated teams. He has yet to do so. Even with no players available, teams acting as if the season is over and one team renting out its stadium on Airbnb, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner has yet to speak publicly and acknowledge the foregone conclusion in 2020, and the fallout from it.

O’Conner declined to comment when reached by ESPN.

For more than a year, MLB has planned to contract around a quarter of minor league teams before the 2021 season. Compounding that with a drastically shortened amateur draft — just five rounds this year instead of the typical 40 — and the delay of international free-agent signings until as late as Jan. 15, minor league systems could be as thin as they have been in years.

Farm directors, front-office officials and agents said that further player cuts — more related to the elimination of affiliates and leagues in 2021 — could be expected in the future. Some of the veteran players released could compete for jobs on the anticipated 20-man taxi squad every major league team will field if a season begins, but the younger players cut Thursday, sources said, may have more difficulty finding jobs in baseball.

All teams agreed to pay minor league players $400 a week in April and May to cover for wages lost during canceled games. The $400 salary was given by MLB regardless of what the players were slated to make, including to hundreds of players who had been contracted to make several times that amount. For some players, that meant a pay cut of more than 80%.

Early this week, the Oakland A’s told their minor league players they would no longer receive the stipend starting in June, drawing significant criticism. Eight teams have said they will pay minor league players through at least June, with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners pledging through the end of August, around when the minor league season is due to end.

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Texas to let fans attend pro sports events at 25% capacity

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Texas will soon allow outdoor pro sports events to have spectators, but their numbers will be strictly limited.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has revised a decision to let pro sports leagues host events without fans starting in June as part of the states’ move to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Abbott’s new order allows outdoor stadiums to host fans up to 25% of their normal capacity. Leagues will have to apply to state health officials to be allowed to have fans. Indoor events will still be without spectators.

The PGA Tour plans to restart its season at Colonial in Texas on June 11-14 but has said it would not include fans.

The state has set up several guidelines for leagues to follow, including a recommendation that spectators and employees keep at least 6 feet apart from anyone not from their household. If that is not feasible, other measures such as face coverings and sanitation protocols should be followed.

Athletes will not be required to wear masks but the guidelines encourage them to be worn on the sidelines.

The order does not address college sports events.

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Jersey City brewery takes aim at Astros cheating scandal with ‘Trash Can Banger’ beer

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Many fans anticipated raining boos down on the Houston Astros during the 2020 season, but with the coronavirus bringing baseball to a halt, one brewery is taking the sign-stealing shaming to another level.

Departed Soles, a brewery based in Jersey City, New Jersey, introduced a new beer called “Trash Can Banger” featuring a can with the retro Astros red, orange and yellow striped colorway from the late 70s and early 80s.

“I’m not a fan of cheaters,” owner and head brewer Brian Kulbacki told NJ.com.

Kulbacki and his staff came up with the concept while trying to think of creative ideas to keep business going during this pandemic. The beer is a session IPA with 5.4 alcohol content, with a logo displayed similar to the retros Astros font.

Baseball fans from Los Angeles and Texas have called the brewery inquiring about the beer, but the beer can only be sold at the brewery in New Jersey. Kulbacki hopes to connect with a brewer in Texas after the pandemic to sell the beverage in Texas and raise money for charity.

“We’re all very big sports fans and we’re all desperate for sports to come back,” Kulbacki said. “We’re desperate for anything to talk about other than a pandemic right now. So we thought it was an opportune time to put out a beer.”



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