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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Passan’s 20 questions: There will be MLB in 2020. It’s just a matter of when, where and how

The MLB season should have turned one month old Sunday. Rather than lament that, let’s instead fill the emptiness with a discussion about when the season will start.

Yes, will. Over the past two weeks, as states have begun to plan their reopenings, nearly everyone along the decision-making continuum—league officials, players, union leaders, owners, doctors, politicians, TV power brokers, team executives—has grown increasingly optimistic that there will be baseball this year.

This optimism is guarded and cautious and laden with caveats. It exists in a reality twisted by the coronavirus—one that acknowledges what seems possible today may not necessarily be tomorrow. There are a million questions. Consider what follows an attempt to answer 20 of the most pertinent—some about baseball’s return and those roadblocks, others about the coronavirus’ short- and long-term impact, and a few about various odds and ends worth tying up before the entirety of our focus trains on Spring Training 2.0.

We open our round of questioning with Fred Van Deventer. Mr. Van Deventer?

 

QLE Posted: April 28, 2020 at 12:57 AM | 47 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: 2020 season, jeff passan

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   1. Karl from NY Posted: April 28, 2020 at 03:13 PM (#5945511)
For anything to happen, you have to have the acceptance of risk, you have to be willing to accept the possibility that someone will catch it somewhere without reacting by shutting down the entire league for two weeks. It will be impossible to host a bubble with zero leakage whatsoever, for many concerns including support personnel and families and roster moves.

Besides the teams and players, that also involves the states. Any state with rules to quarantine anyone with potential exposure by contact can't host sports. It may be sufficient if only Florida and Arizona don't enforce such rules.

The availability of huge amounts of mass testing (literally everyone every day, with a turnaround time of minutes) may be a requirement.

There will be nothing with fans in the stadiums until a vaccine and mass-distribution of it. At the moment I'd bet that opening day 2021 doesn't even have fans.
   2. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 28, 2020 at 03:28 PM (#5945520)
Passan is quite optimistic, although he does a good job setting forth the daunting hurdles to be overcome, and he is still only talking about what would have been unthinkable just ~ 2 months ago - no spectators & games not played in most MLB cities. If the phased reopening of other activities goes reasonably well during May, my guess is MLB makes a decision by June for a July start.
   3. DL from MN Posted: April 28, 2020 at 03:45 PM (#5945534)
The availability of huge amounts of mass testing (literally everyone every day, with a turnaround time of minutes) may be a requirement.


I expect to see a vaccine before we see this. I think we will get a vaccine before we see testing capacity of everyone every month.
   4. Jay Seaver Posted: April 28, 2020 at 04:03 PM (#5945546)
Plus, don't these tests involve swabbing the back of one's throat through the nose, something like four times? That's a lot to ask someone to do every day.
   5. Karl from NY Posted: April 28, 2020 at 04:23 PM (#5945556)
I'd get swabbed every day if that's what it took to earn an MLB salary. The players would go along with it. Less sure about all the supporting personnel earning mundane salaries, though.
   6. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: April 28, 2020 at 04:33 PM (#5945560)
5 - For several million dollars now? Yeah I’d do it. If I already had several million dollars in the bank and the knowledge that my contract said I was going to get several more million dollars a year from now...hard pass. I saw a video last night of someone being tested (it was a soldier of some kind) and holy #### did it look horrifying. As the friend who shared it with me “the q-tip went like 4 inches up his nose and I thought that was awful then it went 4 inches deeper!”
   7. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: April 28, 2020 at 04:37 PM (#5945563)
4--Yup. Saw a vid on Twitter where someone in the military was getting swabbed. And the guy paid to get shot at flinched visibly as they stuck that swab like what seemed 6" up his nose.
   8. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 28, 2020 at 04:50 PM (#5945570)
Reportedly, there are less invasive tests on the way, including at least one that can be self-administered. That may need to pan out for the bubble scenario to be workable.
   9. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 28, 2020 at 05:02 PM (#5945577)
I know two people who have been tested. They both described it as...unpleasant.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 28, 2020 at 05:59 PM (#5945606)
For anything to happen, you have to have the acceptance of risk, you have to be willing to accept the possibility that someone will catch it somewhere without reacting by shutting down the entire league for two weeks. It will be impossible to host a bubble with zero leakage whatsoever, for many concerns including support personnel and families and roster moves.

Besides the teams and players, that also involves the states. Any state with rules to quarantine anyone with potential exposure by contact can't host sports. It may be sufficient if only Florida and Arizona don't enforce such rules.

The availability of huge amounts of mass testing (literally everyone every day, with a turnaround time of minutes) may be a requirement.

There will be nothing with fans in the stadiums until a vaccine and mass-distribution of it. At the moment I'd bet that opening day 2021 doesn't even have fans.


If there's no vaccine in the next 3 months, we'll all have been exposed long before Opening Day 2021. The current lock down can not hold much longer. People are already fed up and are just going to start ignoring it. Whether that's right or wrong it's reality.
   11. KronicFatigue Posted: April 28, 2020 at 06:00 PM (#5945607)
#9 Damn, only 2? My sample is much much higher, including myself, and it's awful. ESPECIALLY b/c it makes you want to sneeze, and the last thing you want to do is sneeze on a healthcare worker. That's why this new process has you standing back towards healthcare worker and facing a mirror.
   12. Karl from NY Posted: April 28, 2020 at 06:16 PM (#5945617)
If there's no vaccine in the next 3 months, we'll all have been exposed long before Opening Day 2021. The current lock down can not hold much longer. People are already fed up and are just going to start ignoring it. Whether that's right or wrong it's reality.

The first and second parts of that don't necessarily follow. People will start ignoring lockdown, sure, but there's only so much they can do. They can't force open a restaurant that isn't serving, a school without any teachers, a stadium with no sportsmen, or a Disneyworld that isn't running rides. People may resume social and family visits and outdoor activities, but we still wouldn't have the big super-spreader kinds of events. The lockdowns have reduced R0 from whatever original explosive value to somewhere a little below 1.0. People may ignore lockdown to a mild degree that R0 trickles right around 1.0 more or less indefinitely, into 2021, but not in great enough numbers to come close to exposing everyone.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 28, 2020 at 07:05 PM (#5945633)
The first and second parts of that don't necessarily follow. People will start ignoring lockdown, sure, but there's only so much they can do. They can't force open a restaurant that isn't serving, a school without any teachers, a stadium with no sportsmen, or a Disneyworld that isn't running rides. People may resume social and family visits and outdoor activities, but we still wouldn't have the big super-spreader kinds of events. The lockdowns have reduced R0 from whatever original explosive value to somewhere a little below 1.0. People may ignore lockdown to a mild degree that R0 trickles right around 1.0 more or less indefinitely, into 2021, but not in great enough numbers to come close to exposing everyone.

Right, but schools are going to open in the fall, if not sooner. People need to go to work, and can't afford babysitters. Restaurants need to open soon, or go bust. This shut-down was billed as "flatten the curve so the hospitals don't get overwhelmed" and that's what it's going to have to be. No one ever signed up for "shut down for a year to minimize deaths at the cost of 40% of you going totally broke and losing your homes".

If we're 2 to 3 years from a vaccine (as some say) we need to let COVID-19 spread, at a moderate pace, while restoring the economy. Everyone's going to be exposed, we can just try and spread it out.

Maximal restrictions are actually self-defeating because they just postpone the exposure and immunity that will end this (barring a miraculous vaccine breakthrough). Total lock down for 12 months will just lead to a huge outbreak when you re-open.

High risk populations should continue to self-quarantine, but the rest of us just need to get our exposure over with in an orderly and spaced out fashion.
   14. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 28, 2020 at 07:20 PM (#5945637)
That's why this new process has you standing back towards healthcare worker and facing a mirror.
That would seem to require a very particular set of skills on the part of the healthcare worker.
   15. Karl from NY Posted: April 28, 2020 at 07:39 PM (#5945639)
If we're 2 to 3 years from a vaccine (as some say) we need to let COVID-19 spread, at a moderate pace, while restoring the economy.

This is true, and I believe the authorities know it - but they can't say it. That will piss off both ends, both the "you're killing grandma!" and "no more lockdowns!" hysterics. Like everything else in politics these days, there's only polarized extremes, no voices of reason.
   16. 1k5v3L Posted: April 28, 2020 at 08:09 PM (#5945649)
Counterpoint: there will not be baseball in 2020.
   17. 1k5v3L Posted: April 28, 2020 at 08:11 PM (#5945651)
Best case scenario for a vaccine is late fall, with the candidate from Oxford University possibly being available in October, if everything breaks right. By then, it will be too late for baseball. Before then, baseball will not happen. The baseball cartel should just plan on cancelling this season and hoping to start fresh with spring training in February 2021.
   18. Rally Posted: April 28, 2020 at 08:12 PM (#5945652)
When a vaccine is created? That’s a big if. Odds of one actually working are probably about the same as the Angels coming up with a pitcher who can be effective for 30 starts without having Tommy John or dying.
   19. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: April 28, 2020 at 08:13 PM (#5945653)
Best case scenario for a vaccine is late fall, with the candidate from Oxford University possibly being available in October,


Fantasy case. Best case is late fall 2021. Worst case is never.
   20. 1k5v3L Posted: April 28, 2020 at 08:30 PM (#5945660)
As an immunologist by training (yes, I was actually in graduate school all those years ago when I was debating Rob Base and Kevin on BTF), I agree that late fall 2021 is the more likely scenario for an effective vaccine and sufficient level of immunization to achieve herd immunity. I was simply going by this NY Times article which is bestest case scenario.
   21. Baldrick Posted: April 28, 2020 at 09:02 PM (#5945666)
If there's no vaccine in the next 3 months, we'll all have been exposed long before Opening Day 2021. The current lock down can not hold much longer. People are already fed up and are just going to start ignoring it. Whether that's right or wrong it's reality.

[citations needed]
   22. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 28, 2020 at 09:04 PM (#5945667)
Bob Nightengale at USA Today also has an article indicating MLB is optimistic about starting in June or July:
Major League Baseball officials have become cautiously optimistic this week that the season will start in late June, and no later than July 2, playing at least 100 regular-season games, according to three executives with knowledge of the talks. They requested anonymity because the plan is still under consideration.

And not only would baseball be played, but it would be played in their own major-league ballparks, albeit with no fans. MLB is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division – a concept gaining support among owners and executives. It would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign the divisions based on geography.
Might be harder to play in MLB cities if some of them are coronavirus hotspots compared to Arizona, Texas & Florida. Let’s see how things look in another month.
   23. JRVJ Posted: April 28, 2020 at 09:19 PM (#5945672)
FTR, don't discount some sort of existing drug or combination of drugs being successful (be it wildly or modestly) in dealing with COVID-19.

Obviously not hydroxychloroquine, but I still have high hopes for Remdesivir, et. al.

*** ***
One of the things that give me some hope about the COVID-19 epidemic is how much new information is coming out, every day.

For example, Italian pathologists who dissected cadavers of people who died from COVID-19, who discovered that a good amount of the problems caused by COVID-19 are due to the inflamation and coagulation caused by COVID-19 (COVID-19 doesn't really cause pneumonia in the classical sense of what is a pneumonia).

That has meant changing protocols of how to deal with COVID-19 patients, which presumably is a good thing.

*** ***

There was a very interesting article in the NY Times last week from a Doctor who explained how COVID-19 patients often have very low levels of oxygen in their system when they reach hospital facilities. He suggested that they be monitored using pulse oxymeters, to ensure that their oxygen levels don't drop down so precipitously before reaching hospital facilities.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-testing-pneumonia.html
   24. The Duke Posted: April 28, 2020 at 11:11 PM (#5945696)
Let’s get back to life. Play Ball! Drop the puck! Jump ball!
   25. rr: calming the thread down with my arms Posted: April 28, 2020 at 11:15 PM (#5945697)
MLB is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division – a concept gaining support among owners and executives. It would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign the divisions based on geography.


This kind of appeals to me aesthetically--like the pre-division leagues from 1962 to 1968. No idea if it is practical in other ways, however.
   26. Karl from NY Posted: April 28, 2020 at 11:56 PM (#5945711)
I want to see that three-league model result in a three-team World Series!
   27. Karl from NY Posted: April 28, 2020 at 11:59 PM (#5945712)
And not only would baseball be played, but it would be played in their own major-league ballparks, albeit with no fans.

This requires every involved state to lift lockdowns enough to allow a gathering of ~100 people in the stadium. Either in general or as an exception for pro sports. Would they do that?

More fun speculation: How about if NJ lifts but NY doesn't. Can MetLife Stadium host baseball?
   28. Mayor Blomberg Posted: April 29, 2020 at 12:13 AM (#5945713)
Can MetLife Stadium host baseball?

not comfortably; it's a single-purpose field as I remember it.
   29. Mayor Blomberg Posted: April 29, 2020 at 12:15 AM (#5945714)
as long as they're fanless games, they can use mL stadia
   30. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: April 29, 2020 at 12:21 AM (#5945716)
I want to see that three-league model result in a three-team World Series!


Cubs v Yankees innings 1-3, Dodgers vs Cubs innings 4-6, Yankees vs Dodgers innings 7-9. Best run differential wins the game.
   31. Karl from NY Posted: April 29, 2020 at 12:24 AM (#5945718)
FTR, don't discount some sort of existing drug or combination of drugs being successful (be it wildly or modestly) in dealing with COVID-19. ... That has meant changing protocols of how to deal with COVID-19 patients, which presumably is a good thing.


Is this actually building to any kind of consensus with any actual direction? It seems to be a crapshoot for any particular patient whether they end up with a doctor who decides to try any particular drug, or anything else like zinc or oxygen, or any other therapy like lying a patient on their side. I've been looking for that consensus to build but it all seems like scattershot reports, even two months in, every doctor or facility does their own thing.

as long as they're fanless games, they can use mL stadia

Only if each state involved allows a sufficiently large gathering of team personnel, plus travel and lodging. But it's a fun hypothetical to think about MLB at say the Newark Bears stadium.
   32. Mayor Blomberg Posted: April 29, 2020 at 12:44 AM (#5945723)
Right, Karl, but in your hypothetical NJ was open.

& so far it seems that docs are tossing things at patients based on proximate diseases
   33. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 29, 2020 at 01:08 AM (#5945725)
This requires every involved state to lift lockdowns enough to allow a gathering of ~100 people in the stadium. Either in general or as an exception for pro sports. Would they do that?
That’s why I think MLB will probably have to start with something like the Arizona-Texas-Florida plan. Far fewer states, and right now they’re in relatively good shape, at least compared to some of the northern MLB cities. Whether MLB could later expand to other areas seems iffy, at best, but I wouldn’t be surprised if MLB holds open the possibility of that happening, just to keep hope alive, if they make an announcement in May. Tough to predict very far ahead.
   34. Rally Posted: April 29, 2020 at 08:21 AM (#5945752)
If you don't have fans in the park there isn't much, if any, reason to want to play in your home city. A lot of the players don't even make their primary residence in the city where they play. You could start your season with the AZ/TEX/FLA model and then move your home games to your normal city when and if you can, and move back south if a second wave hits.

If you aren't going to have fans, biggest reason to want to move to normal ballparks is to avoid the mid summer Arizona heat.
   35. Starring RMc as Bradley Scotchman Posted: April 29, 2020 at 09:34 AM (#5945782)
I want to see that three-league model result in a three-team World Series!

I believe Branch Rickey suggested this when he was trying to get the Continental League going. It would work like this: say the Yankees were the AL champs, the Dodgers the NL champs and the Twins the CL champs.

Game 1: NY @ LA
Game 2: LA @ Minnesota
Game 3: Minnesota @ NY
Games 4-5-6: Same as above, only with home teams reversed.

The first team to three wins takes the Series, but if all three teams are 2-2 after Game 6, that would require a seventh game, featuring...well, I don't know. Maybe seed the three teams based on fewest runs allowed per 9 innings, with #2 playing at #1?
   36. The Duke Posted: April 29, 2020 at 09:55 AM (#5945791)
Round robin playoffs certainly make the most sense in a year like this year

And for fun:

A Round Robin is a Name given by Seamen, to an Instrument on which they sign their Names round a Circle, to prevent the Ring-leader being discover'd by it, if found." It may be that this derives from the French 'rond rouban', which was a similar form of petition, in which the names were written on a circle of ribbon.

Must be an Astros front office mantra
   37. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: April 29, 2020 at 09:55 AM (#5945792)
This Passan story, which clocked in at north of 4,500 words, was a longer version of many stories we've been seeing a few times a week for the last five weeks or so: Unattributed sentiments from MLB management and executives expressing hope that baseball can be played in 2020, without any real progress on addressing the fundamental questions preventing a path forward:

1) How much risk is MLB willing to accept - risk of people inside the bubble getting the virus; risk of having to shutdown play if there is an outbreak, etc.
2) How are you going to do the level of testing required to even create a bubble? We are not there yet, not even close.

Every three or four days, there is some story abuot how doing two leagues vs three leagues; a round robin postseason vs a bunch of best-of-three series; AZ & FL, or do we add TX in there, as well, etc.

These questions have virtually nothing to do with how baseball is played in 2020. I think it is put out there as a way to get fans excited about the idea of baseball, and to make the public feel like there is progress being made by MLB. In fact, you read more about stuff like this in baseball than you do about the NBA, which is quietly working on an actual plan to hold the playoffs later this summer or early fall in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. They'd put 12 teams in a facility that has both hotel rooms and the basketball court in the same building, with the court staged for no fans, but interesting new TV angles. There would be no seating for fans, obviously - basically they're going to turn a basketball court into a TV studio, and the teams (who are much smaller than baseball teams) will never have to leave the building for seven weeks, and they'll all use the same court, with games played back-to-back.

The funny thing is, the NBA has been thinking about shifting their season to more of a December-to-early August schedule, so as to not compete with the NFL for attention, and to take some of the fan bandwidth available in the summer, when baseball is the only game in town. The forced shift of the NBA playoffs this year into the late summer/early fall in 2020 would allow them to try this shifted season for 2020-2021.

IMO, the difference between how MLB and the NBA is handling the coronavirus is similar to the difference between Rob Manfried and Adam Silver.
   38. JRVJ Posted: April 29, 2020 at 11:05 AM (#5945816)
31, you're conflating different parts of my point.

I don't think there's any definitive or semi-definitive drug uses right now (there's a bunch of studies going on, including many international ones).

However, when it comes down to how doctors are treating patients, it's pretty clear that the info gathered by Italian pathologists changed a lot of prevailing wisdom about COVID-19. Because of this, treatment has changed, though of course, there's a lot of trial and error involved.
   39. Karl from NY Posted: April 29, 2020 at 12:40 PM (#5945846)
The first team to three wins takes the Series

That's not quite fair since it depends on the order. NY could win games 1, 3, 6 while LA wins games 2, 4, 5. Same record (they split head-to-head and swept the third team) and it doesn't make sense to crown the one that happened to be scheduled first. Of course in this scenario you could just have those two teams play game 7.
   40. Karl from NY Posted: April 29, 2020 at 12:42 PM (#5945848)
31, you're conflating different parts of my point.

Intentionally so, I was looking at how they interact. There's a lot of information being gathered, but is there any organized authoritative channel for disseminating that information and getting it to be applied consistently in practice?
   41. JRVJ Posted: April 29, 2020 at 01:30 PM (#5945863)
Presumably, different medical journals and publications around the world are being fed information and doctors and health authorities around the world are picking up on what is being written to act accordingly.

The pandemic is moving too fast to have a top-down repository of information, plus countries are having different experiences, at different times (at least publicly, China didn't do many autopsies. Italy, which was rocked by the pandemic two months after China, did do a bunch of autopsies, and shared the info with the world).
   42. Paul d mobile Posted: May 01, 2020 at 12:30 PM (#5946597)
If they go with playing in home stadiums, with no fans, I think Toronto should probably play in Buffalo or Dunedin, as having teams cross the border seems like it could introduce further risk. You also have to worry about the policies of two countries, not just one.
   43. Howie Menckel Posted: May 01, 2020 at 01:16 PM (#5946636)
More fun speculation: How about if NJ lifts but NY doesn't.

the Governors of NY, NJ, and CT all have been adamant about "we come back together."

Cuomo once mentioned that if NJ lifted earlier, suddenly train passenger visits to bars and restaurants Hoboken and Jersey City from Manhattan would skyrocket, for instance - significantly weakening NY's cause. the same would happen in reverse as well.
   44. JRVJ Posted: May 01, 2020 at 03:00 PM (#5946710)
Haven't been following it closely, but I think there's an East Coast compact on reopening.

Philly abuts NJ (Trenton to the NE, Camden right across the Delaware). And the Lehigh Valley is fairly close to Central Jersey (drove that road many years ago). If PA, NJ and Delaware don't coordinate, you have the same problems as with NY/NJ/CT.
   45. bunyon Posted: May 01, 2020 at 03:25 PM (#5946731)
The first team to three wins takes the Series

That's not quite fair since it depends on the order. NY could win games 1, 3, 6 while LA wins games 2, 4, 5. Same record (they split head-to-head and swept the third team) and it doesn't make sense to crown the one that happened to be scheduled first. Of course in this scenario you could just have those two teams play game 7.


I think you play all 6. If one team has 3 wins, they're the champs. If two teams are tied, they play game 7. If all three teams are tied, you play another three game set and re-evaluate. Could be very open ended. And fun. I like it.
   46. Howie Menckel Posted: May 01, 2020 at 06:13 PM (#5946785)
yes, PA was added to the triumvirate for those very reasons.

"upstate" New York - say, north of Albany - and western PA are a little bit complicated (the latter because Ohio was so aggressive in its measures that greater Pittsburgh I don't think kept up with large cities elsewhere).

both states are large enough that a significant portion of each region is almost nothing but East, Central, and West Bumfucks within more than an hour's drive. a festival would be problematic, but not too many people may make a 2+-hour trip to buy some bait and tackle from Billy Bob's Bait Shop and Gasoline.
   47. Jack Keefe Posted: May 03, 2020 at 01:28 PM (#5947116)
I half not left my Moms Base Ment in Ate Years Al what is the big differends.

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