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Tampa Bay Rays News and Links: MLB re-start plan gets a B- from medical expert

Is it really so hard not to spit on a baseball field?

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros
No more of that, Charlie!
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Rays stuff

FSU product Taylor Walls, a shortstop who last played for the Biscuits, is getting some recognition.

Apparently Rays newly acquired Hunter Renfroe is not afraid of critters.

A fun look at our Rays (and other Tampa Bay team) broadcasters and how they are spending their unexpected free time. ($)

Rays stadium stuff

We’ve already reported that Darryl Shaw, who owns most of the Ybor City land that would have become the Rays stadium had the stars aligned differently, has just bought most of the area occupied by Tampa Park Apartments, also at the western entrance to Ybor City. He does not yet have firm redevelopment plans, but he is emptying the units and plans to raze the buildings.

Back in 2016 (how many lifetimes ago?), the Tampa Bay Times had identified this as a potential stadium site, and we’d explored it as well. It was seen as a frontrunner for a Rays stadium at the time, with the biggest drawback being the need to relocate several hundred low income families. But when we studied the site in 2016, we noted that the nonprofit owners of the housing complex seemed eager to sell, and the dilapidated state of the fifty year old complex threatened its long term viability as an affordable housing resource. Now that Shaw owns a good part of this site, it could be back in play as part of a potential stadium site.

Other baseball stuff

This isn’t Rays related, but some fun historical research into 1980s Cy Young award winners and how the came to play for their Cy Young year teams. As a former Mets fan, looking at Dwight Gooden’s 1984-5 numbers makes me shed a few tears.

Minor league baseball was in peril even before everything got shut down. Right now things don’t look good at all for minor league teams and the communities that support them.

Some very sad news from the Diamondback’s Starling Marte:

When and how baseball could resume

Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal walks us through some of the ways MLB’s COVID-19 protection guidelines will shape gameday routines ($). The many restrictions seem weird, and even grim:

But for as careful and thorough as MLB’s idea looks, reading through it also serves as a stark reminder of the enormity of the undertaking at hand. Playing baseball while trying to avoid spreading Covid-19 will require everybody in the industry—from players to coaches to umpires—to accept a heavily restrictive professional routine and completely overhaul their private lives.

But the alternatives — either no baseball at all, or baseball played without regard for health and possibly becoming fertile ground for virus transmission — sound even grimmer.

The players union (MLBPA) and owners will continue to discuss player pay should games resume. In March the two sides agreed that players would receive pro-rated salaries based on the games played this season, but now they are claiming that playing in empty stadiums will significantly reduce revenues (to the tune of $4 billion in losses) and they want players to take less than their full pro-rated salaries. Some analysts, however, are skeptical about the accuracy of their calculations (which seems to exclude some significant sources of owner revenue). Craig Edwards does a great job of parsing the MLB figures.

And finally this ESPN article is well worth reading. They have interviewed players, front office people and medical personnel about how baseball could proceed. One medical expert gave the league’s plan a B-. While the plan is quite thorough, MLB doesn’t plan to test every day, and while they will quarantine a player who tests positive, they will not quarantine his teammates. The article also notes that MLB has not yet had conversations with local officials in major league cities, so there is still much to be worked out before the first pitch is thrown.

Taylor Motter, Florida Man

West Palm Beach native Taylor Motter was drafted in the 17th round by the Rays back in 2011. Despite having limited prospect pedigree, he was solid enough in his climb through the minors to earn a promotion to the Rays major league squad in 2016. A true utility man he played many positions, and could manage a respectable OBP with a hint of extra base power.

He struggled in his partial season with the Rays, and was traded in Fall 2016 to the Mariners for Andrew Kittredge (along with a few minor leaguers). His career never really took off; he was up and down between the minors and several major league teams, and finally signed to play with the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO for the 2020 season. This seemed very fortuitous for Motter; after all, this year Korea seems to be one of the few places where baseball is actually being played!

I don’t have particularly strong memories of Motter as a player. His long blond hair made him easily recognizable, and in interviews he seemed pretty laid back. But something odd happened in 2016 that left many of us wondering what Taylor Motter might have done to make himself persona non gratis. He had made his major league debut on May 15, and spent about six weeks quiet weeks with the team before returning to Durham on July 2. A month later, August 2, he was re-called by the Rays, but something must have gone terribly wrong. Because the next day he was sent back to Durham, without appearing in uniform or, as far as we could tell, even showing up in the clubhouse.

That was the last we saw of him in St. Petersburg. He was not among the September call-ups, and in November he was traded to Seattle.

What could have happened in the brief time between when he got the phone call in Durham and when he arrived in St. Petersburg that resulted in his banishment? I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I’ve spent (and how much fun I’ve had) imaging possible scenarios.

I thought about that yesterday when Daniel Kim, who is covering the KBO, shared these tweets (Motter’s was subsequently deleted; this is a screen shot).

Melissa is apparently Motter’s partner, and I assume she has come to join him in Korea, which means she has to undergo the usual 14 day quarantine. All reports from those who have been quarantined are that the accommodations are modest but comfortable, but I guess Melissa doesn’t like the food — so she tweeted to the US Ambassador that she is being denied her human rights, which Motter then retweeted to the US Ambassador. Not exactly the way to show respect for a country in which you are guest!