MLB Players Association executive Tony Clark, left, and Commissioner Rob Manfred haven’t been able to agree on muc of anything. Associated Press

The fun, gimmicky golf event at Hadlock Field sold out in less than a day. For $30, golfers will get a glorified driving-range experience, with only 18 balls. The lure of taking swings in Portland’s beloved ballpark was irresistible.

The creative Portland Sea Dogs staff will, no doubt, come up with other ideas to use Hadlock Field. But it doesn’t look like baseball will be played their anytime soon.

Why?

COVID-19 is the No. 1 villain, no doubt, and remains a threat, based on the outbreak this week at the Phillies’ training facility in Clearwater, Florida.

But the actions of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark prove that the national pastime is in trouble, for reasons that have nothing to do with a virus.

The MLB and MLBPA cannot agree on anything, it seems. The standoff isn’t just affecting Major League Baseball. Because MLB organizations supply players to minor league teams, those teams are being held hostage until the MLB and MLBPA come to an agreement. That leaves teams like the Sea Dogs sponsoring other events, like “target golf” at their parks.

This is not like 1994 when major league players went on strike in August, while the minor leagues kept playing (longtime fans might remember that ESPN planned to televise the Sea Dogs’ final game of that season, but it was rained out).

Two weeks ago, this space accused baseball leaders of obstinance (a polite word for being pigheaded). Remember in March, the MLB and MLBPA appeared to have worked out an agreement for when baseball was able to safely resume? But then when it came time to form a plan to start the season, the leaders could not agree on their earlier agreement.

Then, this past Wednesday, hope arrived when Manfred announced the he flew to Arizona a day earlier to talk in person to Clark. It looked a deal was close for a 60-game schedule and expanded playoffs. But again, Manfred and Clark could not agree on what they agreed to. Manfred called the result of their discussions the “framework” of a deal. Clark called it only a “proposal,” which was quickly rejected by the MLBPA’s executive committee.

Weren’t Manfred and Clark in the same room when they discussed this? Do they even listen to each other?

Maybe these high-powered men have poor attention spans. You know, maybe they were spending too much time on their phones. When Manfred said “framework,” Clark might have been texting his buddies. When Clark said “proposal,” Manfred could have been checking Facebook.

Sound stupid? Sure. But do you have another reason why two professional adults leave a face-to-face meeting and say different things?

Manfred has to appease the owners, Clark the players.

Baseball suffers.

THE RECENT OUTBREAK in Florida – where five players and three staff members in the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization tested positive for COVID-19 – was a reminder why the baseball season was halted in the first place, during spring training. A player at the Blue Jays’ camp just a few miles from the Phillies’ camp also showed symptoms of the virus, as did a person at the Giants’ facility in Scottsdale, Arizona. MLB announced the closing of all facilities in Florida and Arizona. They will undergo a disinfection process, and re-entry will require testing for COVID-19.

The outbreak is a reminder of the strict safety measures that must be in place before baseball can resume.

AMONG THE UNDRAFTED free-agent signings by the Red Sox, a couple stand out – University of Miami right-hander Brian Van Belle and Fordham University infielder Jake MacKenzie. Van Belle, whose velocity increased this year into the low-90s, was the top pitcher on Miami’s staff last year and had a 0.68 ERA over 26 1/3 innings as a fifth-year senior, with 38 strikeouts and four walks. MacKenzie was a .300 hitter at Fordham but also impressed scouts in the 2019 Cape Cod League, hitting .291. In the truncated 2020 season, he was batting .356 in 16 games. He stole 43 last season at Fordham and had 84 career steals in 133 games.

ORONO HIGH got to boast of another alum going pro when Jackson Coutts signed with the Washington Nationals. Coutts, the 2017 Varsity Maine Player of the Year and Winkin Award winner, played three seasons as an outfielder/first baseman for the University of Rhode Island. He was batting .451 in 13 games this year before the season was canceled.

Coutts is the son of former University of Maine softball coach Lynn Coutts and current UMaine softball coach Mike Coutts.

Can you name the other pro baseball player from Orono High who was also the offspring of a UMaine coach?

Answer: Los Angeles Angels third-base coach Brian Butterfield, the son of Jack Butterfield.

THE SEA DOGS golf event will be held July 9-12. It was announced Thursday and sold out on Friday. Team President Geoff Iacuessa said there is a chance for more golf dates later on.

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.