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Morning Mound Visit: Player’s Alliance steps up as MLB stumbles

The day before Jackie Robinson Day, MLB continues to miss the moment.

Miami Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Following the suspension of the season, the day on which MLB celebrates the contributions of Jackie Robinson was re-scheduled from April 15 to August 28. August 28 is the anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963 and it’s also the anniversary of Robinson’s first meeting with Branch Rickey.

Several teams walked out on strike this week in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, so MLB needed to make a unified, substantive statement in solidarity and support.

The Player’s Alliance, the newly-formed group of over 100 current and former Black baseball players, made a substantial statement on Thursday. Players pledged to donate their salaries from Thursday and Friday to combat inequality.

Meanwhile, Rob Manfred Jeff Wilpon, tried to prevent the Mets and Marlins from striking on Thursday. Manfred wanted the teams to ceremoniously walk out at 7:10 (the normally scheduled game time) and return to the field at 8:10 to play the game. Such an act wouldn’t be a form of protest and would just be performative. Under the assumption that this was Rob Manfred’s idea, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen criticized Manfred saying that, “At a leadership level, he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it.”

Van Wagenen later issued a statement clarifying that this was actually Jeff Wilpon’s idea and he apologized to Manfred for the comments. We don’t know why Van Wagenen had this misunderstanding, but it sounds like he talked to Manfred and the commissioner liked the idea. If that’s the case, Van Wagenen’s comments are still apt.

The Mets and Marlins ultimately didn’t play on Thursday, but instead of canceling the game, the players came out onto the field for a 42-second moment of silence and then left a shirt on home plate.

While the NBA, WNBA, and NHL postponed all of their games, MLB continued on. While it was good to see the Brewers and others refusing to play Wednesday and Thursday, the league as a whole is missing the moment. The other leagues are united in their message that racial equity is more important than sports, and ownership and the commissioner’s office are concerned about scheduling.

Cory Frontin and Craig Goldstein | Baseball Prospectus: On Wednesday, the phrase, “sports are the reward of a functioning society” was echoed by many including myself. If that’s true, then America should never have had sports because “much of America is not functioning and has not functioned for Black people, full stop.”

Jon Tayler | FanGraphs: That there was any level of participation by MLB in the NBA’s wildcat strike is remarkable, but it’s disappointing that so many players were reluctant to join in.