Sun, 09 Aug 2020

Rockies GM backs Desmond's decision to sit out

Field Level Media
01 Jul 2020, 14:05 GMT+10

The announcement by Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond that he will sit out the 2020 season came with the prior knowledge and blessing of Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich.

Desmond posted a lengthy statement Monday on Instagram, stating, "The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking."

He added the he felt the need to stay home with his pregnant wife and four young children. Desmond also discussed problems of racial and financial disparities within baseball and society at large.

On Tuesday, Bridich addressed Desmond's comments.

"We're fully supportive of Ian and of his family and the decision they've made," the GM said on a conference call with reporters. "It's the right decision for them and for him. It's fairly deep, and what he put out there was quite heartfelt yesterday."

Bridich said two recent talks with Desmond gave him prior knowledge to the pending Instagram announcement.

"They were great conversations and very honest and to the point with a lot of thought involved," Bridich said. "We were able to talk as both husbands, both fathers and both working together in the industry. It was some good conversations and real conversations. ...

"The conversations with Ian felt the exact same that his written words feel to me, which is from the heart and honest. One of the great things about Ian is he's wiling to think out loud, to share ideas and he's not afraid of that. He's completely comfortable in that. I didn't know he was going to write something as thoughtful and as comprehensive as that and have that be his statement, but I'm not surprised because he put a lot of thought into that. It was just honest and natural."

Desmond discussed challenges growing up as a biracial person in Sarasota, Fla., while also detailing his views on the current racial and socioeconomic climate in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.

"Right now in baseball we've got a labor war," he wrote. "We've got rampant individualism on the field. In clubhouses we've got racist, sexist, homophobic jokes or flat-out problems. We've got cheating. We've got a minority issue from the top down. One African American GM. Two African American managers. Less than 8 percent Black players. No Black majority team owners.

"Perhaps most disheartening of all is a puzzling lack of focus on how to change those numbers. A lack of focus on making baseball accessible and possible for all kids, not just those who are privileged enough to afford it.

"If baseball is America's pastime, maybe it's never been a more fitting one than now."

Desmond, 34, was set to make $15 million in 2020 had a full season been played, so he is forgoing a prorated salary of $5.56 million for the 60-game schedule due to begin in late July.

His five-year, $70 million contract runs through 2021, when he is slated to make $8 million. The Rockies hold a $15 million club option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout.

Last year, Desmond batted .255 with a .310 on-base percentage, a .479 slugging percentage, 20 homers and 65 RBIs in 140 games. He is a two-time All-Star, making the National League team in 2012 as a member of the Washington Nationals and the 2016 American League club while with the Texas Rangers.

The Rockies placed Desmond on the restricted list Tuesday and began their search for a replacement by reaching agreement with outfielder Matt Kemp on a minor league contract.

A three-time All-Star, Kemp is attempting to revive his career after being released by the Cincinnati Reds in May 2019. He batted .200 with one homer, five RBIs and 19 strikeouts in 60 at-bats with the Reds.

Kemp, 35, later signed with the New York Mets and was released in July without playing in a major league game.

He could wind up serving as a designated hitter for the Rockies with the major leagues implementing the DH in all games this year.

"The DH is an obvious benefit in terms of his potential place on our major league roster," Bridich said. "That was going to be the case whether Ian opted in or opted out, and so again, (Kemp is) a right-handed power bat.

"He's got a sense of the strike zone, we've seen it for how many years? And he's very motivated to get back on the field and continue his career and play well. Whether that's in the outfield or only at DH, we have to let some weeks pass before we can make any decisions like that."

--Field Level Media

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