NESN Diary: What We Know About MLB’s Return (And Other Random Thoughts)

Each day during the sports pause stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, NESN.com will publish a diary full of random thoughts, opinions, takeaways, and other cool tidbits we’ve stumbled across in the absence of actual games. Because why not? We’re all in this together.

It’s happening.

Major League Baseball, it was announced Tuesday, will officially be played this summer. The league and its players association finally reached an agreement after months of negotiations.

The deal features a 60-game schedule beginning either July 23 or 24, with players reporting to training camp on July 1. The first week of July should have been when we saw the league return to play, had the two sides not dragged out the negotiation process, but it’s fine.

Anyways, props to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo who reported on a number of logistics after obtaining a June 20th draft of the league’s operations manual.

Training camp reportedly will consist of three phases, starting with small group workout assignments, graduating to larger ones and potentially even team workouts, before entering the final phase where teams will play a limited number of exhibition games against other clubs. This will for the most part be happening in teams’ home markets.

As for the rule changes, they include a universal DH, 30-man rosters to start the season, and a specialized COVID-19 injury list.

Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports believes we’ll have more details on the schedule soon, as its been send to the MLBPA for approval.

And it looks like media will even be allowed, under some pretty interesting restrictions.

Regardless, I can’t wait to be reporting on live-action games for you guys again. It’s been far too long.

Here’s what else happened in the sports world on Tuesday:

— It turns out, NASCAR Cup Series’ only Black driver was not the victim of a hate crime.

NASCAR on Tuesday confirmed the “noose” reported to be hanging in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at the Talledega Superspeedway was actually just a rope used to open and close the garage door.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps clarified that Wallace and his No. 43 team “had nothing to do” with the incident after the results from the FBI investigation revealed the rope had been in that stall since at least October.

And while NASCAR and many others were relieved that the outcome wasn’t the finding of a racially charged action by someone within racing, it unfortunately added fuel to the fire of those who believed this to be a hoax in the first place.

— ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported Tuesday that the NHL has narrowed down its list of potential host cities to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver, with Pittsburgh, Columbus and Dallas having been eliminated in the last two days.

— Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley reportedly is opting-out of the NBA’s return in Walt Disney World, and per ESPN’s Aidrian Wojnarowski, J.R. Smith is among the leading candidates to replace him.

— For those worried about returning to play and getting hurt ahead of future contract negotiations, the NBA and its players association have agreed upon an enhanced insurance plan.

Jayson Tatum reportedly had a lot to do with this league initiative, along with other members of the 2017 draft class.

— After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly had multiple individuals test positive for COVID-19, the team shut down its practice facility and the NFLPA recommended players avoid group workouts temporarily as coronavirus numbers continue to spike in different areas of the country, especially Florida.

That didn’t stop Brady from leading a workout at a local prep school with “dozens” of players on Tuesday.

Brady posted some photos from the workout to Instagram, catching him a few chirps from teammates new (Sean Murphy-Bunting) and old (Jonathan Jones).

— A few rumors on Tuesday were circulating in the NFL:

A contract extension between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys hasn’t been reached yet, and it appears the biggest issue in negotiations is that both sides can’t agree on the length of the deal. They have until July 15 to work it all out.

Despite reports indicating that New York Jets All-Pro safety Jamal Adams wants out of the Meadowlands, it looks like the Jets “have no plans‘ to honor that trade request.

It looks like Antonio Brown’s hopes of making a return in the NFL this season are alive and well. The Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens reportedly are considering signing the elite wide receiver, despite his recent string of legal troubles.

— Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask hasn’t been participating in voluntary workouts at Warrior Ice Arena as he has a newborn baby at home. But the netminder on Tuesday revealed he’s planning to make his return to the ice on Wednesday ahead of NHL training camp beginning on July 10.

— Sticking with the B’s, defenseman Matt Grzelcyk shared his thoughts on former Boston University teammate Jack Eichel’s situation with the underperforming Buffalo Sabres.

— Asante Samuel fired some shots at New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, claiming the legendary coach didn’t truly understand the cornerback position until Samuel’s five years with the team.

We’ll listen out for Samuel’s shoutout during Belichick’s inevitable Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

— A few pro athletes were reported to have contracted the coronavirus in Serbia.

After hosting a tennis tournament that was canceled before the final round, tennis pro Novak Djokovic announced he and his wife tested positive with the virus a few days later.

Additionally, Nikola Jokic’s return from Serbia back to the United States will be a bit delayed. The Denver Nuggets center reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, ESPN’s Aidrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday reported.

— The National Women’s Soccer League is one of the first American sports to made a return on June 27, but it will do so without a number of U.S. women’s national team stars.

Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, and Carli Lloyd are among those who will not play in the 2020 Challenge Cup, and the entire Orlando Pride team, including Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Ali Grieger, withdrew from the tournament after members of their team tested positive with the virus.

Tweet of the Day

Baseball is coming back, but forgive those enough who were so traumatized by the back-and-forth between the players and owners that they don’t want to get their hopes up yet.

Stat of the Day

Video of the Day

Don’t look now but the Red Sox posted a hype video of the socks in its logo no longer practicing social distancing!

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images

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