Turns out, the big, bad, mean media folks in Cleveland and around the country were not the only ones upset by the reckless actions of Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger.
Several of their teammates were pretty livid, too. Upset enough that during a team meeting on Friday — according to an ESPN report — veteran pitcher Oliver Perez threatened to opt out of the season if the pair was allowed to immediately rejoin the roster, and franchise icon Francisco Lindor was outspoken, too. And because of those objections, both pitchers were optioned to the minors and sent to the alternate site, where they have to stay at least 10 days.
Good. The anger is very much justified.
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Maybe, finally, they’ll get the message that they — especially Plesac — so completely missed through the first couple of days of the situation. The COVID-19 risk is very real, and the rules in 2020 are very, very different. The quick recap: After Plesac’s start in Chicago on Aug. 8 — he was brilliant, striking out seven in six shutout innings to drop his season ERA to 1.29 — he went out with friends, a group that included Clevinger, for dinner and then over to a buddy’s place to open packs of baseball cards.
Plesac was caught by MLB security sneaking back into the hotel long after curfew, which was 10 p.m. Clevinger wasn’t caught, and he didn’t bother to tell the team he was involved, instead reportedly defending his friend in a team meeting on the subject. He even flew with his teammates back to Cleveland.
By normal baseball player partying standards — if you’ve ever read tales of Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford during their Yankees heyday, you know — that’s incredibly muted behavior. But in 2020’s pandemic? It’s enough to start a player revolt, especially considering how the pair responded to getting caught.
Plesac, once his actions became public and he heard the blowback, took to Instagram to share his thoughts. And the entirety of his explanation of the situation — it certainly was not an apology — amounted to a giant, “Yeah, but …” He started with a rant against the media.
“The media really is terrible, man. The media is terrible,” Plesac said. “They do some evil things to create stories to make things sound better, make things sound worse. Truthfully, I’m disgusted the way the media has handled this whole situation surrounding our team.”
If we’re ranking things here, Zach, the most disgusting things are:
1. Blaming the media for your own mistakes;
2. Making an IG video while driving;
3. Wearing your seat belt improperly, under your left arm for some reason;
6,376. How the media reacted to your mistakes.
Plesac continued, shovel in hand, after explaining that his own “research” gave him reasons to think MLB protocols weren’t necessary to follow.
“The media is portraying me and my best friend and teammate to be malicious in our actions, when we were really — you know, not justifying what we did, because we left the hotel and according to the new rules, we weren’t supposed to leave, but according to the CDC and these guidelines with corona, we were practicing safe practices in a small group with people who we know have been tested, and we came back to our curfew late, which was 10 p.m., and clearly have been exposed as being bad teammates, bad people, and being dragged across the mud, you know?”
“Yeah, but …” at its finest right there.
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Manager Terry Francona, who has seen a few things in his life in baseball, summed up the overall response to Plesac’s IG video well.
Terry Francona on Zach Plesac’s Instagram video: “I was disappointed.”
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) August 14, 2020
To be fair, MLB does deserve some of the blame for creating this situation. Trying to play a travel-based schedule, as we have pointed out in this space often, was naively optimistic at best, dangerously reckless at worst. But regardless of the mistakes made to get to this point, this is the world MLB in which players have to live, and that’s why rules and protocols — both league and team — are in place.
And mind you, the incident happened after both the Marlins and Cardinals experienced coronavirus outbreaks that paused their 2020 seasons. Both clubs have expressed frustration, at how the virus entered the inner circle, and how quickly it spread once in there. Both clubs had nearly 20 people in the traveling party test positive.
And that’s why the reaction from players such as Lindor — a 26-year-old superstar with four consecutive All-Star appearances — and Perez — a 39-year-old lefty who has faced 6,376 batters in his 18-year MLB career — was so strong.
Players who are paying attention realize the risks. There’s the risk of getting sick, of course, and spreading the virus to loved ones, but there’s also the baseball risk of having your team shut down for an extended period. The Cardinals missed 15 days with their outbreak, forcing a revamped, cramped schedule that will make competing at the highest level very difficult; between Aug. 15 (their return to the field) and Sept. 27 (the end of the regular season) the Cardinals have nine doubleheaders and only two days off.
The selfishness of potentially bringing those complications into the equation just for a dinner and baseball cards is stunning. And it’s why the media — and their Cleveland teammates — reacted the way they did. Are Plesac and Clevinger awful, horrible people? No. But here’s hoping they listen to their teammates and learn from their mistakes.
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