For there to be a 2020 Major League Baseball season, there are still many hurdles to clear – mainly, ensuring players' safety. But if local and state governments approve of games being played, and the owners and players can come to an agreement on safety – as well as money – some form of a baseball season seems likely. 

Monday's plan conceived by team owners would have clubs starting out playing in their home cities without fans, nearly all their games being played against division opponents and instituting the designated hitter all season by both leagues. 

The DH was adopted by the American League in 1973 and has been used ever since. The National League has stayed true to its roots, still allowing the pitcher to bat for himself except for in interleague and World Series games in AL parks. 

Those in favour of the DH contend the position adds additional offense and excitement by eliminating the pitcher batting. Some baseball purists, meanwhile, argue the DH takes away some of the strategy involved in the game. 

The DH is a unique position in baseball. Some established hitters struggle to adapt to the job, which involves a lot of sitting around over the course of a three-hour-long game broken up by their four or five at-bats. Others, though, excel with the specialised role. 

A number of NL hitters have had some experience DHing through interleague play, and here is a look at some that could benefit from filling that role more regularly. 

 

Yoenis Cespedes, LF, New York Mets 

Cespedes was already looking at starting the season on the injured list and possibly platooning some in the outfield after missing all of 2019 following surgery on both heels. 

With the 2020 season now starting in July, at the earliest, Cespedes will likely be penciled in as the Mets' everyday DH – and with good reason. Since being acquired by New York in 2015, he has slashed .379/.419/.759 for a 1.178 OPS while serving as the Mets DH, homering three times in 29 at-bats. 

Questions were already being raised about his ability to play defense, but those questions are no longer relevant if the Mets can just keep his bat in the lineup as a DH.  

Kyle Schwarber, LF, Chicago Cubs 

Schwarber has long been seen as a player whose game is best suited for the AL – a slugger with the bat and somewhat of a defensive liability in the field.

Not only does he look the part, his batting line as a DH backs it up. In 117 plate appearances as a DH – including the 2016 World Series – Schwarber has a .320/.393/.650 slash line for a 1.044 OPS with nine home runs. In 415 career games in the outfield, he is slashing .232/.338/.481 for an .819 OPS. He is homering once every 11.44 at-bats as a DH, compared to once every 15.11 at-bats as an outfielder. 

The Cubs also have a crowded outfield with Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Albert Almora Jr. in the mix, and shifting Schwarber to DH would be a natural fit. A Cubs scout once compared Schwarber to Babe Ruth, and the evaluation is a bit more apt when looking at Schwarber's numbers as a DH. 

Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants 

Posey has put together a Hall of Fame resume in his 11-year major league career, winning three World Series championships, an MVP award, a batting title and earning six trips to the All-Star Game. A majority of those accomplishments came in the first half of his career, however, as the tolls of catching have caught up with the 33-year-old.

The DH has helped a number of superstars extend their career, and Posey could fill that role admirably. Since 2015, Posey has 87 plate appearances as a DH, producing a .329/.402/.487 slash line for an .889 OPS. Over that same stretch in games when he is squatting behind the plate, he has slashed .293/.365/.420 for a .785 OPS. 

Having Posey DH regularly seems like a no-brainer – he’s more dangerous as a hitter in that role and he’ll avoid the wear and tear that comes with catching. 

Coronavirus continued to make its presence felt across worldwide elite sport on Wednesday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic and major American sports franchises were taking appropriate measures as European football was forced to react once more.

Sports governing bodies have also had their say, with events calendars becoming increasingly fluid.

Here are some of the latest events to be impacted.

In the United States the Golden State Warriors have confirmed their game against Brooklyn Nets on Thursday will be played behind closed doors, making them the first NBA team to make such a move following consultation with the City and County of San Francisco.

This directive also means the San Francisco Giants is working with Major League Baseball to make alternative arrangements after the planned March 24 exhibition game against the Oakland Athletics at Oracle Park was cancelled.

Seattle Mariners are hoping to relocate their opening games of the MLB regular season after Washington governor Jay Inslee announced large group events in the state would be banned throughout March.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will stage its flagship March Madness basketball tournament "with only essential staff and limited family attendance".

Coronavirus cases in Spain have spiked, and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has postponed the Copa del Rey final between Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao.

The showpiece fixture was due to take place in Seville on April, with reports suggesting May 30 has been pencilled as a new date.

Barcelona have cancelled training sessions at their La Masia headquarters for the next 15 days, while RFEF has recommended football at all levels beneath the top two professional leagues is called off for two weeks.

In Germany, Eintracht Frankfurt announced Thursday's Europa League game against Basel will take place behind closed doors, while this weekend's derby between Hertha Berlin and Union Berlin will also take place without supporters.

Mainz's clash with Cologne is another of the forthcoming Bundesliga games where fans have been told to stay away.

The Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal became the first football match in England to be postponed as a coronavirus precaution and City are offering refunds on tickets to future fixtures up to and including the day of the game, acknowledging unease among supporters over taking part in large gatherings at this time.

Pep Guardiola's side have matches at home to Burnley and Real Madrid over the coming week.

CONMEBOL, the governing body for football in South America announced Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana matches held in Paraguay will take place behind closed doors, in line with local government advice.

Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup, will stage all remaining matches in its domestic football season without supporters, although CAF has decided to maintain its competition schedule unless the WHO declares a country in Africa to be high risk.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has postponed the Fed Cup Finals in Budapest after Hungary's government prohibited public indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

On their tour of Sri Lanka, the England cricket team have been told to avoid casual interaction with fans, such as selfies and autographs.

Seattle Mariners are hoping to relocate their opening home games of the Major League Baseball regular season.

As fears over the spread of coronavirus continue to grow across the globe, Washington governor Jay Inslee announced on Wednesday that large group events would be banned in the state throughout March.

This has placed the Mariners first two home matches of the campaign – against the Texas Rangers and the Minnesota Twins – into doubt, with both games scheduled to take place in the final week of the month.

However, the Mariners have confirmed they are working alongside MLB to come up with alternative locations for the contests to take place.

"While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration," a statement on their official website read.

On Wednesday, the mayor of San Francisco – London Breed – announced any gatherings of 1,000 or more people would be prohibited for the next two weeks, with the San Francisco Giants subsequently confirming the cancellation of a planned exhibition match against the Oakland Athletics at Oracle Park on March 24.

The spread of coronavirus has now been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation, with just under 700 confirmed cases in the United States.

Clayton Kershaw will start for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Day, the MLB franchise announced on Monday.

Dodgers ace Kershaw, 31, will take to the mound on Opening Day for the ninth time in his stellar career when the San Francisco Giants visit Dodger Stadium on March 26.

The last Dodger other than 2014 National League MVP Kershaw to be named for an Opening Day start was Vicente Padilla in 2010.

In his previous eight Opening Day starts, three-time NL Cy Young award winner and eight-time All-Star Kershaw has compiled a 1.05 ERA with 59 strikeouts.

"It's really cool," Kershaw said. "I feel like I've said it every year, but I don't take it lightly. It is an honour. It is just one game, but it's an honour to get the start. Opening Day is a special day in baseball, to get to be a part of it is really cool."

In 2019, Kershaw made 29 appearances and struck out 189 batters with a 16-5 win-loss record for the Dodgers – who reached the NL Division Series last season.

"It was [a difficult decision], and I think that's a good thing," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I think it was a difficult decision in the sense that [of] what Walker [Buehler] has done and what we expect him to do this year, so I think that's a compliment to both players.

"I think, ultimately, having Clayton start Opening Day made the most sense for us that day and also going forward.

"Walker knows how much we value him. He'll have plenty of times to start on Opening Day."

 

Alyssa Nakken is embracing her role as the MLB's first female coach after joining the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants hired Nakken last month, making the former Sacramento State softball player the first full-time female coach in league history.

Nakken, 29, is honoured to be taking on the challenge with the Giants in MLB.

"I'm most comfortable at a baseball field," Nakken said. "… No turning back now, you're in it. Here we go."

Nakken added: "It's a big deal. I feel a great sense of responsibility and I feel it's my job to honor those who have helped me to where I am.

"I think why it's difficult for me to put it into words is because throughout the interview process and getting to know Gabe [Kapler] and Farhan [Zaidi] a little bit more, it was never about this," Nakken continued. "It was never about being a female. It was never about being the first.

"It was about, 'Hey, we have a brand-new staff, there's a lot going on, we need somebody to come in here and make an impact in this clubhouse, for this staff, for the team and help us win, somebody who knows baseball, is a good communicator, can build relationships, can build trust, and that's what it was about."

Led by new manager Gabe Kapler, the Giants will be eyeing improvement in 2020 after missing the playoffs last season.

When the San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, they will have a chance to round off an incredible decade for Bay Area sport in style.

The 2010s has seen three World Series trophies and three NBA titles come to the Bay, with the 49ers and San Jose Sharks also enjoying postseason positives alongside the dominance enjoyed by the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors.

Sunday's showpiece in Miami, which brings to an end a magnificent 2019 season for the 49ers, will mark the 11th championship decider to feature a Bay Area team since 2010.

The 2019 Niners will hope they can add the finishing touches to a remarkable 10 years, and here we look at the teams that have gone before them in reaching the biggest stage in their respective sports in a decade that has brought plenty to celebrate.

2010: San Francisco Giants – Won World Series

The Giants moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958, but the city's fans had to wait 52 years to see the franchise win a World Series title as a west coast team. That drought was finally ended in manager Bruce Bochy's fourth season in charge.

The Giants beat the Texas Rangers in five games, with Edgar Renteria hitting a three-run home-run in a decisive 3-1 victory secured when Brian Wilson's strikeout clinched the first of three titles in five seasons for Bochy's men.

2012: San Francisco Giants – Won World Series

On the back of consecutive home defeats in the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, the Giants' hopes of regaining the World Series looked slim. However, after winning game three in extra innings, San Francisco claimed that series in five games thanks to NL MVP Buster Posey's grand slam in the decider.

They pulled off another comeback in the Championship Series, recovering from 3-1 down to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, but the World Series proved a routine affair as the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers to take the trophy back to San Francisco.

2012: San Francisco 49ers – Lost Super Bowl XLVII

Having suffered an agonising overtime loss to the New York Giants the season before, the 49ers went one better and, thanks to Colin Kaepernick's emergence and the play of a dominant defense, made it to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

There would be more heartbreak for the Niners, though, as – in a game remembered by most for the power outage that caused a 34-minute interruption in play – Jim Harbaugh's team were unable to complete a comeback from 28-6 down. John Harbaugh won the battle of the brothers, his Baltimore Ravens clinging on for a 34-31 win.

2014: San Francisco Giants – Won World Series

Few would have expected the Giants to improve on their heroics of 2012 when they made the postseason as a Wild Card team but, after crushing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game, they embarked on another improbable run.

The Giants saw off the Washington Nationals and then won the NLCS against the Cardinals on home soil in Game 5 thanks to Travis Ishikawa's walk-off homer. An epic World Series with the Kansas City Royals went seven games, with Madison Bumgarner's Herculean pitching effort the decisive factor.

2014-15: Golden State Warriors – Won NBA Finals

Golden State spent much of the first season of their dynasty listening to questions about whether a "jump-shooting team" could win the NBA title. Those questions were emphatically answered time and again over the coming years by one of the most dominant teams in NBA history.

In Steve Kerr's first season after taking over from Mark Jackson, Stephen Curry claimed the MVP award as the Warriors went 67-15. They eventually progressed to the NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the Warriors ending a 40-year wait for a title in six games thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of Andre Iguodala, who was named Finals MVP for his defense on LeBron.

2015-16: San Jose Sharks – Lost Stanley Cup Finals

Having formed in 1991, the Sharks' quarter-century wait to experience a Stanley Cup Finals series was finally ended when they overcame the St. Louis Blues in six games to win the Western Conference.

The Cup did not make its way to the Bay for the first time, however, as the Pittsburgh Penguins prevailed 4-2 in an absorbing finals series that featured two overtime games. San Jose have yet to return to the same stage and the Sharks' wait to reach the top of the mountain in the NHL goes on.

2015-16: Golden State Warriors – Lost NBA Finals

The Warriors appeared destined to secure back-to-back titles throughout the 2015-16 campaign, which they started with an astounding 28-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history.

Behind a unanimous MVP season from Curry, the Warriors broke the record for regular-season wins by going 73-9 but, in the postseason, they made history for the wrong reasons. Golden State overturned a 3-1 deficit to the Oklahoma City Thunder to reach the NBA Finals, but they ended up on the other end of a comeback as LeBron delivered on his promise to bring a title to Cleveland with the Cavaliers. The Warriors became the first team in history to lose a Finals having led 3-1.

2016-17: Golden State Warriors – Won NBA Finals

Golden State's response to their heartbreaking defeat to the Cavs was to add one of the best ever to take to the court to the roster. Kevin Durant had been on the Thunder team undone by the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, but he controversially made the move to join his conquerors, and it was one that paid huge dividends.

The Warriors did not put the same effort into the regular season as they had done when in pursuit of the record in 2015-16 but, with Durant in the line-up, they were unstoppable in the playoffs. Golden State lost just one game in the postseason, swatting aside the competition and defeating the Cavaliers 4-1 in the Finals. Durant averaged 35.2 points per game and added the only two things missing from his glittering resume: an NBA title and the Finals MVP award.

2017-18: Golden State Warriors – Won NBA Finals

Though the second act with Durant on the team may not have been quite as impressive as the first – the Warriors had to fight back from 3-2 down to beat the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals – LeBron and the Cavs still proved powerless to stop them marching to back-to-back NBA crowns in a Finals sweep.

Such was the Warriors' dominance that the biggest question of the Finals was whether it would be Curry or Durant who would win Finals MVP. Durant won that debate, further vindicating the decision that caused so much consternation two years earlier.

2018-19: Golden State Warriors – Lost NBA Finals

The Warriors' addition of DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason following their third title in four seasons gave them the possibility of starting five All-Stars. Rarely did a line-up of Curry, Durant, Cousins, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green see the floor at the same time, however, and injuries eventually became too much for Golden State to overcome.

Durant missed a large portion of the postseason with a strained calf and attempted to return in Game 5 of the Finals with the Toronto Raptors. His decision proved ill-fated, though, as Durant ruptured his Achilles in what proved his final game for the Warriors. Golden State pushed the series to Game 6, but Thompson's torn ACL effectively ended their hopes as the Raptors won the title for the first time.

2019: San Francisco 49ers – ???

It has been an incredible turnaround for the 49ers who, after going 6-10 and 4-12 in their first two seasons under Kyle Shanahan, are a win away from a sixth Super Bowl title.

Legendary Niners coach Bill Walsh went 2-14 and 6-10 in his first two seasons before, like Shanahan, going 13-3 in his third in 1981.

The Niners went on to win the Super Bowl and start a dynasty under Walsh and, throughout an emotional rollercoaster of a season in which they have won several nail-biting games, Shanahan's men have felt like a team destined for glory.

Their challenge now is to turn destiny into reality.

The San Francisco Giants have hired Alyssa Nakken to their coaching staff, making her the first full-time coach in MLB history.

A former Sacramento State softball player, Nakken was hired along with Mark Hallberg by new Giants manager Gabe Kapler on Thursday.

"In every organisation, environment affects performance, and baseball clubhouses are no different," Kapler said in a release. 

"That's why in addition to assisting the rest of the coaching staff on the field, Mark and Alyssa will focus on fostering a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team."

Nakken will hope to help the Giants bounce back from a disappointing 2019 season in which they finished 77-85.

Kapler took over from Bruce Bochy, who led the Giants to three World Series titles in five years from 2010-2014, in November.

The San Francisco Giants appointed Gabe Kapler as their manager on a three-year contract on Tuesday.

Kapler, 44, was fired by the Philadelphia Phillies last month after two disappointing seasons during which they went 161-163.

The Giants announced the appointment of Kapler, who replaces Bruce Bochy after the 64-year-old retired at the end of the 2019 MLB season.

"Our top priority in the next manager was to find someone who can build strong relationships with our players, coaches, front office and fans, and someone who has the drive and desire to win," Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said.

"After an exhaustive and comprehensive search, we are delighted to welcome Gabe Kapler as the next manager of the San Francisco Giants."

Kapler played for numerous MLB teams, winning the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

The Nationals now have a crucial advantage in the National League wild-card game following their 10-7 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Saturday's victory against the already-eliminated Indians, the Nationals will host the MLB playoff contest at the beginning of October.

Gerardo Parra hit a grand slam in a whopping nine-run second inning to highlight the triumph, which is Washington's seventh consecutive win.

"I don't have to go home and pack," manager Dave Martinez said after the game, via ESPN. "Nice to stay at home. The boys wanted to stay at home, so they came out and swung the bats."

Nationals star Parra finished two of four for the night, along with Ryan Zimmerman, while Daniel Hudson earned the win after pitching one hitless inning.

 

Mets rookie Alonso sets record

Pete Alonso hit his 53rd home run on Saturday, which is more than any rookie in MLB history – surpassing Aaron Judge's record set in 2017. The New York Mets beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0.

Houston Astros star Justin Verlander struck out his 3,000th batter to become just the 18th pitcher to reach the milestone.

Hyun-jin Ryu pitched seven solid innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed their 105th win. He allowed five hits while striking out seven in the 2-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

 

Rays struggle against Jays

The Tampa Bay Rays recorded only three hits in a 4-1 loss against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays had seven starters lay goose eggs, including Austin Meadows, Jesus Aguilar and Nate Lowe, who all went 0 for four.

Edwin Jackson gave up three runs on four hits in just three innings of work in the Detroit Tigers' 7-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Detroit split the doubleheader after a 4-3 victory.

 

Soler homers… again

What else do you expect from Kansas City Royals outfielder Jorge Soler? (P.S. This was his second home run of the game.)

Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Villar has power and speed.

 

Saturday's results

Baltimore Orioles 9-4 Boston Red Sox
Minnesota Twins 4-3 Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Tampa Bay Rays
Chicago White Sox 7-1 Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers 4-3 Chicago White Sox
Washington Nationals 10-7 Cleveland Indians
Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 San Francisco Giants
Philadelphia Phillies 9-3 Miami Marlins
New York Mets 3-0 Atlanta Braves
Chicago Cubs 8-6 St Louis Cardinals
Texas Rangers 9-4 New York Yankees
Arizona Diamondbacks 6-5 San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies 3-2 Milwaukee Brewers
Houston Astros 6-3 Los Angeles Angels
Oakland Athletics 1-0 Seattle Mariners
Cincinnati Reds 4-2 Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Brewers at Rockies

Sunday marks the last day of the regular season and there is a lot at stake. One of the biggest games will be a must-win contest for the Brewers. They trail the Cardinals by one game after losing on Saturday. A Brewers win along with a Cardinals loss will put the two teams in a tie for first place in the NL Central, which would force Game 163. That is not all. The Rays are hoping for a win of their own, and an A's loss, to force a tie-breaker to decide who gets home-field advantage for the American League wild-card game.

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