Prior to their series opener against the Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Indians made the smart decision of optioning starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac following their breaking of curfew in Chicago.
The demotion of 40% of perhaps the best starting rotation in baseball should feel head-scratching under any circumstances, but this one was completely self-inflicted by the instigators themselves.
Here’s what happened: Last Saturday after a strong start by Plesac against the Chicago White Sox, he decided to go out to dinner with some friends and Clevinger. He returned to the team hotel after the set curfew due to COVID-19 restrictions and did so knowing he was violating league rules.
He was caught red-handed, and on Sunday, was sent home Chicago back to Cleveland to self-isolate. Clevinger wasn’t confronted about the broken curfew until Monday after he had already flown back to Cleveland with his teammates.
Both were put on the teams, Restricted List and on Friday drove to Detroit to speak to their teammates and coaches. Instead of being welcomed back with open arms, they were officially optioned to Lake County after giving their apology speeches.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins have had COVID outbreaks that have caused multiple games missed. The Cardinals are about to master the art of the doubleheader as a result. MLB had to make modifications to their already strict health protocols to keep the season alfoat amid the pandemic. These new rules included curfews for players on the road, of which teams and players were informed.
Plesac was the first to be flagged by MLB, and the first to issue public statements. His first statement was on Twitter where he gavethe generic apology we’d all expect.
The second statement was an Instagram video to explain ‘his side’ of everything. Personally, I don’t know if you go to a friend’s house with a small group if it makes a difference in you having COVID if you leave before curfew or not. However, there was a curfew. Plesac admitted to being aware of it. He knew the rules, and he broke the rules.
Three-days in self-isolation wouldn’t have cost him a start, and that should have been that, but he couldn’t resist making that video and having, even more, to explain to his teammates and coaches.
Is he sorry? Hard to tell, he’s probably sorry he got caught. Plesac repeats in his video that safety is his most important concern, but he is doing so while driving and videoing himself for over six minutes without a seat belt. I don’t recall taking driving safety courses that included how to record yourself while driving and know you are legally required to wear a seat belt.
Plesac is very young and talented. He can use this experience to learn and end up better player and person because of it.
He knowingly broke the rules that almost all of his fellow teammates were following and had nobody to blame (media included.
Just own it, and move on. Better yet, don’t violate MLB rules, and build upon his phenomenal start.
The case with Clevinger is a little different. He’s seemingly been less apologetic than Plesac and actually did put all of his coaches and teammates at risk.
It took two days for his actions to be discovered, and even after Plesac was sent home, Clevinger kept his lips sealed.
He got on a plane and flew home with his teammates and coaches despite the outbreaks in St. Louis and Miami. He put the entire Indians traveling party at risk. That act in itself is the most egregious of all.
This led to frustration from many of the Indians’ players and coaches, including pitcher Adam Plutko who ended up taking Clevinger’s spot in the rotation.
They knew the rules, they broke the rules. Just own it. Why is that so difficult? It shows a lack of selfless and concern for safety for the coaches and teammates.
Yes, they took precautions and limited the number of people, but that’s not the point. Were those people tested? If so, how frequently? Who have they been in contact with? And are you bringing something back to your teammates?
The facts are that fellow starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco is returning from leukemia and two coaches have already opted out for the season due to COVID concerns.
The players don’t have to like the rules, but opt-out is an option if it is really that big of a hindrance. Instead, Plesac and Clevinger showed they don’t care much about their teammates.
Prior to the opener in Detroit, Plesac and Clevinger were given an opportunity to speak in an open forum to their teammates and coaches.
They packed their gloves, hoping to be allowed back to play, but prepared as if they weren’t. We don’t know what was said, but the results, for now, are they are demoted to the minors and rightfully so. This is not a great sign for convincing your team that you understand what you did and why it has now created severe trust issues.
If the clubhouse doesn’t accept the sincerity of the apology of Clevinger and Plesac, then the Indians are making the right call to demote them.
Let players who are doing things the right way in a chaotic time get an opportunity to help the team win ball-games. There are plenty of pitchers in the Indians organization who can contribute right away, and who won’t increase the health risks to their coaches and teammates.