What If The "Unthinkable" Were To Happen?

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With the recent tragic death of Angels' starting pitcher Nick Adenhart, the Angels front office will need to make a roster move to fill his spot in the rotation.  My intentions are not to minimize the loss of Adenhart, or appear not to be effected by his death.  Rather, I'm stepping outside of my emotions and looking at this situation purely from an analytically perspective.  I realize emotions are still close to the surface and in no way am I meaning to disrespect Adenhart, his family, friends, or his fans.

Shortly after hearing about the accident that claimed Adenhart's life and had heard the rumor that another person from within the Angels' organization was in the car, it got me thinking, "What would happen if the Angels had lost more than one player?"  What would have happened if the car held three other players, the four teammates heading out to celebrate Adenhart's pitching performance?  This morbidly led to the thinking, what would happen if a team suffered a catastrophic loss from an air or highway disaster?  Understandably, this is a sensitive subject, especially considering recent events, but it's a subject that few have voiced. 

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Fortunately, no professional sports team has suffered a catastrophic loss.  In 1970 two college football teams suffered losses due to airplane crashes; 14 players from the Wichita State team and 37 were lost from the Marshall squad.  On May 21, 1992 the Angels were involved in a bus crash on the New Jersey Turnpike while traveling from New York to Baltimore.  From baseball-reference.com:

"12 members of the Angels traveling party were injured in the accident. The most serious was manager Buck Rodgers. Rodgers broke a rib, his left knee and elbow. After the accident he was forced to take a leave of absence from the team to recover from his injuries. Third base coach John Wathan replaced him as manager until he returned in August. Also injured in the crash were hitting coach Rod Carew (whiplash), first basemen Alvin Davis, infielders Bobby Rose (sprained ankle) and Gary DiSarcina (lower back pain), outfielder Junior Felix (lower back pain), bullpen catcher Rick Turner (laceration under left arm), trainer Ned Berget (bruised ribs and kidney) and traveling secretary Frank Sims (cracked ribs). Despite the seriousness of the accident only Rose would spend time on the DL.

The incident was not without heroes though as shortly after the accident occurred the Angels second team bus arrived at the scene. The players on the second bus quickly began helping their fallen teammates to safety and checking on them before medical personnel arrived. Pitcher Chuck Finley, in particular, was cited by teammates for his efforts."

How would Major League Baseball have handled the situation if the Angels' bus accident had been more serious?

I contacted a representative of the MLB Players Association regarding baseball's policy if such a catastrophic event did occur.  This representative said that baseball does have a plan, it's called the "Disaster Plan", and it is part of the Major League Rules.  (note: when doing research for this article I found that MLB considers the plan "confidential", so I won't disclose the representative's name).  The "Disaster Plan" is covered in the Major League Baseball rules under "Rule 29" and states that a qualifying event is one which at least five players from a team's active, disabled or suspended lists during the regular/post season or six players during the off season are killed, dismembered or permanently disabled.  The team would be classified as a "Disabled Club".

The procedure governing how such a disaster is conducted is outlined within 4 major points and after consultation with the Players Association;

  1. Mourning Period.  During this mourning period, a team's games are either postponed or cancelled.
     
  2. Continuation of Disabled Club's Season.  MLB determines whether a Disabled Club is able to continue the regular season and post-season after taking into account the date of the occurrence, the standing of the Disabled Club at the time of the occurrence, the Disabled Club's wishes and the integrity of  the game of baseball.  The Commissioner and MLBPA jointly resolve all scheduling issues that may arise from prolonged interruptions or cancellations of the Disabled Club's season.
     
  3. Restocking Draft (also known as a "Rule 29" draft).  If the Commissioner decides to hold a Restocking Draft, each Major League Club will submit a list of 5 players who are made available for selection by the Disabled Club.  If the Restocking Draft is held in response to an in-season occurrence the five players will be available from other teams' Active List.  If the occurrence happens during the off-season, the available players come from the other teams' Reserve List.  The positions of the five available players will include one pitcher, one catcher, one outfielder, one infielder and a fifth player from any position.  The position requirement can be revised based on the playing positions of the players lost by the Disabled Club.  The players provided will have no less than 60 days Major League service time (as of August 31st of the season preceding the Restocking Draft).  Players with No-Trade rights, either contractually or because of service time, can not be made available unless the player waives his No-Trade rights.  Additionally, each club must warrant that each player made availalbe is physically fit, not on a Suspended, Restricted, Disqualified, or Ineligible List and is capable of playing immediately upon selection by the Disabled Club.
     
  4. Other Relief.  The Commissioner and MLBPA may agree to provide additional relief to the Disabled Club such as additional selections in the Rule 4 or Rule 5 drafts, priority waiver claims, or modification of post-season roster deadlines.

Thankfully this procedure has never had to be used, and hopefully never becomes an issue.  However, it is interesting to know that Major League Baseball would be ready.

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