In my lifetime, there’s only been two times when there should have been baseball and wasn’t. 1994 and 2001. (OK, my Musial cohost reminded me last night that there was the strike in 1981 that technically is in my lifetime, but I was 6 and not following baseball then.)
9/11 was, of course, nothing like what we are dealing with now. A sudden and devastating attack on key locations in our country, leaving thousands dead in an instant. There was no question that games had to be put on hold and even if there was, the ban on air traffic for the days after the attack would have stopped games anyway. People were hurting, both physically and emotionally, and everyone needed some time to grieve. There were other things that we needed to use our time for.
The strike of ’94 (which lasted until about this time of the year in ’95) might be a little more similar. The strike date of August 12 was set two weeks prior, so we all knew that days without baseball were coming. While there was always hope that it could be avoided, it was clear that ownership and labor weren’t going to come to any sort of last minute deal. We had games on August 11, then nothing. A hole where things were supposed to be. A disruption to the natural rhythm.
This time, it’s COVID-19, which has–as you all know–become a global pandemic and is forcing drastic measures to try to contain it. Which means, basically, no sports. And so, this afternoon, when the Cardinals should be hosting Houston, there will be nothing or at least mainly nothing. No thud of a ball into a mitt. No crack of a bat. No cheering fans–or, with the Astros in town, any heckling fans either. Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium will be quiet. John Mozeliak said that the players would have a meeting this morning and that the facilities would be open for workouts, but we don’t know what that is going to look like. Besides, who could fault a player for wanting to be home with his family during this time?
This stillness is unnatural, especially in spring. Even in the strike year, there were replacement players that went through the motions of practices and games. Now there’s nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, this is pretty much the way it has to be. There was the idea of playing games without fans at the stadiums, but once players in other sports (and so far the MLB hasn’t had a player be diagnosed, but it’d be a statistical oddity if none of them got it), that thought had to be dismissed. I mean, what if Paul DeJong, for instance, caught it and it spread throughout the clubhouse (a most fertile ground for illnesses)? Can you imagine the chaos of a team being unable to field a squad? Not to mention the fact that other teams might get it. The virus might make a slow progression throughout the majors, knocking out this team, then that one, and causing more cancellations and headaches than we’ll see with this shutdown.
It’s just odd to know baseball should be going on but it isn’t. Just when we were getting it back after a long winter, it’s taken from us again.
Hopefully the delay won’t be long, but we’ll try to fill this space on a regular basis, even if it’s just crazed withdrawal ramblings. After all, you have to have something to fill that hole.