While it’s a great thing that baseball actually has dates and plans in place to return, let’s not forget the reason that we’ve not had baseball up to this point. COVID-19 still gets to play the trump card.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 24, 2020
This after all of the spring training sites were shut down over the weekend after the Phillies and others had positive cases. Even with many precautions in place, the virus still was able to get into Coors Field. Colorado isn’t even one of the hot spots right now! What are some of the states that are seeing the most cases right now? Well, Arizona seems to be on the top of the list–there’s one team (not counting those that will come visit). Texas is pretty hot, there’s two more. Florida as well, two more. Georgia is increasing, add another. California is spiking a bit, that’s another five. The odds are becoming greater and greater that someone during the season is going to come down with it.
Now, in Blackmon’s case, it works out well to have this now, before the spring training starts up again. They should be recovered and (assuming you can’t catch it again or pass it on after you have had it, two things I’m not at all sure about) be pretty much in the clear. You’d rather start seeing these cases as people come to camp, letting them get isolated and recover, than two weeks into the season. It might have them at a disadvantage when games start up as they’ve not had a chance to work up to full strength, but that’s a reasonable tradeoff to keep them from spreading it to their teammates or those on the other side.
The kicker is, of course, how do you keep it from spreading especially when you are going to be traveling around at least a section of the country? How do you make sure someone like Harrison Bader doesn’t pick it up in Cleveland (Ohio seems to be less of an issue right now than some, but it’s still got many cases) and takes it over to Kansas City, infecting a Royals player who takes it home to his family and starts the spread there. It’s not really the players that we are worried about getting sick–most of them (there are exceptions, especially some that are in the high-risk category)–would probably have minimal symptoms and be fine in a few days. It’s the idea that they could spread it inadvertently and help the virus continue moving into different communities.
Then there’s this:
NY, NJ and CT will continually update and publish on their respective websites a list of states to which the new advisory applies.
As of today, the list of states includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah & Washington. https://t.co/do5hy6UyUY
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 24, 2020
Now, with the more clustered travel, that’s less of a problem than it could be. The Diamondbacks, Astros, and Rangers aren’t going into New York this year. However, the Marlins, Rays, and Nationals are. It sounds like the players returning for spring training 2.0 aren’t going to be held to this standard, so I’m sure there will be an exemption made for the other teams coming in, but still, there’s a reason this kind of thing is put into place. Just because people are playing baseball doesn’t make them immune, obviously.
John Mozeliak recognizes this. In the press conference they had Tuesday to announce the signing of first round pick Jordan Walker, Mo made that point very distinctly. “Obviously, the virus knows no boundaries,” Mozeliak said. “The bubble we’re trying to create will be as good as we can do, but there’s only so much we can control.”
If you are interested in how they are going to control it, the operations manual for the season is available. Looks like a lot of saliva tests, which seem to be pretty effective if a quick Google search is any indication. At least we don’t have to worry about someone going on the IL because a nasal swab got shoved too far in. Then there is this interesting line: “Each Club, in consultation with its medical staff and government health authorities, must establish a specific COVID-19 Action Plan.” In other words, they don’t know what it’s going to look like yet if someone catches the virus during the season. It would also sound like each team could treat it differently as well.. Going to be very interesting to see how that sort of thing evolves over the next three weeks. Also, “MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from Club facilities, but will expect the Covered Individuals on each Club to ensure that they all act responsibly.” That could be asking a lot for a group of men aged 20-40. It probably helps that the bars and restaurants are closed (or are limited) and nobody wants to be the guy that shuts everything down.
The season is going to be tight–60 games in roughly 66 days, I believe. Any games that are postponed because a good number of players are testing positive would be made up as a doubleheader, most likely, but too many of those sort of games and you are probably looking at a shutdown.
(Interestingly enough, it looks like there will be a few–probably 4-5–exhibition games between clubs. I expected that all of spring training would be intrasquad scrimmages.)
It’s good to have baseball back (though I will say I am less excited about it than I thought I would be) but we’ve got to realize than any games we get this year may be a gift. Our ordeal isn’t over yet!