Sport

MLB season taking on water from COVID-19

Think of it like a tarp pulled over a baseball field during a rain delay. There comes a point when enough drops force the game’s postponement.

Barely a week into its season, major-league baseball is approaching that time with regard to COVID-19. But the consequence isn’t merely a season postponed, but canceled outright.

The latest came Friday, when the series opener between the Cardinals and Brewers in Milwaukee was postponed after two St. Louis employees tested positive for the virus. It marked the 15th MLB game postponed in eight days due to positive tests for the virus.

This comes on the heels of the postponement of this weekend’s series between the Jays and Phillies, who played at the Miami Marlins last weekend before multiple Marlin players tested positive. Philadelphia also had its mid-week series with the Yankees postponed and announced two positive tests, a coach and home clubhouse staff member.

On Friday, another Miami player reportedly tested positive, bringing the number to 20. And as of Friday, Miami’s traveling party remained quarantined in Philadelphia. Team personnel will return to Miami by bus. Both the Marlins and Phillies haven’t played since Sunday. In response, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said the team would move to a daily testing schedule.

On Wednesday, referencing the rising virus counts in the United States, Canada’s minister of immigration ruled the Blue Jays and their opponents could not cross the border to play games, essentially leaving Toronto without a home. The Jays left the city July 20, the players knowing they won’t be back this year.

Back in 1972, a players’ strike created an imbalance in the schedule. In the American League East, the Tigers won the division over the second-place Red Sox by a half-game despite playing one more contest.

On Friday, the virus caused one-fifth of all MLB teams to take a seat. A total of 30 games were postponed this week. How many games postponed in a 60-game season realistically that can be made up remain unclear, but too many would leave teams having played unequal numbers. In that case, winning percentage would decide playoff berths, something no one in or outside the game would want.

Individually, the Orioles’ Chris Davis, with a wife and three daughters at home, said he will wear a mask while playing first base. “I can’t even think about bringing this thing home,” Davis said earlier this week. “My wife and I have talked about it on more than one occasion and it’s the risk that I’ve assumed.”

Not all were willing to take that risk. In late June, Arizona’s Mike Leake became the first MLB player to announce he would sit out the season. He’s since been joined by Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross, David Price, Felix Hernandez, Nick Markakis and Buster Posey. MLB umpires said earlier this month they wouldn’t work this season. The All-Star Game has been scrubbed.

Earlier this week, the Red Sox shut down pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez after discovering health complications following his contraction of the virus. The left-hander confirmed a radio report that he’s suffering from an inflammation of the heart muscle.

Meanwhile, when games are played, sans fans, they’re done so amid atmospheres of emptiness. Several teams put cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands and have attempted to create life by piping in crowd noise.

If anything, the tactics simply have reinforced how barren ballparks look and how lifeless the game feels while watching from home.

“Off the field, there’s no energy,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde told Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com. “You have to bring the energy yourself. You have to create the energy in your dugout at a distance. Having no fans is something none of us are used to.”

Said Baltimore shortstop Jose Iglesias, “It’s very difficult (playing without fans). I’m not going to lie to you. You’ve got to show your love for the game. I don’t feel good every day. (My teammates) don’t feel good every day. We have to push each other up and keep the energy up.”

Only MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to cancel the rest of the season or order a pause in the action. Before the start of the season, he said the league would be “lucky” to get in 60 games.

More recently, Manfred said a team or two suffering so many virus-related absences as to render them non-competitive and, thus, affect competition around the league “and we’d have to think very, very hard about what we’re doing.”

Then, Friday’s word of the postponement of the Cards-Brewers series opener. The 15th game in eight days similarly affected by the virus.

Manfred has to notice. The tarp protecting MLB from COVID-19 is fast taking on water.

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