I turn on the television at 3:40 ET Monday afternoon and see Chris Bassitt, in that resplendent kelly green A’s jersey, warming up to face the Los Angeles Angels in an afternoon game on a bright, sunny day in Oakland, California. Mike Trout will hit second for the Angels. Shohei Ohtani is back in the lineup as the designated hitter, the day after he failed to record an out in his official return to pitching.
Albert Pujols, in an acknowledgment to Father Time, is batting sixth for the Angels, but it’s still Albert Pujols and we should appreciate every at-bat as his MLB career winds down. It’s a baseball game, and I think I’m happy it’s on — that reassuring background noise that creates the rhythm of summer for the sport’s fans.
I also watch it with an enormous pit of distress churning in my gut. It had been an exquisite opening weekend of baseball. Kyle Hendricks tossed a complete-game shutout on Friday to offer David Ross a win in his first game as Cubs manager. Eric Hosmer, in those sweet new Padres pinstripes, knocked in six runs in San Diego’s opener.
The Braves’ Marcell Ozuna stunned Edwin Diaz and therefore the Mets with a game-tying, two-out home run within the ninth on Saturday, and even the cardboard cutouts at Citi Field cried in misery. within the most audacious of events, the Rays’ Ji-Man Choi, a left-handed batter, rotated to bat right-handed against Blue Jays southpaw Anthony Kay and somehow, improbably, hit a home run.
The first weekend of our short season also produced this unusual result: For the primary time since 1954, no team started 3-0. Every team won a minimum of one game. The Giants even split their four-game series with the Dodgers. it had been a fun, interesting, exciting start to the present chaotic sprint to the postseason. it’d actually work.
Then we awakened Monday morning to the sobering reality of 2020. After having four players test positive for the coronavirus before Sunday’s game, seven more Marlins players and two coaches had tested positive, consistent with a report by ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The Marlins’ two-game series in Miami against the Orioles was postponed. The Yankees-Phillies game in Philadelphia, where the Marlins had just played, also was postponed. It had taken just three days for a worst-case scenario — a serious outbreak — to hit the game .
The news hit the baseball harder than a Giancarlo Stanton home run.
“My level of concern went from about an eight to a 12,” emotional Nationals manager Dave Martinez said before his team’s game. “This thing really hits home now that you’ve got seen half a team get infected and go from one city to a different . I even have friends thereon Miami team, and it really stinks. i’m not getting to lie or sugarcoat anything. it isn’t good for them. it isn’t good for anybody. I even have guys in our clubhouse that are really concerned also , and on behalf of me , this is often my family.”
Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said this needed to function a warning call for players and was “hopeful that it scares them a touch bit.”
“We’ve been good at this, but we might be better,” he said.
Indeed, it had been clear in watching the games over the weekend that players hadn’t stuck to all or any the protocols outlined within the 113-page manual, like wearing masks within the dugout and avoiding high-fives. Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo even said Monday he wasn’t too concerned.
“No, it doesn’t make me more cautious. I still want to travel out there and celebrate, attempt to make this as normal as possible,” he said, echoing large swaths of America, where a somewhat cavalier attitude toward the coronavirus persists.
A’s first sacker Matt Olson, however, said Monday morning after hearing the Marlins’ news that he was considering wearing a mask while playing within the field — and he did. sort of a few other players, Trout had already been wearing a mask while on the bases, and when he reached first against the A’s, we saw him and Olson side by side in their masks, the right symbol of this complete fragile enterprise.
There was also outrage. Dodgers pitcher David Price, who had already opted out of the season, tweeted his disgust: “Part of the rationale I’m reception immediately is that players’ health wasn’t being put first. I can see that hasn’t changed.”
Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote, “Underneath all the discussions and elaborate plans to reopen various sports — MLB, the NBA, and NHL now, and therefore the NFL and college football by the top of next month — has been one naive assumption: If the virus hit a team, it might infect one or two players. Maybe three. But the sense was things still would be manageable. you’ll still field a team. When did this become the very best of all human goals?”