Major League Baseball’s season of chaos is heading into September, fending off the coronavirus, wildfires, hurricanes and now the continued protests and riots in the aftermath of another police shooting of a black person, which caused another 10 games in the past two days to be postponed. The NBA, NHL and WNBA also didn’t play playoff games Thursday. (The NBA and NHL will resume games on Saturday, and the WNBA on Friday night.)
“This is more than just not playing a baseball game,” said Arizona Diamondbacks closer Archie Bradley after the team’s contest vs. the Colorado Rockies in Phoenix was one of seven MLB games postponed Thursday.
Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
“[It’s] 2020,” New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said this week. “It’s been a challenging year for everyone. We all know that. You’ve got to be able to continue to roll with the punches.”
It’s now a battle of attrition to get through Sept. 26 and the abbreviated 60-game regular season. Injuries have been a much greater source of problems than the coronavirus for most clubs. Many of them were caused by the lack of preparation and training during the four months between the March 12 pause in play and the belated start of the season on July 23, trainers say.
More than 200 MLB players (98 pitchers) are on the injured list while 15 others are known to have tested positive and are on the COVID-19 IL, and 27 players and coaches have opted out of the season because of family or health concerns, including such household names as Buster Posey, David Price and Yoenis Cespedes.
The Yankees have 10 players on the IL, including such everyday mainstays as D.J. LeMahieu (thumb), Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring), Gleyber Torres (hamstring), and Aaron Judge, out again with the same calf injury that previously had him on the IL for 10 days. Among their top-line pitchers, Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery), James Paxton (forearm) and Zack Britton (hamstring) are also indefinitely out.
Nothing has been normal about this season.
Four teams—the Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets—have had their schedules altered because multiple players tested positive for COVID-19. As of Thursday, the virus is responsible for 5.9 million cases and 180,000 deaths in the U.S. Five Marlins and six Cardinals have been identified and are still on the COVID IL.
As of MLB’s last count through Thursday, 54 players and 30 staff members have tested newly positive from 20 of the 30 clubs.
Another team, the Toronto Blue Jays, were told by the Canadian federal government they couldn’t play their home games at the Rogers Centre because of quarantine rules, and after three weeks on the road, finally settled in Buffalo at a Triple-A ballpark.
The Yankees, by no fault of their own, are endemic to what this season has become. They had four games postponed early against the Philadelphia Phillies and were sidelined for a week simply because the Phils were on the field July 26 at Citizens Bank Park when the Marlins began testing positive.
Last weekend, the Yankees had a three-game series at Citi Field postponed after two Mets—Andres Gimenez and Tomas Nito—tested positive, causing an unscheduled four-day break that was extended another day when their game Tuesday night against the Braves was rained out in Atlanta.
That led to three seven-inning doubleheaders in five days at a time when the club is severely short on pitching, including a pair Friday and Sunday against the Mets at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks were swept Wednesday by the Braves in the first of the make-up doubleheaders.
But that’s nothing. The Cardinals were sidelined from July 31 to Aug. 16 dealing with COVID-19. They’ll have to play seven doubleheaders in September just to make up all those games.
“There’s been a lot of unexpected things around every corner, and you’ve got to be able to handle them, go out and do your job and continue to win ballgames,” said Boone, whose club is 16-11 after opening 10-4.
The Yanks, like every other American League team, thus far have not been stung by the coronavirus since the season started, LeMahieu and Aroldis Chapman having tested positive prior to that point. In another anomaly, the teams in the AL and National League West have also been unscathed by the disease, up until this week playing through their assigned schedules.
Travel this season has been restricted to play against teams only in the same regions. What makes the difference?
“The Rocky Mountains,” Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon deadpanned. “The great divide. I don’t know. That’s a good question. There are probably larger urban areas back there, I’d guess. More density as opposed to what we have out west. Otherwise, I’m betting on the Rockies. The Rockies have kept it to the east.”
That now has changed, but not because of COVID. Wildfires in northern California last week threatened the air quality for games in Oakland and San Francisco, which were all played. The approach of Hurricane Laura to the Gulf Coast this week caused a rescheduled doubleheader to be played in Houston, allowing the Angels to flee town.
On Wednesday, after the latest protests and riots stemming from Sunday’s police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., games out west were postponed between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Giants in San Francisco, and Seattle Mariners vs. the Padres at San Diego. Both games were made up Thursday as part of doubleheaders. Three games in all were postponed Wednesday, starting with the Milwaukee Brewers vs. the Cincinnati Reds.
Games in Arizona, Texas, Buffalo, Washington, Tampa Bay, Detroit and New York were not played Thursday, and the Mets and Marlins staged a moment of silence before leaving the field at Citi Field. The D-backs players said they would donate a collective day’s pay to the Players Alliance, a player-driven fund in honor of their protest.
“Things have to change. Things are going on right now that just aren’t right,” said Jon Jay, a D-backs outfielder. “We’re together on this as a group. We’re planning on making a donation to the cause as a group. That’s one of the ways we want to help out right now.”
In the overall sense of things, Maddon said along the way so far this strange season there have been inconveniences. When the Angels arrived at Houston’s Minute Maid Park this week to beat the hurricane there was no food available. They had to order out and have it delivered. Otherwise, the final month of the season is going to look much like the first month, Maddon suspects.
“There might be some bumps in the road, but we can navigate through it to the conclusion,” he said. “The protocols are in place and now everybody’s abiding by them. We knew it was going to be different this year, not the normal methods. It’s good for the soul and the spirit to be challenged in different ways. The experience will help us all down the road, and that’s a good thing.”