This is not hysteria. This is not a hoax. This is the s___ hitting the fan.
A little over two weeks ago, I saw this coming. Once they started postponing Italian soccer matches and playing the others in front of empty houses, I knew it was just a matter of time before it hit MLB and the other North American leagues. I wrote Al and told him we needed to do a piece on it. I even started to do research, but I quickly realized that the “pitch count” I’m on (thanks to SB Nation and the state of California) meant that if I wrote that, there was going to be something else that I couldn’t write. I don’t blame Al for not doing it—he’s doing the work of two people right now. His job and most of mine.
So this isn’t me saying “I told you so.” This is me telling you “I would have told you so, but I couldn’t.”
So the pandemic is here. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. Closing the borders is ridiculous. It’s already here. It doesn’t need to be imported from anywhere anymore. That’s closing the barn door after all the cows left. Or maybe all the wolves got in.
We don’t have enough tests. Thanks to that, we have no real idea of how many people are already infected. South Korea got hit hard by the pandemic, but they’ve managed to limit the damage by an aggressive system of testing and quarantines. Italy didn’t and they are experiencing an existential crisis. The entire country is on lockdown at the moment.
If you think this isn’t serious, that’s what a lot of people in Italy said three weeks ago. The situation in the US is a lot more like Italy than South Korea. People who need to be tested can’t get the test. Or they can’t afford the test. In any case, this country was woefully unprepared for a pandemic and now it’s hitting the fan.
If you don’t think this is going to be bad, Dep posted this chart in the comments yesterday.
Head of Harvard Global Health Institute:— Mark Berman (@markberman) March 12, 2020
"'Our response is much, much worse than almost any other country that's been affected' ... He uses the words 'stunning,' 'fiasco' and 'mind-blowing' to describe how bad it is. 'And I don't understand it.'"https://t.co/NCFnyDteDR
Now here’s the good news, such as it is. While we can’t stop the coronavirus from sweeping the world, we can manage it. We can slow the rate of transmission. We can’t give it a chance to infect lots of people all at once, such as at a sporting event. That’s why MLB (and every other major sports league) made this decision yesterday.
I’m sure many of you have seen this pandemic curve, but if you haven’t:
NBA season suspended.— Vox (@voxdotcom) March 12, 2020
This one chart shows why so many large group gatherings are being canceled right now.
Learn more about the importance of social distancing and how to #flattenthecurve. https://t.co/sWAYCNEg4P pic.twitter.com/RBvBxbJo9a
The meaning of this curve is simple. Until a vaccine is developed, people are going to keep getting sick. But if we can keep people from all getting sick at once, we can keep our health system from getting overwhelmed. That’s going to be difficult, but that’s why MLB had to shut down. Until the United States can develop a system of mass testing and quarantines (and I’m pessimistic), then playing baseball games is irresponsible.
I also don’t want to send anyone into a panic. If you’re a generally healthy adult, the odds of you dying from this virus are low. You might not even show any symptoms or the symptoms you do have may be mild. But that’s a big problem as well, because then otherwise healthy people can spread it to people who aren’t so healthy without even knowing they have it. For those in the high-risk demographics, this is very serious.
So unless you’re elderly or have a serious health condition (or you came in contact with a known carrier), I wouldn’t suggest locking yourself in your room and having all your meals delivered. Live your life, but cautiously. Keep your distance from other people. Wash your hands well. Don’t go into work if you feel sick. See your doctor if you do feel sick. Pay attention to people who know what they’re talking about more than me: trained medical professionals.
I’m sorry to go on a rant like this, but there isn’t a lot of baseball news that makes sense after the news of yesterday. Telling you who is going to start on Opening Day is pointless when we don’t know when there will be an Opening Day. And most baseball stories over the past two days have been “Will MLB close down Spring Training?” and those stories are clearly now moot.
Also, I don’t know how many times I’m going to have a platform like this again.
I took my daughter to McDonald’s today after her (regularly-scheduled) doctor’s appointment. I got a soft drink in an “NCAA March Madness” paper cup. I found that ironic.
Her school’s annual “Parent-Student” ‘50’s dance was also postponed. (It used to be a “Daddy-Daughter Dance”, but they wisely updated the name.) It was always one of our favorite days of the year. I even bought some blue suede shoes for the occasion. I hope I still get to use them.
I remember when sports shut down after 9/11 and I remember going a bit batty by they end of the week. But at least the movie theaters were open. I don’t know what I’m going to do without six weeks of sports. Me and Turner Classic Movies may become even better friends than we already are.
Fans of e-sports have to be thinking “It’s our turn, baby!”
OK, for some links, such as they are. Most of the baseball news from the past few days is now out of date.
- Bradford Doolittle has an FAQ about the delay of the start of the season. Mostly, we don’t know much of anything right now.
- Anthony Castrovince has an FAQ that somehow manages to answer even fewer “frequently asked questions.” I guess when you’re writing for the official website of MLB, you have to be even more guarded in what you write.
- Tom Verducci says MLB made the right call to delay the season, but he wonders “what’s next?” Honestly, I haven’t seen anyone really criticize this decision.
- Jayson Stark writes that it was a totally normal Spring Training until “all hell broke loose.” (The Athletic has opened up all their COVID-19 coverage up to all.)
- Minor League Baseball has also delayed the start of their season.
- The World Baseball Classic qualifiers have been postponed. They were supposed to start today.
- The NCAA has cancelled the College World Series. Most conferences have either cancelled the season or have put it on an indefinite delay. It is going to be a very interesting draft this year, with teams unable to scout most players after this week. (Also, there was this College Baseball chat on Baseball America just a week ago and not one single question was on COVID-19. Didn’t anyone else see what was going on in Italy?)
- Dan Wetzel notes that we use sports to help distract us from the harsh reality of the world and now we’re going to have to do without them.
- JJ Cooper notes that we are going to have to face a time without sports and the community that comes with it. And don’t forget, even though there won’t be any games for a while, the little community of Cubs fans that we’ve built here is not going away. I mean, I may be going away, but the rest of you should all stick around.
- Eric Nusbaum echoes similar thoughts on community and urges that we don’t abandon those communities in this time of crisis. Even if there won’t be any actual games for a while.
- Tim Brown believes that the coronavirus pandemic puts baseball in the proper prospective.
- Jay Jaffe has some thoughts on the situation. He cites reports that if MLB misses too many games to make up during the season, then the current plan is to just pick up the schedule where they start playing again, as if there was a strike. Also, teams may not have to pay their players.
- OK, that’s enough coronavirus stories. Unfortunately, this is also a bad medical story as we now know that Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini left camp to have a malignant tumor removed from his colon. His prognosis going forward won’t be known for a few days.
- It turns out that Barry Bonds was misquoted by writer Andrew Baggarly when Baggarly reported that Bonds said that MLB had given him a “death sentence.” Baggarly admitted he got the context of the quote mixed up.
- Ryan Corkrean believes the Twins have an ace in Kenta Maeda.
- R.J. Anderson has some possible trade destinations for Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.
- Andy McCullough has the story of former closers Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal and how they are trying to rebuild their careers with the Royals. (The Athletic sub. req.)
- The Yankees are the prohibitive favorites to win the AL East, but they’ve had troubles with injuries so far. Dan Szymborski wonders if the Yankees would still be the favorites if every Yankee player got injured.
- A breakdown of the prospects in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 prospects for each team.
- I’ve always said that Spring Training stats are meaningless. Justin Klugh argues that Spring Training stats are almost meaningless.
- Zach Buchanan has a story on former top prospect and former major league second baseman Josh Barfield and his rapid rise up the Blue Jays front office. He’s not their new director of player development.
- A Pennsylvania man has been arrested after impersonating Tim Lincecum.
- Christina Kahrl has a story on the lasting impact that fantasy baseball has had on the game and statistical analysis. The original Rotisserie League turns 40 this year.
- And one final coronavirus story for today. Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, have both been diagnosed with coronavirus. But Hanks had one message for all of us. “There’s no crying in baseball.”
And tomorrow will be a better day than today, Buster. We’ll get through this together.