The photo of Cubs manager David Ross above says it all, I think, about playing baseball during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Ross is setting an example by wearing a mask. (Incidentally, that’s the kind of mask I’ve been using, one you can put around your neck, then pull up to cover your nose and mouth.) MLB’s Operations Manual for 2020 (click on that link to read it, highly recommended that you do) provides for all personnel to wear masks while at ballparks:
All Tier 1, 2, and 3 Individuals must wear a face covering and, where appropriate, additional PPE at all times when in Club facilities, with the limited exceptions described in Sections 4.1 and 4.2.
The “limited exceptions” basically revolve around players on the field during games or practices that involve “strenuous workouts.”
This is all well and good and should help protect players and other team personnel while at the ballpark. But what happens when games are over and players return to their homes? Ross addressed that in an interview in The Athletic (emphasis added):
“You can’t hold these guys’ hands,” Ross said. “They’re grown men. They’ve got lives outside of the field. But I know this group is a professional group. They understand we’re here to do a job. We’re here to win. For us to succeed and win, we’re going to have to follow some criteria. We’re not going to be able to go out to bars. That puts your teammates at risk. That puts family members at risk. We have high-risk teammates. We have high-risk family members that guys have at home. That would be an extremely selfish move on their part. And I think they understand that. That will be addressed.”
We’re likely never going to know who the Cubs’ “high-risk teammates” or “high-risk family members” are, but this sounds like common sense to me. However, in order for baseball to succeed this year, teams will have to have 100 percent compliance with that every single day. Is that going to be possible for young men in their 20s and 30s with lots of disposable income? Every single time, especially on the road?
The answer is: It has to, or we’re not going to be able to have a baseball season. Even when people follow all the proper cautions, they can still get infected with COVID-19, as happened to Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. The Operations Manual basically throws up its hands and says, “It’s on you”:
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.
As of this writing, eight players (Mike Leake, Joe Ross, Tyson Ross, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Welington Castillo, David Price and Felix Hernandez) have already opted out of playing in 2020, and others are considering it, including star players Mike Trout and Buster Posey. No Cubs players have opted out or been rumored to, yet, but I suspect the “opt out” list is going to grow in the coming days.
Here are some thoughtful words on all of this from Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle:
Here it is. The question was about some owners recently suggesting that there could be fans in parks later this season. Sean Doolittle's answer touched on a lot more: pic.twitter.com/M1eFONQpPZ— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 5, 2020
“Sports are like the reward of a functioning society.” Words to live by, especially now.
I continue to believe that the best option here might be for MLB to just say, “We tried,” and shut baseball down until spring 2021.
I’m sorry to do this, but I am going to have to ask this again. Political commentary is generally not allowed here. I have relaxed this rule during the pandemic, but any political comments must meet the following standards — they must be directly related to baseball, non-partisan and non-personal. Any politically-oriented comments that do not meet that standard will be deleted without notice.