The word “multiple” is one of great convenience. Was it three, four, five? Just say multiple. In circumstances where specificity is not required, that word gets the job done.
In the age of COVID-19, though, it is a word fraught with peril, because multiple so often is attached to “positive tests.” As in, “The St. Louis Cardinals’ game Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers has been postponed because multiple Cards players tested positive for coronavirus.” That’s not an example. That happened.
So we are shaken once again from our hope certain elements of our society can proceed without being undone by the pandemic. It’s not clear how many Cardinals players are affected, or whether that might also affect their most recent opponent, the Minnesota Twins.
What is obvious, though, is that baseball has begun to realize that hope is not a plan.
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When the Marlins took the field last Sunday after three positive tests in two days — which eventually spread to 18 players — it was a complete failure by the club to recognize the gravity of the situation and the league to assert the necessary protocols in the event multiple players from a given team were to test positive. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported there was no item to cover the occasion of multiple positive tests from a single team in the 113-page document that outlined protocols the sport would follow. That helped transform the Marlins episode into an epic disaster.
That the Cards and Brewers won’t play Friday is a positive step, as is the report from Passan that MLB now is asserting itself with a stricter plan to deal with the virus: asking players to leave their road hotels only to play games, requiring surgical masks for travel rather than cloth masks and the institution of a “COVID” official to monitor whether players and team personnel are following MLB protocols. MLB told Sporting News the protocols are meant to be a “living document,” meaning there is room for adjustment or improvement, but there ought to have been a higher baseline to begin.
One wonders if the adjustments made are arriving too late to see this competition to its planned conclusion.
MLB displayed an astonishing, though not unprecedented, arrogance in how it structured its return to play. The principals appeared to spend three months arguing about money, then three days slapping together the plan to launch the season.
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As Dejan Kovacevic of DK Pittsburgh Sports cited, it’s preposterous baseball arranged its 60-game schedule according to the typical short-series routine. If the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are going to play 10 games, it ought to have been two five-game series: one at Yankee Stadium, one at Fenway Park.
Instead, there is the convoluted arrangement that brought the Sox to New York for a three-game series this weekend, then a four-gamer in mid-August, followed by three games in Boston in late September. Not only is this imbalanced, it requires one more team trip than is necessary. That’s just one example among two teams. Multiply that by all 30 teams and all their various opponents. The Yankees have a couple of two-game series against the Braves. If it was going to be OK for there to be imbalances, why not work those in by eliminating two-games and converting them to four-game series at one particular team’s park?
Baseball even determined it was worthwhile to schedule exhibition games prior to the start of the season that required team travel, which may be how this mess – or, at least, this intrusion of this mess into baseball — began. Like everyone in the league forgot how to grip a bat and needed three pretend games as a reminder?
It is hard to believe the promise and optimism of Opening Day visited us only a week ago. There has been plenty of actual baseball in the interim, but almost as much consternation regarding how the Marlins are being ravaged and how the league has had to jumble the schedule since — and how many occasions of “multiple” positive tests might force the season to be halted, reimagined or abandoned.