Is this MLB Season a Good Idea?
"Summer Camp" is now underway. Batting practice. Infield drills. Pitchers throwing. But the story so far has not been what is happening on the field, but rather off the field. Seven players, including six who were projected to be part of the Phillies 26-man Opening Day roster, have been associated with COVID-19 in one way or another.
That begs the question: was this MLB season a good idea?
The identity of players on the COVID list are meant to be protected, unless a player self-identifies. But what we know is that the following players did not report to Summer Camp: Aaron Nola, Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Scott Kingery, Ranger Suarez, Adam Haseley, and Christian Bethancourt.
Bethancourt was likely headed to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. But consider the magnitude of this disruption: A team's ace in the rotation, their closer, another back-end bullpen option, their starting second baseman, their probable fifth starter, and possibly their starting center fielder are all out.
When will they be back? Neris arrived in Philadelphia yesterday, manager Joe Girardi told reporters yesterday. But is he in baseball shape? That's unknown at this point.
Speaking of baseball shape, Girardi could not confirm that Nola will be ready for Opening Day. Add to that new acquisition Zach Wheeler, who has a child due around Opening Day, and who is considering opting out of the season. Add to that Suarez, and the Phillies are looking at being without three of their five starters.
Of course, this is not just a Phillies issue. Teams across baseball are reporting positive COVID tests, even in their own division.
A day after Freddie Freeman came forward as having been infected with COVID-19, starter Felix Hernandez decided to leave Braves camp and called it a year. That's not insignificant, as Hernandez's long and successful career might be over.
The Washington Nationals lost their probable fifth starter in Joe Ross and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman to opt-outs. Their closer, Sean Doolittle, says publicly he is considering opting out as well.
But other big names will not be playing this year. That includes starter David Price, who joined the Los Angeles Dodgers via trade this offseason and will not throw a pitch in 2020. Mike Leake was the lower-cost starting pitcher replacement for Zach Greinke on the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he will sit out as well.
This is just to start camp. What will camp look like in 17 days when teams are supposed to take the field? Will players pick up the virus, like several of the St. Louis Blues players did? Will a team have to quarantine en masse and forfeit a game or a series after a player or players tests positive?
We may be soon asking if this was ever a good idea.