That Didn’t Take Long – Two Teams in COVID Nightmare

It seems the nascent season is on the precarious brink as both the Marlins and Phillies are now effectively shut down. If you have not heard, the Florida Marlins now has over 10 players infected with COVID-19.

The most concerning part of the story is the team went ahead with a game against the Phillies, Sunday, even though they probably shouldn’t. There were 4 players who had tested positive. Now the Marlins and Phillies are stuck in quarantine and an unfortunate experiment is on: how contagious is COVID-19 if one team is infected and still plays.

As much as I love baseball, it seems now that the protocols in place are not good enough, and players like Didi Gregorious, who are high risk, are literally gambling their lives to bring us the game we love. And yet, there are still who think the virus is not serious, or some left- wing conspiracy. Just look at some comments in reaction to Freddie Freeman’s battle to come back.

Also I won’t lie or be a hypocrite. I needed the distraction of baseball. For this reason, I didn’t pay that close attention to the protocols. However, I am not selfish enough to want people to risk their lives for a game. It seems now imperative that the MLB revisits their plans, and consider the bubble idea the NHL & NBA have instituted. The stadiums are empty anyway, so why does it matter to be in their home city. Now is the time to take a collective pause and rethink.

The MLB leadership needs to study what happened, make changes, make it right and protect the players. Their health and safety is more important then our entertainment.

The Montreal Baseball File Since COVID-19

Before COVID-19, the Montreal Baseball file had flared up with the idea of Montreal and Tampa sharing a team. Rumors were abound about the Montreal Baseball Group taking a minority stake in the Tampa Bay Rays, but then COVID happened. Naturally this was not a focus of anyone when the world is essentially on pause.

Nonetheless, as Baseball has returned in the USA, so has the idea of the split team. It was only natural I guess as the Rays prepared to play the Blue Jays at their home opener the topic would once again come to the fore.

In a recent live stream, the Tamp Rays team president Brian Auld was asked about the plan, as the clock ticks faster to 2028, when the lease is up for their current home. His response is not a surprise : “the discussion will return once the pandemic clears.”

Nonetheless,  the principal owner of the Rays Stuart Sternberg has not be silent on this though. Only a week ago it was reported

 The pandemic slowed but didn’t halt the work on pursuing the Montreal plan, which calls for new open-air stadiums to be built in both markets and the team to split seasons starting in 2028, if not sooner.

In this wide ranging 40-minute conversation with the Tampa Bay Times, from his New York home, Stuart Sternberg made it clear staying in Tampa was not really being even considered anymore.

From the Canadian side, Bronfman and his Montreal Baseball Group has been totally silent on the subject. His most recent action was the lovely gesture of officially licensed Expos masks to Perry Gee, founder of Expos Fest.

The masks as of now are sold out, and Perry is working to get more of them…

The 60 Game Season

Welcome to the abbreviated 2020 baseball season. The first major sports league of the big four to begin again since COVID-19 shut down all competitive sport leagues in North America (along with pretty much everything else).

The MLB stadiums are empty expect for players and essential staff, but some fans have spent $99 or more to have their cardboard likeness there. I should note that’s only for some teams. Besides the real sounds of bat meets ball, the sounds of the crowd are simulated from a video game MLB the Show 2020. For the first time in years both leagues have the same rules with the NL teams agreeing to a dedicated DH. Oh and since 1969, no MLB baseball in Canada , since the Blue Jays are still homeless rejected by the Canadian Federal government. Pittsburg doesn’t want them either. Maybe Baltimore. Maybe Buffalo. I do feel some satisfaction even though I do follow the Blue Jays, to see them feel a bit of the pain they enacted on the Montreal Expos. All they had to do was symbolically oppose the fate that has befallen them now….but I’m not bitter. Okay maybe a little, Blue Jays by default being the closest team to me, and with an exciting core of young talent is hard not to root for. Especially when the scion of one of the all time great Expos plays for them. I mean did you see that homer run out of Fenway that Vladdy smacked in the pre-season game yesterday. It was a monster.

And so tonight, our favourite game started again, in the most 2020 way. Dr Anthony Fauci, mask and all, “threw” the first pitch to open the season. Even without the fans – his nerves showed, as the pitch veered off to the side, just as poor Gary Dell’Abate at that Mets game.

Then a great game began as the Yankees, now fully recovered from the injury plagued 2019, roared back to life early. Stanton reminded us why they are called “The Bronx Bombers” with a nice home run off one of the most preeminent pitchers of this era Max Scherzer. For a small moment I forgot all the COVID-19 malarkey. t

That was until Manfred, the current commissioner of Baseball took a bow for his success in getting baseball back so quick. And once again it seems the COVID gods were not happy.

The lightning came, then the rain, effectively ending the game. The spell was broken.

But alas, not for long, the late game Giants @Dodgers starts soon and baseball is back. Huzzah!

Could this really be a year without Baseball?

My heart aches. Right now, in Montreal, it’s snowing. The normal harbinger to the beginning of spring, is the crack of the bat is silent and seemingly far off. So too is my yearly tradition of catching some live games on the road as a treat during my business travels.

I tried to replace the joy of this with MLB The Show 2020 on PS4. It worked for a bit, but it’s really no substitute for the excitement and the drama of a real game, where things actually matter.

Let’s not forget as well all the story lines – just for the teams I enjoy to follow. Would there be a sophomore slump in the three white night rookies (Biggio , Bichette and Guerrero) for the Blue Jays? How would Hyun-jin Ryu fit in, and outs he have an impact? Do the Nationals have a repeat year or crumble without Rendon? Does Aaron Judge continue his pace? So many stories I was looking forward to.

Also I had trips to Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco and Toronto. Each had ball games tied to it, where I was trying to beat my record from last year of 5 different stadium visits, something I think I would have done with trips to Boston, Los Angeles and Baltimore surely scrapped.

Even forgetting the personal stories for myself. I just held out hope a real game would be played. Baseball has survived and thrived through all kinds of periods. It was the past time during the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, two world wars, and all the way through troubles like September 11th, and the Great Recession.

However, it’s becoming clear – baseball- like most things is cancelled in 2020. This will, be a weird year even if things return by some decree. New divisions possibly, a restart of “spring training”, contracts expiring or trade deadlines without a season, and there may be teams who fold and never recover.

I’m a Montreal native and even as much as I yearn to have a team back in this city, my whole body knows I don’t want it at the expense of another passionate fan base losing their team based on this pandemic, as the Washington Post recently reported.

So where does this all lead us? Maybe we see baseball this season, although I am not betting on it. I am trying to take small comfort in the new ways teams are connecting fans and players. For example, next week, I’ll join a Zoom call with several players of the Blue Jays along with several thousand fans. Otherwise, I guess I will keep playing MLB The Show and hope by next season, I’ll be watching the real thing.