Yup, another baseball season is underway and you guys are already screwing it up.
On opening day, I tuned in to the Angels-A’s game and saw Matt Olson hit a walk-off grand slam to win it for Oakland 7–3. As Olson rounded the bases, his teammates rushed from the dugout toward home plate. My heart sank. Here it comes, I thought.
Olson was mobbed as he crossed the plate. I watched in disbelief as players jumped all over him and pounded him on the back. Uh, about that virus? I wondered.
I was sure the telecast announcer would say something, and he did, but it had nothing to do with Covid-19 and spreading the virus. All he said was “Well, this is cause for celebration.”
It was just the beginning. A couple of days later, I saw Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner hit a homerun. Turner crossed home plate unscathed but then jumped into the arms of catcher Kurt Suzuki who was waiting in the dugout. I immediately thought of Yogi Berra jumping joyously into the arms of Don Larsen after Larsen’s perfect game.
How times change. Today, we face a worldwide pandemic. Deaths mount, infections increase, but we still behave like idiots. MLB put out a 113-page manual on protocols but high-fives and spitting continue. I cringed when a camera caught Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez unleash a couple of giant gobs in between pitches. At least he lifted his mask.
I watch all this from France where, like most of Europe, the reaction is, “What’s happened to America? Has it lost its mind?”
To celebrate MLB’s belated opening day, there was President Trump playing catch with former Yankee great Mariano Rivera on the White House lawn. Also present were 13 Little Leaguers from Montoursville, Pennsylvania. Trump’s aides assured reporters that everyone had to pass a Covid test before entering the premises. (Nice to know some people in the U.S. don’t have to wait two weeks to get test results.)
When it was brought to Trump’s attention that Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals had tested positive for the coronavirus, he said he wasn’t worried about the virus spreading. “They’ve got it under control,” he said.
Right again, Mr. President. Perhaps you should have first checked with Nationals manager David Martinez who said, “I’ll be honest with you. I’m scared. I really am.”
Kansas City first baseman Rick O’Hearn, who missed his team’s opening series after testing positive, added, “It seems like it’s spreading like wildfire.”
The virus has now engulfed the Miami Marlins. Fourteen members of the traveling party including 12 players are now infected, throwing the whole season into more uncertainty. The team’s chief executive officer and part-owner Derek Jeter put out a statement saying, “We need to take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of the situation.”
Totality of the situation? Dear Derek, are you saying that after all this time you haven’t grasped it yet?
Here’s my take: this whole thing is misguided. It’s all about money so just cancel the season. The risks aren’t worth it. Even before the season began, a number of players opted out of playing because of health concerns.
One of them was David Price of the Dodgers who, after hearing about the Marlins, questioned the commissioner’s motives for staging a season. “Now we REALLY get to see if MLB is going to put players health first. Remember when Manfred said players health was PARAMOUNT? Part of the reason I’m home right now is because players health wasn’t being put first.”
And then he added, “I can see that hasn’t changed.”