What I’m Hearing: October baseball just went into overdrive . Bob Nightengale explains how the 16-team postseason will work for MLB.
Now, there are two Major League Baseball teams tasked with making up a week’s worth of games wiped out by a COVID-19 outbreak – and almost guaranteed not to finish their 60-game schedules.
The Philadelphia Phillies postponed a weekend series against the Blue Jays, according to Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo, after a member of the Phillies’ coaching staff and a home clubhouse employee both tested positive for COVID-19 in testing Wednesday, resulting in the closure of Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies and Miami Marlins have not played since Sunday, when the Marlins opted to go forth with their game at Philadelphia after four of its players tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Seventeen Marlins players and two staff members have now tested positive, and their season was paused by Major League Baseball until at least Monday.
Now, the Phillies join them in having seven games postponed.
They were scheduled to resume their season Saturday with a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park against the Blue Jays; Toronto was technically the home team for the three-game series, but is playing all its games on the road after Canadian immigration authorities barred them from playing in their home country due to an enduring wave of coronavirus cases across the USA. The Blue Jays are scheduled to move into temporary quarters at their Class AAA Buffalo affiliate with a game Aug. 11.
The weekend’s Phillies-Blue Jays series was postponed. (Photo: Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports)
The Phillies held a workout at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday, their first baseball-related activity since Sunday’s game. Epidemiologists generally recommend that after environmental cleaning, the virus, without a host, shouldn’t pose a risk even in indoor areas of the ballpark for more than 48 hours.
Meanwhile, the competitive integrity of this 2020 campaign is coming under increasing fire. While the Marlins and Phillies will be frozen on three games – Miami at 2-1, Philly 1-2 – the vast majority of major league clubs will have played 10 games by the end of the weekend. In addition to the Marlins, Phillies and Blue Jays, the Washington Nationals – scheduled to play at Miami for three games – will be idle this weekend.
“That’s a great question. And I don’t know how to answer it,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of the competitive equity issues on a video call Thursday. “All I know is, we’re ready to play this game (Thursday), and whatever MLB tells us to do next, that’s who we’re going to play.”
The hailstorm of makeups increases the likelihood of two scenarios baseball purists may not like: That the season ends with teams having played an unequal number of games, forcing winning percentage to decide playoff berths, and that doubleheaders may be limited to a pair of seven-inning games.
The Phillies and Marlins would need to play 57 games in 56 days, an impossible task in regular years. The reality of baseball in a pandemic will force every club to reconsider its priorities.
“From my perspective, I’m not overly concerned,” says Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns, whose team could vie with the East clubs for one of five NL playoff spots going to non-division winners.
“This is such a unique season to begin with. Schedules are weird. Traveling is weird. If one team plays 57 and other teams play 60 and we’re determining this by winning percentage, that’s not going to bother me.”
Montoyo said he hopes his club will be allowed to stay in the District of Columbia and work out this weekend; the team’s next scheduled game is at Atlanta on Tuesday, but the logistics for players and staff are already thrown into some chaos.
“If there’s no place to go, I imagine we’ll stay here until we have to go to Atlanta,” he said. “Players’ wives were driving to Philly and stuff. There’s lots of stuff going on that people don’t see.
“But hey, we gotta deal with it and hopefully MLB works through this and we have games coming up.”
Last SlideNext Slide