If you’re an aspiring minor league baseball player whose season was cancelled, there’s good news, and there’s bad news. The good news is there may be some spots that are open on a major league roster to play in this condensed, fan free season. The bad news is that’s it’s with the Miami Marlins, the majority of whom are stuck in Philadelphia after a failed effort to start their season.
As you likely know by now, approximately 17 in the Marlins organization – and I say approximately because the number seems to change by the hour – have tested positive for Covid-19, the vast majority players. That’s after only five games in two cities – two exhibition games in Atlanta, and a three game stand in Philly, where they now reside. All of their games have been cancelled through Sunday, at which point they could resume assuming enough negative test results to fill a full roster. At the very least, it means it’s nearly impossible for Miami to complete a 60 game season in almost that same number of days, which to be fair is unlikely to have a measurable impact on anything resembling a playoff race.
Because of this, the game between the Yankees and the Philadelphia on Tuesday was postponed, as might several other if the Phillies have a bunch of positive test results. It’s a domino effect that, in a worst case scenario, could shut the sport down in a matter of weeks, if not days or hours. That is the most pronounced fear of Rob Manfred and pretty much everyone who works in or around baseball, including the networks that have hoped this might be the return to a small slice of televised sports normalcy, something even more important given the indefinite embargo on live fans. As much as baseball fans rejoiced on this awkward, much delayed opening day, we must now realize the sport made it all of three days.
Of course, other American professional sports have fared better, including hockey, soccer, and basketball, three sports that have played under some kind of bubble, where everyone stays in one confined area – in two cases Disney in Orlando – and they keep everyone involved from interacting with the outside world. That has worked pretty well so far, although to be fair, it’s been a pretty short run. But way longer than three days. Which has meant that frustrated sports loving North Americans have been able to watch something other than European competition. Whether these sports reach their conclusions is yet to be seen. But unlike baseball, they won’t have to endure the obvious risks of real human interaction and intercity travel, which obviously overwhelmed a baseball team coming from one of America’s most pronounced hot spots.
Obviously, this has ramification for more than just baseball players and fans. As much as Americans like baseball, it’s nothing compared to how much we love football. And trying to put a bubble over the NFL for a full season is about as easy a shoving an elephant into a glovebox. Which means that football teams, which are larger than their baseball counterparts and play a sport where human touch is the only real requirement, has something of a Sisyphean task ahead. Which means a 16 game season could easily become 12 or 8 or how every long they get before the league hits herd immunity. And that’s assuming players still agree to play, which most have – for now.
What’s even more challenging will be the colleges and universities that still plan on fall college football, where in addition to the challenges the NFL will face, you’ll have the added risk of dorm life and dining halls. Which is why a growing number of conferences have cancelled this and all fall sports – but notably not the Power 5 conferences, where cancellation means yet another economic blow on top of the financial hurricane that is higher ed right now. Which seems to be almost a hypothetical conversation right now since hardly a school can even bring a football team back to campus without positive Covid results in the double digits, like what just happened at Rutgers where now the entire football team and staff are in quarantine. On a positive note, this may be the only way to keep from losing by 70 to Ohio State.
What does it all mean? Who knows. Sports commentary these days amounts to little more than collecting remarkable medical facts and trying to imagine what’s next. At the very least, anyone expecting to have a traveling sports season outside a bubble should likely take pause. And plans amount to little more than that. And if you’re a baseball player looking for work – I think there might be jobs opening up.
Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler
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