Earlier this week, I looked at some live baseball on my phone screen. Live baseball! As in, baseball, being played at Kauffman Stadium, live. In 2020! We hadn’t had that since March, when Major League Baseball, alongside every other sports league, closed up shop to prevent the coronavirus from spiraling out of control worse than it already did.
In fact, there’s even evidence of the whole thing. It’s on the Kansas City Royals YouTube page. Here it is! They played BASEBALL!
Granted, there was no fancy camera setup. When hitters hit the ball out of the infield, you sort of had to try and figure out for yourself what was going on behind. Also, there was no audio, so unless silence was your jam you didn’t really have anything better to do other than pull up Friends in Low Places on Spotify and slap that repeat button.
Over the past two years, I watched less and less of the Royals because they were terrible. Truly, honestly, spitefully terrible. I got used to only pulling up a game once or twice a week when it was my duty to write the game thread and recap (remember those?). Sometimes I wondered if it wouldn’t be a better fan experience to simply not experience any games whatsoever rather than pull up the Royals website and see a 9-2 loss wherein a dozen Royals struck out and their starter lasted a whole three innings yet again.
Obviously, the lack of baseball has brought me—and the rest of us, I imagine—some perspective. Sure, the baseball was bad, but it was still there. It was still baseball, which is the greatest and most beautifully confounding sport on the planet. If you wanted, you could watch a few innings to get your fix here and there. Additionally, you could still see the daily highlights of Jorge Soler hitting the shit out of a baseball, like this:
Lucas Giolito deserved that result, honestly. Did you see where that pitch ended up? Geez.
Anyway, no baseball this year has meant none of those things. No highlights, no comfort television while you’re eating dinner, no fun moments or fun games, no going to games with some friends, and no following or watching minor league baseball. It has not been the worst thing about the coronavirus, but the lack of sports and of baseball in particular has been jarring at the best of times and downright depressing at the worst.
But now that ramped up season has kicked off—or at least summer camp has—we’re already seeing some roadblocks pop up. Multiple teams have hit a snag regarding Covid testing, which is sort of central to the whole thing happening at all. And we’ve seen multiple players announce that they have tested positive for the coronavirus, including Salvador Perez, Brad Keller, and Ryan O’Hearn. Additionally, Meibrys Viloria and Matt Reynolds have hit the injured list for undisclosed reasons, and whether they have the coronavirus or not, they will likely not be the first Royals to hit the injured list for undisclosed reasons.
Most problematic of all is that the United States is in arguably a worse spot than it was in March. The case trend is the opposite of good right now:
There is a legitimate question to whether or not the season should even start; I will not answer that today here (but listen to our podcast where we go into it in more detail). Rather, what I will say is that we need to honestly be ready for baseball to shut down before it even starts.
All 30 teams likely have at least one player with coronavirus; if you apply the ~9% or so positive test rate a to the 1,800 players on the 60-man summer camp squads, you get 162 positives, or between 5 and 6 for every team.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think of a scenario in which a mini hot spot develops on one team to where that team has 10-15 players who are positive, and it doesn’t take much further imagination to think of a couple of teams with that amount of positives. Should that happen, it would be extremely difficult for the league to field games that would be reasonably fair or competitive, which is not good for the league and definitely not good for the health of the players.
Look: I’m excited we have baseball back. I truly am. But I am not hopeful or expectant that a single game gets played this year. If we get competitive baseball between different baseball teams, that is fantastic. There are just far too many unknowns and too much risk to assume that the cobbled-together 2020 season will ever really get off the ground.
In other words, we get what we get. We may get nothing. Prepare yourself for it, whether it happens or not.