Eddie Shack died earlier this week. I remember him from the mid-60s when I started to recognize ice hockey as a sport because the NHL was in the process of expanding from 6 to 12 teams. He was a player you could not help but notice when he was on the ice. He was part of the last Toronto Maple Leafs team to win the Stanley Cup .
Rest in peace, Eddie Shack.
It is always comfortable to look at complex situations in a simplistic manner; it makes them easier to understand. The problem is that sometimes the easy/comfortable view does not allow one to think of complex consequences. Consider the recently restarted MLB season. The league and the players’ union agreed to a health and safety protocol that was more than 100 pages in length. Logically – and simply – it defined what players/coaches/managers/etc. could and could not do, what they should and should not do, and what sorts of testing/tracing would be done for and by each team. That seemed to compartmentalize everything so that each piece could be understood.
The problem is that reality bites and it only took 4 days into the 2020 delayed MLB season for reality to plant its teeth into MLB’s exposed posterior. There is an unalterable fact about baseball games; they always involve two teams – – not just one. And because COVID-19 can spread at a distance – in fact, that is most likely its most common vector for spreading – looking at individual teams as entities for safety protocols does not make a ton of sense. Here is the current state of play:
- The Phillies and Marlins opened the season with a 3-game series. Everything must have tested out to be hunky-dory as of last Friday; it would be outrageous to assume that MLB knew there was a COVID-19 problem with either team but let the games go on as scheduled anyway. Anyone dumb enough to do that probably also thinks that a thumb drive is what a hitchhiker is looking for.
- At first, the Marlins had a player – maybe two – who tested positive and who “sat out”. Makes sense; that is a foundational piece for the health and safety protocol.
- By Monday, however, at least 11 members of the Marlins – and maybe as many as 14 – have tested positive and because they have interacted with most of the Phillies roster for the last 3 days, the Yankees/Phillies game for Monday had to be postponed lest the Yankees be exposed. Of particular concern must be the result that Marlins’ catcher, Jorge Alfaro, tested positive and catchers are the players most likely to interact with opposing teams at less than the social distancing guidelines for extended periods of time.
- Somehow, the Marlins became a viral hotspot all their own. The health and safety protocol can now determine what the Marlins have to do to rid itself of that contagion. The ability of MLB to identify how that many players came down with the virus will be a test of its ability to do contact tracing, Moreover the schedules – and maybe the seasons – of the Phillies and/or any of the upcoming opponents of the Phillies might also be altered significantly if MLB cannot find the source of the Marlins’ contagion and it migrates to the Phillies’ clubhouse in a dormant/undetected state for 3 or 4 days.. The restarted season called for 60 games in 65 days; there is not a lot of room for “postponed games”; the Yankees and Phillies have already “spent” one of those off-days.
By the way, the Marlins/Orioles game scheduled for Monday was also canceled to avoid any more spread of the virus to the Orioles roster and because the Marlins might have difficulty fielding a team with 11-14 or more players on the shelf.
- Memo to MLB: You may want to test any of the umpires who were on the field with 14 Marlins’ players who have tested positive over the weekend. If umpires are infected, they can go to their next assigned game and pass on the virus to two other squads. But you knew that…
There is another COVID-19/MLB note that is less than positive. Red Sox pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, previously tested positive for COVID-19 but seemingly had recovered. I say seemingly because the team shut him down over the weekend because an aftermath of his bout with COVID-19 is a cardiac inflammation. Myocarditis – the medical name for his condition – can manifest itself with “rapid or abnormal heart rhythms” which in turn can “affect the heart’s ability to pump.” That sounds to me a whole lot more serious than a respiratory infection – – unless of course that respiratory infection also includes a stay in an ICU facility.
I know that owners and players want seasons to go on for financial reasons. If I had millions of dollars at stake, I would probably also want to take some risks to get the games into the books. However, the news from last weekend should be a cautionary tale. COVID-19 is not to be taken lightly.
With all that MLB news as a backdrop, remember that the NBA will restart its season later this week. It has had players/teams in the “Orlando Bubble” for a while and there have yet to be any positive tests there let alone an outbreak. However, there is a teeny-tiny potential problem.
- Lou Williams, guard for the Clippers, will need to sit out a 10-day quarantine because he left the bubble for an “excused absence” but did not abide by safe practices while outside the bubble.
- Some reports say he went to a strip club in Atlanta – about 400 miles from Orlando; others say he went to get wings; maybe he got the wings at a strip club. Whatever…
- Here is the caution; he was able to get out of the bubble with an excuse. The way the league found out about his “improprieties” was a photo taken by someone and posted on Instagram. The NBA “Bubble” is entirely dependent on chronologically adult players behaving intelligently should they leave “The Bubble”. Good luck with that…
I think Lou Williams is the leader in the clubhouse for NBA Meathead of the Year…
Finally, Lakers’ center, Dwight Howard, tried to explain why he was stubbornly anti-mask wearing. He said he was unaware that the coronavirus could be “flying through the air looking for people.” How might he have thought that 4 million infections in the US managed to happen?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………