The story of how COVID-19 shut down the game.
It’s February 29th. Leap year. Bats are swung in batting cages. Pitches are thrown. Home runs are hit. It’s baseball. In just 26 short days, some of these players will be gearing up to play. And some of these players will be trying to get signed. That’s spring training. So far, COVID-19 isn’t a threat to shut down the MLB. Nobody has been infected in New York. The only hot spot is in the west coast. But all of those deaths came in a nursing home. Now let’s skip to March 12th. Just 12 days later. Baseball is shut down. No more bats are swung, no more pitches thrown. Only rumors tell whether baseball will come back soon. Now we know.
This season will forever have an asterisk. Like 1981 or 1995, or even 1919. These times, humans shut down the sport. This time though, nature did. But how, why did baseball shut down? It really isn’t know now. Not at this time. We only know that it shut down because of COVID-19. Nobody knows the inside story. But I can guess. Here is my crack at it.
It’s March 12th. Panic runs in the commissioner’s office. Rob Manfred tries to come up with a plan, and it was a plan that I illustrated in an earlier article. Here it is:
“The MLB hasn’t suspended any games, nor have they canceled any. If the threat looms too big on the MLB, they will chose to relocate a game, rather than play it in an empty stadium. A game in Seattle to risky? Move it to the visitor’s ballpark. It’s that easy. Obviously this doesn’t apply to the NBA. Suspending the season was the right move, because who knows how long Rudy Gobert has had the virus? Nobody does. And if an MLB got the Coronavirus, I’m sure the MLB would trigger the same response. If both the visitor and the home team’s stadiums are too risky, then what happens? Move it to a city without the virus! That’s the simple solution. It’s really that easy.”
Now I know better than to think that way. I had faith in the hope that the MLB wouldn’t shut down, but I now realize that it was inevitable for the MLB to shut down.
Manfred had no idea what to do. This was a problem bigger than the time of the game. Time of game is a mouse, and COVID-19 a giraffe. And then it pops into Rob Manfred’s head. “Calm the media,” he thinks. And that he does. He does it well. And I write my article. But then he realizes the next day that the threat looms too big, too big for moving games, even too big for a game without fans. Because the players are more important, their families more important. Will Rob Manfred be known as the commissioner who blew the Astros scandal and the commissioner who killed thousands? Or will he be know for speeding up the game and saving thousands of lives? In that moment Manfred realized what to do.
He addresses the media. “Baseball is shut down.”. Baseball is shut down. Baseball is shut down. Those words rang in my head. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, a Thursday afternoon that was spent at home because of COVID-19 and the Thursday afternoon that shut down baseball. Someday when humanity moves on, we will look back at this and cheer. Because Manfred made the right call. Manfred made the right call.