Over the weekend, teams across Major League Baseball returned to the diamond to begin playing tune-up games prior to the 2020 season. There were no fans, players remained distanced at most times, some players wore masks in the field and at-bat, and a fake crowd served as ambient noise filling the silence around bats and gloves; many stadiums even donned advertisements up the foul lines, on the pitcher’s mound, and covering the tops of the seats.
On Saturday, the Washington Nationals played their first game since the season suspension began, dropping a contest in DC to the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-2.
Max Scherzer pitched five innings and gave up seven runs. Scherzer said, “I got beat around a little bit, but that’s good.”
The season begins in earnest on Thursday, when the New York Yankees visit the nation’s capital to take on the Nationals before turning it over to the first west coast game of the season, with the San Francisco Giants matching up with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As I’ve noted, I’m skeptical about the feasibility of the 2020 MLB season, but the recent slate of games made me more optimistic. To actually see baseball being played in a confined area, as well as players showing conscientiousness regarding the situation, it has all been a step in a positive direction. Mix in the fact that MLB’s testing, which, through the initial rounds has produced a 0.05 percent positive rate, giving fans, players, and teams reasons to be hopeful, we’re moving in the right direction, even if the rest of the nation isn’t.
Perhaps my recent forecasts have tilted a bit gloomy, but there’s good reason to approach everything that’s going on with a bit of apprehension.
After all, our coronavirus case total continues to rise, while other nations have managed to control it.
But it’s becoming clearer to me that players and teams are taking the necessary precautions to stave off any major spread of cases within the realm of baseball. If those involved remain diligent, which is yet to be seen, then perhaps we will get through this season without any major hitches.
While I have gotten more optimistic over the last couple days, we still need to see what the effect is of travel once games shift into high gear and teams are jetting throughout portions of the United States.
But to see real, live baseball made things feel a bit more like business as usual.
Under the strangest of circumstances, we might reach some sense of normalcy after all.
It would bring me no greater pleasure than for my pessimism to be retroactively rendered unnecessary. Here’s to brighter baseball days ahead.