Bob Carpenter mentioned on a MASN broadcast the other night that if you check out MLB’s official standings you’ll notice that the Washington Nationals do not have any away games listed even though the club played a two-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays as the “away” team in Nationals Park.
MLB’s not buying it apparently.
That finally ends this week when the defending World Series champions finally hit the road to take on the New York Mets in a four-game set in Citi Field, starting at 7:10 PM tonight.
They’ve had a nice stretch of games at home in the nation’s capital, where they’ve all gotten comfortable with the COVID-19 protocols, but now they’ll have to venture out into the world and see how things look outside Nationals Park.
Bon voyage. Wear your masks and wash those hands.
“Everything is — we’ve got to be extra careful. So everything ... “ Davey Martinez trailed off as he pondered the logistics of taking the show on the road for the first time in 2020.
“We’ve got assigned seats,” he said, on a chartered train to New York.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to keep everybody safe. You guys know about the new protocols for MLB.
“We’re going to do our part to try to keep everybody as safe as possible. For me, I know I’m going around with a bottle of Lysol. I’m going to spray everything. Wipe everything down.
“Just try to stay in my seat as much as possible and hopefully stay safe.”
Getting this far (12 games) into the 60-game campaign without having to leave home was a blessing of sorts for Martinez and Co.
“It’s been awesome to stay at home,” he acknowledged. “We knew this day would come where we have to go travel. We’re going to be prepared as best we can. I’ve sat with our medical staff.
“I sat with [Vice President, Clubhouse Operations & Team Travel] Rob McDonald, and we talked a lot about our logistics, and how we want to travel and how we want to keep guys separated. So, hopefully we came up with a good game plan.
“For me, this whole thing is about keeping everyone safe.”
Trea Turner, who put up a .290/.345/.482 line on the road in 2019 (vs a .305/.361/.511 line at home in D.C.), talked on Friday night about preparing to go out on the road. How confident is the club as they prepare to travel?
“I think we’re very confident,” the 27-year-old shortstop said. “I think that’s the reason why a lot of us chose to play this year and not opt out this year, because we trust each other in the clubhouse and I think we have a lot of faith in one another to do the right things and think about the guy next to you not just yourself, and we have a veteran ballclub, so that’s just another attribute and I guess just going through years and years and years of playing and knowing what you need to do to sacrifice for the guy next to you. So I’m not worried at all, and we just haven’t had our first road trip, which is a little weird, but you know, it is what it is.”
Martinez said on Saturday afternoon that he’s reached out to other managers around the league to get a feel for what it’s like to travel amidst an ongoing pandemic.
“I’ve talked to some other managers,” he said. “It’s tough. Like I said, with our medical staff and our traveling secretary, Rob [McDonald], myself, we’re trying to put together protocols on how to do things with maybe assigned seats, we’ve got guys spread out, we’ve got a lot of buses taking guys back and forth to the ballpark.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep everybody safe and healthy. It’s going to be a tough task. We know that. But we’ve got to follow these protocols. That’s the best we can do.”
“This is the first time we’re actually traveling,” Martinez added when he talked about the team’s travel plans again on Saturday.
“We’re going on a train for the first time. A lot of guys are talking about that. The other thing is you go on the road and you get in a routine. You have your favorite places to eat breakfast, your favorite places to go get coffee, and there’s going to be none of that.
“That’s going to be tough. We’ve got to adhere to the protocols like I said. in order to keep everybody safe we’ve got to stay in the hotel.
“So there’s going to be different things that we need to do. There’s not going to be any galavanting around the cities anymore. A lot of these cities, honestly, are pretty much closed down, and there’s not a whole lot going on.
“We’ve got to be smart, and if we’re going to pull this off and we’re going to keep everybody safe, the best thing to do is to stay in the hotel and chill.
“There’s going to be plenty of food from what I gather at the ballpark. We’ve got restaurants that are going to cook for us. So we’ll have lunch and we’ll have dinner after the game.
“I think now we’ve just got to feed ourselves for breakfast, but I’m hearing that the hotels are going to be open for breakfast for room service. So, but we’ve got to do whatever we can to stay safe.”
While in New York, Martinez said, the team will try to conduct their pregame meetings and prep at the hotel since they’re limited in what they can do in groups at the ballparks.
“We’re trying really hard to do all our meetings at the hotel and conference room to spread out so nobody is sitting at the ballpark all together,” he explained, “because that’s what they don’t want. We’re working on all these different things right now to see if we can get a big enough conference room to have little small group meetings with our hitters and our pitchers and get to do it before we get on the bus.”
While there will be MLB-appointed officials who will be monitoring both clubhouses and the teams’ hotels for violations of the protocols, and though he doesn’t think he’ll need it with a club like the Nationals, Martinez said he had his own plan for a deterrent.
“I’m going to put [GM Mike] Rizzo in the lobby,” Martinez joked. But seriously...
“It’s protocol,” the manager added.
“We’re going to have MLB security around the hotels watching people go in and out, but I’ve spoken to these guys on numerous occasions that not only are you putting yourself at risk, but you’re putting your teammates at risk. So, we got to do the smart thing.
“And I told them, a lot of these places, as you go into their home cities, they’ve got families and stuff, we’ve got to be smart. You can’t go out. If we’re going to pull this off, we got to stay in, and I know it stinks. Like I said, we’ll go to Tampa here soon, and my kids understand I won’t be able to see them because I’ll be at the hotel. But they get it, they understand, and hopefully when this is all over I’ll spend a lot of time with them.”
Rizzo weighed in on the first road trip too, (though not Martinez’s plan for the GM to stand guard) when he spoke with reporters in advance of the finale with Baltimore Orioles in D.C. on Sunday.
His message for the team as they prepare to hit the road?
“The message is be a good teammate,” Rizzo said. “Being a good teammate means taking care of yourself and doing the right thing.
“We’ve got protocols in place. We’ve got team rules that we’ve all agreed upon and decided upon. I’m not nervous, I trust these players. I trust the group we have to do the right thing, and I’ve been impressed by MLB’s protocols that they’ve put in place.
“I feel good about the trip. We can concentrate on baseball. It will be different, but I feel safe going into New York and beyond on the road, and I think that our players are going to conduct ourselves beautifully.”
What’s going to be the most difficult part of the first trip?
“I think the toughest thing is there will be no families on the trip,” Rizzo said.
“There will be — they’re going to go from the charter plane (or train on the first trip) to the team bus to the team hotel and then back-and-forth to the ballpark.
“They’re going to have to deal with the monotony of it.
“There’s less time at the ballpark to prepare. We’re traveling in very small groups, so you’re not going to have the ‘team bus’ type of thing.
“There’s a lot fo things that we’re going to have to get used to and adapt to, but this is an adaptable group. We’re just like everybody else. We’re trying to navigate these new waters, and to play baseball is the most important thing and that’s what this road trip is all about.”