The 2020 MLB season is close to being a lost one for the St. Louis Cardinals. Coming in with high hopes after reaching the NLCS last October, this year has been derailed after only five games.
The big picture: After being off for almost two weeks with a COVID-19 outbreak in the clubhouse, should the Cardinals call the season or keep moving forward?
The Cardinals have been ravaged by positive COVID-19 tests in the past few weeks. More than 15 members of the Cardinals tested positive for the coronavirus and there’s no word yet on who else may have gotten it. Initially, the club hoped that by staying in Milwaukee after the first outbreak, that would allow ample time to test negative.
But it didn’t. Once the team flew back to St. Louis, more players and personnel tested positive. Because of all the positive tests, the Cardinals have only played five games this season. The rest of the NL and AL Central have played about 15 games.
In an already-abbreviated season, missing a few games will be difficult to make up. That’s why MLB and the MLBPA agreed to have seven-inning doubleheaders in hopes of making up those lost games.
In the Cardinals’ case, that won’t be enough. By Friday, Aug. 14, the club will have missed five series, totaling 15 games. That means the Cardinals will have around 44 days – including off days – to play 55 games. That’s an incredible amount of games in so few days.
Additionally, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt disclosed that members of the team had to go to the emergency room but didn’t specify who. Nevertheless, having to cope with a virus causing a variety of symptoms and potentially sending personnel to the hospital is alarming, in and of itself. Then again, so is attempting to play a baseball season amid a pandemic.
On the flip side, although it is difficult to cram so many games in about a month or so, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged that some teams will not play all 60 games. In that case, playoff teams will be determined by winning percentage, rather than the conventional win-loss record.
It’s also important to note that the playoffs have been expanded to 16 teams this year. The division winner will have a seed between 1-3; second-place clubs will have seeds 4-6 and two wild card teams will have the last two seeds. So in a sense, if the Cardinals play around 45-50 total games and have a winning percentage over .500, they could potentially make it to the postseason.
There have also been talks about having MLB having the postseason in a bubble, similar to other leagues like the NBA and WNBA. The NBA and WNBA have had zero positive tests since implementing a bubble in Florida, even as the state continues to have surges in positive tests.
Considering the success other leagues have had in keeping COVID-19 numbers low, MLB should think about having a bubble. It would only make sense since multiple teams have already had a number of players and staff members test positive for the coronavirus.
The Cardinals are in a tough spot dealing with all the positive cases. Athletes don’t ever want to give up; it’s just not in their psyche to give up when there’s a chance of success.
That said, the club is facing an uphill battle. Many players are positive and even if they play around 45-50 total games, by the time they reach the playoffs, they will be exhausted. Also, players could get injured because of the long layoff and trying to play as many games as possible.
Everything taken into account, Manfred said that it’s still possible for the Cardinals to be a “credible competitor” this season. However, there’s just too much going against the Cardinals at this point. Even if they do play, the club is risking injury and the potential side effects of COVID-19 among the players who have it. There are too many factors going against the Cardinals, and it’s best to call the season before anything worse happens.