Art Howe, who managed the Moneyball-era Oakland A’s in addition to stints as a skipper with the Houston Astros and New York Mets, has been hospitalized with COVID-19 and was in intensive care as of Thursday night, as reported by Houston NBC affiliate KPRC.
Howe, 73, was well enough to do interviews with both KPRC and CBS affiliate KHOU, describing his saga in detail to the former. The former Astros and Cardinals third baseman fell ill on Sunday, May 3, got tested for coronavirus, and went into isolation. His symptoms, including chills and fatigue, worsened, and he went to the hospital in an ambulance on Tuesday.
Howe told KPRC that while he is slowly improving, he still cannot taste anything. He must be fever-free for 24 hours before he can be released from the hospital.
The news of Howe’s hospitalization puts the importance of current negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players into even sharper focus than it already has been, especially the unique situation that the MLBPA finds itself in of negotiating not only for the safety of its own members, but for everyone who would be involved in an attempt to start the 2020 season.
It’s the players, through their union, who have the ability to refuse to get back to work and put themselves and anyone they would come into contact with, at greater risk than everyone already is amid a pandemic.
While the public debate between labor and management has had a lot to do with money, as evidenced by 2018 American League Cy Young winner Blake Snell saying, “I gotta get my money,” the wider-ranging concerns have been voiced as well. As Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle tweeted earlier this week, “We also want everyone it would require to resume a baseball season to be as safe as possible.”
That, of course, includes managers, who do not have a voice in the debate. Not that there aren’t players who fit into the high-risk category due to underlying medical conditions, but coronavirus has been particularly dangerous for older people, and 16 of MLB’s 30 managers are over the age of 50, including seven over the age of 60. Dusty Baker, named manager of the defending American League champion Astros after A.J. Hinch was suspended and subsequently fired for his role in the Houston sign-stealing scandal, is the oldest current manager in the majors, with his 71st birthday coming up next month.
Plenty of major league coaches also are in their 50s and 60s, too, and that’s not to mention the unknown health risks for all the people not directly employed by Major League Baseball who would be necessary to get a season up and running. Bus drivers, hotel workers, food service employees, and all of their families would be asked to risk exposure to the virus to make it happen.
MLB reportedly has a plan to be able to test 3,000-plus people — players and support staff — for coronavirus, but even putting aside the ethical conundrum about testing people to be able to have a baseball season when there aren’t enough tests to go around for essential workers, what happens if the tests aren’t perfectly accurate and COVID-19 starts working its way through the majors? That’s a real and legitimate concern, and should give pause to anyone thinking about booting up an entertainment product so that the owners can keep making their yacht payments — sorry, so that they can “give hope to people” or whatever.
Lives are at stake. Art Howe is in the ICU. Major League Baseball doesn’t need to send more of its own to join him.