This morning, the Minnesota Twins became the first MLB team to sideline “at risk” coaches for the season due to COVID-19 with the Minnesota Star Tribune reporting that Bill Evers, 66, and Bob McClure, 68, would not coach in this year’s truncated season. Evers and McClure are the oldest coaches on the Twins.
Last week, multiple Twins players tested positive for the virus.
COVID infections can happen to anyone, obviously. But as one gets older, the risk for severe illness increases. Look in MLB dugouts and you will see a few grey haired managers, coaches, and staff. For at least two months, these senior citizens will travel around a country that has not been able to quell a highly-infectious outbreak. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, 8 out of 10 deaths in the U.S. due to the coronavirus have been in adults 65 years and older.
And going through each team’s roster, Deadspin found that there are 11 MLB coaches/managers over the age of 65, and that a total of 41 were born before 1960 (see graphic), including Evers and McClure. In case you can’t do the mental math, these 51 men are all above 59 years of age, and some are in their seventies.
There are also 10 MLB umpires 59 years old and older.
While we don’t know the extensive health history of every MLB coach and ump over sixty, their age alone puts them at risk and is enough to question whether or not they are necessary in a truncated MLB season. A season, by the way, which will not be played in a bubble, as the NBA, WNBA, MLS and others are attempting to do.
The 2020 MLB season will be played across the country. Players and coaches will travel in the same busses, stay in the same hotels, and share the same locker room. Teams will play in their home stadiums and travel regionally for games, leaving an area with relatively few cases and traveling to COVID-19 hot spots like Florida, Texas and Arizona that are seeing record numbers of positive tests daily.
Look no further than players in the northeast — an area that was ravaged by the coronavirus and has finally reduced the curve — heading south to play the Marlins and Rays in Florida, a region that is seeing a massive spike in cases.
Cases are rising in several MLB cities and players and personnel are testing positive for the virus
The Phillies shut down their Florida facility after eight members of the organization tested positive for the virus. Three Colorado Rockies players have tested positive for the virus after workouts in their home ballpark. And today, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake became the first MLB player to decide to opt out of the MLB season. And just hours after Leake’s announcement, Ryan Zimmernan and Joe Ross of the defending champion Nationals also announced they too would be sitting out 2020. Zimmerman’s wife just gave birth to the couples’ third child.
Young athletes with strong immune systems may not suffer life threatening symptoms, but their coaches certainly could. Spending two months inside locker rooms, buses, private planes, hotels and dugouts could help spread the virus amongst teammates, coaches and staff. You don’t need to be an epidemiologist to figure that out.
And let’s not forget about the umpires, many of whom are nearing or over the age of 60, including Cowboy Joe West, who is 6, and Dana Demuth and Phil Cuzzi who are both 64.
The oldest manager in the bigs, Dusty Baker, 71, has already expressed concern about the spike in cases where he works in Houston, a growing COVID-19 hot spot.
“I’m a bit nervous, but I should be nervous,” the Astros manager told reporters on a zoom call last Wednesday.
Despite his age, and current location, Dusty is still planning to manage his team.
But today’s decision from the Twins could encourage other teams to do the same. Evers and McClure are certainly not the oldest coaches on our list. Elderly and high-risk personnel have no business inside a baseball stadium, even if it’s empty.
Just the chance of getting COVID-19 may be too much to assume for these coaches and umpires.