This story has been updated
After Sunday, there will be 49 days left in Major League Baseball’s regular season. The St. Louis Cardinals, who had their weekend series with the Cubs postponed after another player tested positive for COVID-19, have 55 games remaining.
This is a problem.
The Cardinals already are scheduled to go to Detroit for a doubleheader next Thursday, on a day that they were supposed to be in Chicago to play the White Sox. That series now will begin next Friday instead. St. Louis’ previously scheduled day off on Sept. 10 now will be another doubleheader against the Tigers, this time at home — one of four September twin bills for the Redbirds.
As it stands now, the Cardinals have two days off scheduled for the rest of the season: August 27 and Sept. 3. Presumably, they won’t lose those days off to make up this weekend’s games against Chicago, although since the Cubs aren’t scheduled to return to St. Louis this year, the Cardinals will get a few home games at Wrigley Field as part of doubleheaders.
Does all of that make sense? No? Good, because it shouldn’t.
If all of the Cardinals-Cubs games wind up being part of doubleheaders, and it’s hard to see how they won’t be, that would mean 16 of St. Louis’ 60 games this season are seven-inning affairs. That’s 27 percent of the schedule consisting of these shortened games... and that’s assuming it doesn’t rain in the Midwest for the rest of the summer.
Fine, that’s what we’re doing this season, and ultimately, it needs to be remembered that all anything is about in baseball this year is getting to October, putting on a show in the playoffs and collecting that sweet TV money.
But even with MLB’s ramped-up safety protocols (what the heck were they doing before?), do we really believe that the Cardinals are going to be the last team stricken by coronavirus? And if they’re not, what happens if the next team that gets hit needs to postpone games against a club that’s already had a slew of games pushed into the crammed remainder of the season? What happens if a contending team has an outbreak with two weeks to go, or one week to go, or, in this non-bubble league, in the playoffs?
They’ll play all the games eventually, sure, but beyond the problem that MLB has been willing to overlook in risking countless people’s health in the chase for dollars, there’s reason to worry about doing damage to the game itself by pressing on with this farce.
With more than half the teams are making the playoffs, and a calendar full of rescheduled games and fugazi doubleheaders, not to mention the NHL playoffs happening and the NBA playoffs soon to begin, it’s easy to see baseball getting lost in the shuffle and more of the customer base realizing that it doesn’t need to be so deeply invested in the regular season. That’s worse than not having a season at all, because at least had MLB called it off or put together some kind of bubble tournament, you could make the case of absence making the heart grow fonder.
The ship sailed on that possibility a while ago, though, so onward MLB plods, into another weekend of uncertainty, and into a remainder of the summer in which one of the game’s marquee teams — and the team with the most purists per capita in its fanbase — will play a Utah beer version of the sport for a significant portion of their schedule.
MLB decided that cashing the checks this year was worth all of this, and now they’re going to see how it plays out.