2020 MLB season in jeopardy

Now, the whole league will have to work together to salvage this season, or face the consequences of a lost year of baseball.

2020 MLB season in jeopardy

Marc Goldstein, Assistant Editor in Chief

From the time the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season was proposed to Commissioner Rob Manfred, everyone involved in the plan knew it would take a Herculean effort to get the season to work. 

It was going to take a huge amount of work to even get the season started. With players, coaches, staff members and clubhouse personnel being tested every other day, and cleaning crews being forced to fumigate the clubhouses whenever a team leaves the visiting clubhouse. Unfortunately for the MLB, that has not happened in the first two weeks of the season. There have been, unsurprisingly, a large number of players, staffers, and team employees diagnosed with COVID-19 since Opening Day on Thursday, July 23, 2020.

Starting with the on-field play, the best way to describe it has been difficult to watch at times. Whenever players take a three month layoff from their sport, it can be reasonably assumed that there will be a period of knocking the rust off. There are times when this break period really comes to veer its head. For example, during a nationally televised game between the Nationals and Yankees, two World Series contenders, the Nationals had five errors while the Yankees had two. The Nationals won by a score of 9-2. The amount of sloppy play early on would be expected, but at the same time, is the biggest driving factor for the MLB has been missing.

 In the past decade, the MLB has strived to make the game more balanced, hoping to make it more competitive for hitters to breakout.  Early on in the season, many marquee hitters have been hitting well below the Mendoza Line (“The Mendoza Line is an expression in baseball deriving from the name of shortstop Mario Mendoza, whose poor batting average is taken to define the threshold of incompetent hitting. The cutoff point is most often said to be .200”, Baseball Reference). Players like Eugenio Suarez (49 home runs and 103 runs batted in last season) only have stats of .086 average (AVG), 0 home runs (HR), 2 runs batted in (RBI) this season. Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger, last season’s National League MVP, is off to a start of a .159 AVG. Additionally, last year’s Rookie of the Year of the National League, Pete Alonso, who hit 53 home runs last year, has a mere .167 AVG. Other perennial All-Stars have struggled at the plate, which has led to ultimately less viewership for some of these games. With the NBA coming back a week after the MLB, the MLB had one week to make a statement to the sports world that this season ,while shorter, would be one that would draw in a new demographic of fans and one that would go down as a turning point for new rules to be put in place. Instead, it has become a circus, and one that might be closer to its downfall than to its rise.

As for the players and how they have been affected by COVID-19, it has been very chaotic. In the past week, 18 players and staff members of the Miami Marlins have been diagnosed with the virus, causing them to cancel all of their games for a week. The team is in shambles. The St. Louis Cardinals are the latest team to become decimated by COVID-19. They have had their staff members and seven players fall victim to the virus, and there is legitimate speculation that once there is a team on the West Coast with a “team-wide infection,” the season could be suspended or even canceled all together. 

These teams are merely victims of circumstance, as they are without much protection from each other and from the virus that has ravaged the country. These players are mostly symptom-free, but when a team has many of their players and staff members become infected, there is simply no way a season can be played. 

Much of this blame should be cast unto Rob Manfred, the commissioner who ahead of the season, was already under fire for a lack of punishment for Houston Astros’ players who were discovered to be cheating during their 2017 World Series run. He was seen as spineless and unfit to be the commissioner in the eyes of many players and writers across the country. This season was seen as pivotal for him to prove himself as a good leader for the league. Instead, he has done nothing but watch the chaos erupt around him. He has gone on record to scrutinize the players on their lack of responsibility on their part as far as testing goes and everything concerning the virus itself. The rules he implemented in the offseason have done nothing but aggravate players, such as the new extra innings rule meant to speed up the game and add excitement has ultimately led to confusion. He has done little to nothing to help the league stay afloat during the tough times and when a league needs a strong leader, such as the NBA’s Adam Silver. This is not to say that Manfred cannot right the ship, but to finish the nautical analogy, the ship is taking on water at a high rate. 

While the MLB has made no announcement on whether or not the season will be suspended or canceled, it seems likely that the next few weeks will be critical for the league. This season never got off the ground. That is due to the pandemic and greed on the parts of the owners and players union. Both parties are to blame in this scenario. They both have acted in ways that merely benefit themselves, such as the owners proposing partial salaries for the players and the players wanting to lengthen negotiations to force Manfred to step in and mediate. That is in the past, though, and an agreement was made. Now, the whole league will have to work together to salvage this season, or face the consequences of a lost year of baseball.