The convoy of 41 rental cars made the trek Friday on I-55 North from St. Louis to Chicago to begin perhaps the most treacherous schedule in the history of Major League Baseball.
The St. Louis Cardinals, who haven't played since July 29, suddenly are scheduled to play eight games in the next five days – including three seven-inning doubleheaders – starting with a doubleheader Saturday against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The revised schedule now calls for the Cardinals, the defending NL Central champions, to play 53 games in the next 44 days – including 10 doubleheaders and if necessary, 55 games in 45 days.
And if they survive that brutal stretch, they get to start the postseason the following day on Sept. 29.
Welcome to the 2020 baseball season, COVID-19 style.
“It’s the hand we’re dealt,’’ Cardinals president John Mozeliak said. “No one is going to listen to us complain. No one is going to hear us whine. Come 1:15 on Saturday, we’re expected to play. Those are the rules.”
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The Cardinals, who had 18 players and staff members contract coronavirus, will now start playing more games in a shorter time span than any team before them.
The Cardinals, who will be without future Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina and All-Star shortstop Paul DeJong among the 10 players, are immediately calling up five rookies from their alternate camp, all whom will be making their major-league debut. And sometime while in Chicago, staff ace Jack Flaherty will pitch for the first time in nearly three weeks.
These Cardinals may have to re-introduce themselves when they finally get together in the visiting clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field. Since their last game in Minneapolis, they spent six days in isolation at their downtown Milwaukee hotel, returned home for two workouts, had another outbreak, and then spent another week of quarantine in St. Louis.
For those counting at home, they have now been on the field two days in the last 16 days.
“It was very different,’’ Mozeliak said. “At least we got movement. You couldn’t just not do anything and go play. Then you risk possible baseball injuries. Given where we are right now, we can’t afford that.’’
So here they go, having no idea how they will pull it off, but confident that the schedule won't break them.
“Obviously, when you look at our schedule it’s daunting,’’ Mozeliak said. “ Everybody would agree it’s not going to be easy.
“But if this team clicks, it’s going to be very good. And that’s what we believe. Deciding today that just because it’s daunting we’re going to wave the white flag, I think that wouldn’t be the right answer.’’
“We’re going to approach this as if, candidly, we’re getting a second chance.”
St. Louis' Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt celebrate after a win on opening day. (Photo: Jeff Curry, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
The Cardinals were the only MLB team who had any players or staff members test positive for COVID-19 in the past week and know that one more outbreak could shut down their season.
“Everybody needs to be accountable for themselves and expectations of what that looks like,’’ Mozeliak said, “are going to be very high and we will not tolerate mistakes. I don’t want to make it seem like we are upset with where we have come from, because again, anybody could get this. It can happen to any business, any company, any team.
“But there still has to be a level of responsibility, and for us, our season now has been shrunk in the number of days, and therefore the commitment has to be that much more demanding and higher than where we were three weeks ago.”
They at least are playing baseball again, and how it’s going to look, well, we’re about to find out.
“Overall, I feel like the vibe of the group has been very good,’’ Mozeliak said. “Candidly, I suspect that we might look a bit rusty.
“But we’re happy to be back playing baseball.
“We are getting this second opportunity, and we need to make the most of it.’’
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