- Senior writer ESPN Magazine/ESPN.com
- Analyst/reporter ESPN television
- Author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”
Soon enough we will know if the first impressions of Major League Baseball in 2020 will be the last impressions. On the best clubs, it is standard operating procedure for teammates to hold each other to a higher standard, to address problems and call out mistakes, and this is what has happened since the Miami Marlins ‘ coronavirus outbreak last weekend.
From the outset of the March shutdown, the best possible context for an attempt to play baseball in 2020 was a strong, collaborative, cooperative relationship between MLB and the players. This is simply not the reality; rather, that relationship is just one more hurdle to overcome. Theoretically, they are all in this together, but recent tweets by David Price and Anthony Rizzo expressing their concerns reflect the chasm that exists.
Commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement to ESPN’s Karl Ravech referenced dissatisfaction with players. “We are playing,” Manfred said. “The players need to be better, but I am a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”
The Cubs’ Jon Lester answered back, “I don’t know Rob’s situation, and I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth on that one. But I do know we — not only the players, but families — are making sacrifices, day in and day out … I’ll stop there.”
Mistakes have been made on both sides in a daunting situation in which the margin for error is so small. Hundreds of players have been asked to change lifetimes of personal habits and choices, and MLB is learning daily in response to possible weaknesses in the extensive health and safety protocol. Comments from players such as Price and Rizzo about the protocol, on the other hand, pressure the suits to do better, do more, patch over the gaps.
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