A lot of questions are hanging over professional baseball this season. The Red Sox lost their star pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, to complications involving COVID-19 and outbreaks on other teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals have caused postponed games. Many are wondering if Major League Baseball is going to make it through the already shortened season. Joe Mathieu of WGBH's Morning Edition spoke with Red Sox beat reporter Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic about how the 2020 baseball season may shape up.
Joe Mathieu: Are you allowed to travel with the team?
McCaffrey: Technically, we're allowed to. Many reporters have chosen not to because Fenway is falling under Massachusetts state rules and forcing people to quarantine for 14 days before reentering the park. And obviously, when the team is coming and going that doesn't quite jive with our schedule. So there's no mandate that reporters can't travel. But they also just can't come back to Fenway.
Mathieu: We talked earlier on the broadcast about how the players are using VIP suites and taking different measures to to to observe social distancing while they're at home at Fenway. What happens on the road? What happens when they're in a place like Florida?
McCaffrey: It's already a pretty complicated system when you're traveling with sixty people and a pro sports team, but it is even even more so. These days, they're flying a bigger plane. Normally, they fly a charter plane through Delta, that would be about a 72 seater for 50 people. And this year they're they're flying a 757. So they had to secure something like that which has one hundred eighty seven seats, I believe. The hotels that they stay at, some are specifically open just for them and for the MLB teams that are rotating through so that they have space to themselves. If they're not open specifically for them, they're blocking off different floors so that the players can be more distant, again, from from other guests. They're not being allowed to go to the park as early as they normally do in terms of getting in their pregame work. And busses are taking them over in twnety minute shifts. And actually, a lot of the players are also getting treatment for different injuries and whatnot in the ballrooms at the hotel so they don't have to spend extra time at the park. So there's a lot of different things that the team and several teams have put in place to try to make to try to isolate these guys as much as possible while they're traveling.
Mathieu: Sounds almost more complicated than it's worth. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says not every team may be able to play 60 games. If we get into a situation like that, does the season have a chance of surviving? How how would they make it work?
McCaffrey: That's going to be the big question down the road at this point. Last week the Miami Marlins had a massive outbreak where 19 players and staff were affected and had to have their entire week of games canceled. They're just getting back to play now. But they've already missed a week of games while everyone else was playing. The Cardinals had an outbreak as well of about 13 players. So they were shut down. And, of course, that effects the teams that they're supposed to be scheduled to be to be playing. So last week the league missed about 20 games just because of these outbreaks that the teams that have been shut down and then subsequently games against their opponents were canceled. This season is only supposed to be 60 games and end at the end of September before the playoffs. But if they're trying to squeeze all these games, then there's going to be multiple double headers. And obviously that creates more issues and more opportunity for injuries, non-COVID related injuries pushing guys to play multiple doubleheaders. So it's going to be a scramble to try to get all these games and is a little sketchy.
Mathieu: What are the players saying when you're around them, if you're of course allowed to be or when you're Zooming maybe is a better way to put it? A lot of them were really excited to get back to playing ball again, but are they growing worried?
McCaffrey: There's a lot of worry. We're not we're not allowed to speak with any of them in person. Everything is over Zoom. Every interview and every interaction we have with them is virtual. And the closest we get is about 200 feet away from the press box. But every time we've spoken with someone over Zoom or over the phone, there's a lot of worry, there's a lot of trepidation of just, "if this is all worth it"? They obviously have young families. They're young guys themselves; some of their wives are pregnant. So there's a lot of concern and a lot of just uncertainty if this is all being led well from the top. It doesn't really seem like MLB has their act together compared to the NHL and NBA, which have these these bubbles that they're operating within, which which seems strange when you think about it. But it has worked so far for them because they haven't had these outbreaks like MLB has.
Mathieu: Yeah, I think we could have used a bubble, Jen.
McCaffrey: It seems like that now. Hindsight is 20/20, but MLB probably wishes they did something differently.
Mathieu: Can you put in perspective for us what it means to lose Eduardo Rodriguez, the pitcher I mentioned, whose season is over because of complications involving COVID? That's a major blow for the team.
McCaffrey: This season was already going to be tough for the Red Sox pitching wise. They'd already lost Chris Sale and they had lost David Price in the trade with Mookie Betts in February. So Rodriguez was basically their ace this year. He is coming off of a really strong year in 2019 and was going to be the opening day starter and they were gonna be relying a lot on him and to not have him I think it's just another blow in an already stressful and uncertain season for them.