WASHINGTON — You are a Mets fan and you feel robbed.
The launch of your highly anticipated 2021 season has been halted, through no fault of your team. You want (figurative) blood. You want reparations.
“It would be nice to walk out of here with three wins,” J.D. Davis said, very playfully, on Friday. “I think that would be cool.”
Not happening, of course, nor should it. The Mets will depart the nation’s capital as they entered, 0-0, their season opener moved to Monday night against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, thanks to a coronavirus spread among the Nationals. And if you want to understand why Major League Baseball didn’t force the Nationals to play short-handed, or why the Mets didn’t pick up a trio of forfeit victories, I’ll turn the column over to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Luis Rojas:
“First of all, it’s the uncertainty,” Rojas said. “What you do in this type of case, you have the positive [case], in the team travel[ing] with the positive, and you start doing the contact tracing. And then there’s more positives popping up, I think the close contacts start being more and more. That’s when you take the measures they’ve taken, because it could lead into a bigger outbreak if we’re forced to play a game.”
Apologies, Rojas actually is the Mets’ manager, not a CDC bigwig. I got confused (not really) because Rojas absolutely nailed the explanation and underlined why this weekend unfolded as it did.
Because this pandemic, by golly we should know by now, must be respected. And because any organized sports league relies on competition, not the lack thereof, to make its nut.
“It could happen to anybody,” Davis said. “… It could’ve happened to us. could’ve happened to another team. I feel for the Nationals over there.”
Over there, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo held his third Zoom news conference in three days in which he confirmed more bad news. A fourth player on his team had tested positive for the virus — one experienced a fever, the other three were asymptomatic — and five more players as well as a staff member sat in official quarantine as a result of being in close contact with one or more of the afflicted players; the rest of the club has stayed home in unofficial quarantine.
Rizzo disputed the notion that his group violated any of the league’s protocols, although he obviously can’t know for certain. Either way, the Mets take the hit as the innocent bystanders. So here’s why they didn’t get to play an undermanned Nats team, or just get three wins:
- The health. The Nationals were last together on Monday night, when they traveled from Florida to D.C. The virus’ incubation period lasts about five days. As Rojas outlined, you just can’t let Nationals players interact with each other until you’ve let the disease declare itself or its absence.
- Safety/Commerce. If they can avoid more positive tests, Rizzo said, the Nationals will work out in small groups starting Saturday at Nationals Park (where the Mets will spend the weekend preparing for the Phillies), with the plan of starting their season Monday against the Braves. That prompts the question: Why not jump right into game action Saturday or Sunday?
“It’s hard to have them sitting and playing video games for … two or three days and then to ramp up again,” Rizzo said. “To me it’s a safety issue. We’ve got to get these guys’ blood flowing again so they don’t they don’t go from zero to 100 miles per hour without preparation for the last couple of days.”
Therein lies the commerce. The sport benefits most when it carries optimal health for its competitors. If that costs the Mets a few easy wins, if it means they have some doubleheaders in their future, then so be it.
There will be a short-term competitive benefit, if indirect, for the Mets: COVID-positive players get shut down for 10 days and close-contact players for seven, so if Washington begins action on Monday, it’ll do so with a dramatically compromised roster.
“We have confidence in our depth,” Rizzo said.
For the Mets, it’s time to show off their magnanimity.