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It's A Pandemic, Sports Fans....
[Posted early Tues. p.m.]
*I was kind of pumped after the first weekend of baseball. And then the depression set in. As I watch the beginning of the Red Sox hosting the Mets now…I’m like, ‘This is kind of meaningless.’
PGA Tour Quiz: During Sunday’s golf coverage of the 3M Open, it was noted that Charles Howell III was on his way to his 96th top ten finish in 569 career starts on tour, an amazing record. I’ve written of Howell, who ended up T3 along with eight others (which had to be a record), often in the past in terms of his consistency throughout his career, but with the $250,800 he won, that brought his career winnings to $39,996,935. Where does that rank on the all-time money list? 19th, yet he has just three wins! So, name the top ten. You get Tiger, and I’ll tell you No. 10 is at $50,468,882. All are still playing PGA Tour events today. Answer below.
All of us watching the first games this weekend no doubt had the same thought. These guys aren’t exactly socially distancing. A home run is hit and once the player hits the dugout, it’s normal high fives and hugs, very few with masks on, a packed dugout. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be when the players and owners were drawing up their contentious protocols. I’m just waiting for Mike Trout to say ‘it’s not worth it,’ and then it all collapses.
Plus the players are not in a bubble like the NBA or NHL. They go home after games, who knows if some of them go out, even something innocent like dinner at an outdoor establishment could be trouble. Their wife or kids could have it.
The sport knew it was taking a big risk, and as a fan of course I’m glad they did but clearly the next week is critical. I remain amazed that thus far NASCAR and the PGA Tour have been pulling off a restart. Even the drivers and golfers (pit crews / caddies) haven’t been anywhere near as socially distant as they were supposed to be. I keep waiting for bad news from both. You just know Tiger Woods is scared to death to appear at an event.
So here we are. Sunday, the Marlins played the Phillies in Philadelphia, even after four Marlins had tested positive, including scheduled starter Jose Urena, though we didn’t know until later he was among the group.
The Marlins were thus stuck in Philly, forced to postpone their home opener in Miami on Monday night against the Orioles, after what ended up being 14 players and coaches tested positive in all over three days.
The Yankees, who flew into Philadelphia Sunday night, stayed in their hotel there Monday as their games with the Phillies were cancelled.
The Phillies and Marlins then underwent additional Covid testing Monday, as the league contemplates its next moves.
The league had made no formal indication of what it would take to halt the season, with the ultimate decision resting with Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Derek Jeter, the Marlins’ chief operating officer, said in a statement: “We have now experienced challenges once we went on the road and left Miami. Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation. We have conducted another round of testing for our players and staff, and our team will all remain in Philadelphia pending the results of those tests, which we expect later today [Monday].”
Under MLB’s 2020 operations manual, players or coaches who test positive on the road are required to remain in that city and quarantine for 14 days, and must test negative twice at least 24 hours apart to return to the roster.
“This is off-the-charts bad,” said Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Oxford College at Emory University. “MLB should probably shut the Marlins down for two weeks, shut the Phillies down for five days and…hope there isn’t a broader problem.” [Dave Sheinin / Washington Post]
Binney also said he can’t believe the Marlins played Sunday despite having had four players test positive.
MLB has allowed 30-man rosters at the start of the season, plus up to an additional 30 reserves who train at an alternative site – so the Marlins, or any club, could field a team for upcoming games, but just as teams were beginning to travel, for this to happen sucks.
Tuesday, we learned four more Marlins players had tested positive, making it 17, while no Phillies had, but a second game with the Yankees was canceled Tuesday over an abundance of caution, the Yanks returning to New York, where they will host the Phils Wednesday….
…until they weren’t. Because MLB postponed all of the Marlins’ games through Sunday in an announcement this afternoon. The Orioles, who were scheduled to host Miami in a two-game series starting Wednesday, instead will host the Yankees Wednesday and Thursday.
The Phillies? As I go to post early Tuesday p.m., TBD.
Commissioner Manfred told the MLB Network on Monday that there are factors that would force MLB to alter plans.
“A team losing a number of players that rendered it completely noncompetitive would be an issue that we would have to address and have to think about making a change,” he said. “Whether that was shutting down a part of the season, the whole season, that depends on the circumstances. Same thing with respect to leaguewide. You get to a certain point leaguewide where it does become a health threat, and we certainly would shut down at that point.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the situation with the Marlins could put the season “in danger. I don’t believe they need to stop, but we just need to follow this and see what happens with other teams on a day-to-day basis.”
Manfred said Monday: “I think most of the owners realize that we built protocols, anticipating that we would have positive tests at some point during the season, that the protocols were built in order to allow us to continue to play through those positives,” Manfred said. “And I think there was support for the notion that we believe that the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe.”
The league’s plan was to emphasize the health and safety protocols, which include discouraging going out and socializing. They will reiterate the rules of wearing a mask in the clubhouse and prohibit contact like fist bumps and high fives on the field.
When the league and union negotiated to restart the season, they came up with a 113-page health and safety protocol. They did not agree on a threshold to trigger a possible pause or shut down of the season. There was vague language about infections becoming wide-spread enough to affect the competitive integrity of the season.
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez, facing the prospect of having to travel to Miami this weekend (prior to Tuesday’s announced cancellations), hoped that the league “does the right thing” and does not compel his team to travel there.
Martinez has cause for concern. He missed three games in September 2019 after undergoing a cardiac catheterization, and became emotional during a video call with reporters Monday.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m scared,” said Martinez, who says he washes his hands “99 times a day” and expressed worry for the many friends he has on the Marlins.
“My level of concern went from an eight to a 12.”
Discussing the Marlins, Angels manager Joe Maddon said it is “really important to trace how it occurred…and draw up your plan to try to solve it.”
Meanwhile, curbing emotion has proved difficult. A walk-off win has featured the usual players and staff spilling out of the dugout for a normal, pre-Covid celebration.
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“Cancel the MLB year, maybe by the end of this week.
“Forget about the NFL season; it’s never going to happen.
“The idea of attempting a college football season – putting amateur athletes at risk – is obscenely unthinkable.
“Within days or a couple of weeks, we also may find out just how feasible it is for the NBA, in its Florida bubble, or the NHL, playing in Canada, to finish truncated seasons and crown champions.
“Sure, none of that is certain, but Monday morning’s news that at least 14 members of the Miami Marlins and their staff have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days was a Category 5 Covid-19 hurricane alert. You couldn’t have a worse MLB start of a grimmer predictor for other games.
“With lots of inherent social distancing, baseball was supposed to be the easiest major American team sport to resume, just as leagues in Japan and South Korea have functioned smoothly for months. Now, MLB can’t go even a week without the serious prospect that its 60-game season should be canceled.”
[Boswell talked about Dave Martinez and 71-year-old Dusty Baker, who has had multiple life-threatening health issues over the past 15 years.]
“Underneath all the discussions and elaborate plans to reopen various sports – MLB, NBA and NHL now and the NFL and college football by the end of next month – has been one naïve assumption: If the virus hit a team, it would infect one or two players. Maybe three. But the sense was things still would be ‘manageable.’ You could still ‘field a team.’
“When did this become the highest of all human goals?
“The danger and the damage would not be ‘too bad.’ In this, we see Americans’ national tendency toward willful pandemic ignorance being played out on a small, crystal-clear stage so everyone can get the message.
“For months, we have watched healthy people, mostly young, swarm into bars or hit the beaches with an apparent sense that community spread was a fiction or not something that applied to them. Maybe, the fantasy went, one person in the wrong bar would get the virus.
“Now, we learn differently. Now we see the truth.
“Over a dozen Marlins, and counting.
“The immediate consequences of the Marlins outbreak were the postponements of their home opener against the Orioles and the Phillies’ home game against the Yankees, who would have been occupying the clubhouse those Marlins just showered and dressed in Sunday.
“The wider effect: Back-to-normal, or even semi-normal, in sports was shattered, just days after being reintroduced….
“Why are we here? The answer is simple yet inexplicably unacknowledged in wide swaths of this country: The pandemic is in control, and it stays in control until you stop it, suppress it, dominate it and crush the curve.
“Though many other countries have done it, America has not come within a million miles of that outcome….
“The entire American experience of this pandemic has been: Don’t embolden the virus by acknowledging its threat. Try to outrun it, hide from it, say it’s not so bad and will go away.
“That just breeds a disaster, and now that disaster has hit MLB just five days into its season. The Cincinnati Reds also have multiple positive tests. The Atlanta Braves have been without two catchers who have symptoms, though no positive tests. Nationals star Juan Soto is inactive after a positive test….
“You can’t be much healthier, as a group, than a pro baseball team. You can’t be much better protected or tested more often than an MLB team. The Marlins are close to the safest possible case. And now, less than a week into their season, at least half of the team has the coronavirus!
“That is what is meant by ‘community spread.’ That is what is meant by an ‘outbreak’ in an epidemic. All of us have worried that one or two players – or people in the MLB community – would have bad outcomes from the virus if a 60-game season was played. Time to blow up that assumption. If half of the Marlins team can test positive within a few days, then the scale of danger to health – the number of people who may get sick and the severity of the damage they may suffer, including prime-of-life pro athletes – just shot through the ceiling.
“Our assumptions, while well-intentioned, have been blown to pieces. And in short order, so will the season of one, or perhaps several, of our sports.
“The Marlins are just the latest – but one of the most vivid – illustrations of what America is facing. And how little we are willing to take seriously the true measure of our fearsome enemy.”
--Reigning A.L. Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is out a minimum two weeks with a strained right forearm. Manager Dusty Baker, and Verlander himself, denied a report saying the injury would end his season.
Verlander had pitched six strong innings in the Astros’ opener last Friday, an 8-2 win over Seattle, but he felt “tenderness” in his arm and had an MRI exam on Saturday.
Other key starters already out for a spell, at least, are Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Stephen Strasburg, as well as closer Ken Giles.
--Also since last post…the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani pitched in his first game after nearly two years on Sunday night, 22 months removed from reconstructive elbow surgery, and it did not go well. He faced six batters and couldn’t retire any of them, departing a game against the A’s with his team down 4-0. He was charged with a fifth earned run when reliever Matt Andriese forced Vimael Machin to ground into a double play.
So Ohtani has an ERA of infinity. But more distressingly, his fastball was clocked at 92- to 93-mph, well under the triple-digit threshold he routinely broke as a rookie two seasons ago.
Recovering from his elbow operation could be the biggest obstacle Ohtani has encountered.
I was golfing early Tuesday with a friend from a rival ACC school, Boston College, and we were talking about the prospects for an ACC season and I noted that this fiasco where we have each league, Power Five conference, doing its own thing is further proof Division I college football needs a commissioner. It needs leadership to unify all the different interests, both big schools and mid-majors, as well as the purely regional variety.
As of Tuesday morning, the Pac 12 and Big Ten have said they are going conference-only. The Big 12 is talking about playing a full schedule, and the SEC and ACC are to meet soon to figure out how to squeeze in a non-conference game or two.
Phil W., we must have Wake Forest-Appalachian State, even if the only game of the season.
Dan Wolken / USA TODAY
“Of course, most of these announcements aren’t worth the bandwidth of the Tweet that revealed them. It’s sound and fury, signifying that the attempt to play any kind of traditional season is built on the same flimsy optimism of trotting out a college kicker for a 65-yarder into the wind. At the end of the day, there is no plan.
“Monday’s revelation that the Miami Marlins were dealing with a full-blown Covid-19 outbreak in their locker room – and yet took the field anyway Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies before knowing the true extent of it – should be an ominous wake-up call for college football leaders pushing to play a season this fall.
“It’s one thing to say ‘we anticipate some positive tests and we’ll deal with them.’ It’s something else entirely when a Major League Baseball team with no bubble to protect it gets shut down a week into the season.
“The Des Moines Register contacted Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Monday to get his reaction, seeing how his league could very well come out with an announcement this week about how it wants to proceed. Bowlsby, who has typically been less sanguine than his counterparts in other leagues, said: ‘If we are advised that it is OK to play the season, we should all expect that there will be such disruptions.’
“What happened to the Marlins, though, is more than a disruption. It’s a flashing neon sign that speeding toward a college football season while the country registers 60,000 new Covid-19 cases a day is likely to end as a failed experiment that ruins the credibility of everyone involved, not to mention putting athletes and staff members at some risk and contributing to the spread of a public health crisis.
“You can forgive college athletics officials for believing months ago that the coronavirus would be under enough control by this point in the calendar to allow campuses to open up and college football to proceed, albeit with some precautions. You can certainly understand how they would have been sucked in by reassuring phone calls with the White House about the testing breakthroughs that were just around the corner.
“But here’s the reality of where we are: Though many schools have not had major problems with Covid-19, at least 15 FBS programs we know of have had to shut down voluntary workouts this summer. Two others – LSU and Clemson – had outbreaks among a significant number of players.
“And that’s before anyone has blocked or tackled for hours on end as players will be doing when practice cranks up. That’s before regular students come back to campus. That’s before teams start traveling from one state to another, all things that increase the odds of transmission and outbreak.
“Meanwhile, administrators across college sports are scrambling to make sure they can comply with the testing requirements that are on track to be generally agreed upon by the FBS conferences. For some schools that have the proper labs on campus, it’s easy. Others will have to cut deals with private labs to ensure that the required tests on Wednesday or Thursday can be turned around quickly enough to play on Saturday.
“Either way, by the time the game is played, negative tests are going to be two or three days old. Which means if someone contracted the virus in the interim and tests positive the next week, it could very well knock out big parts of two teams either through spreading it or contact tracing that determines other players spent 15 minutes in close contact with the infected person.
“Even if you’re the type of person who is dismissive of the health risks to younger people or the moral implications of putting unpaid athletes in this position, how do you expect to get through a season without the whole thing collapsing? How are you going to manage to prepare from one week to the next when someone within the locker room inevitably tests positive on a Monday and everyone suddenly has anxiety about whether they’re going to have to quarantine for two weeks or what result their next test is going to bring?....
“The plans, such as they are, hinge far more on pollyannish platitudes like LSU coach Ed Orgeron declaring in front of Vice President Mike Pence that ‘We need to play. The State needs it; this country needs it,’ rather than any acknowledgement that football is actually pretty hard to play when a virus is running rampant through the country….
“If college football happens successfully, it’s only because the virus has been suppressed in this country to a point where teams have a good chance of avoiding it. Maybe that will be the case in October or November or February. But it’s not the case right now. Planning for anything else, as the Marlins debacle demonstrates, seems like a wasted effort.
Ed Hardin / Greensboro Record (and Winston-Salem Journal)
“Schools and sports leagues across the country are scrambling this week to announce plans for football. But the clock is ticking. And the phone is ringing.
“The Miami Marlins are calling.
“This was to be the week when we learned the intentions of conferences such as the ACC and schools across the country making bold plans to play football while time bombs fall all around them. Ideas floating as trial balloons are losing air now. Reality has entered the picture.
“The news out of Philadelphia, where the Marlins announced a Covid-19 outbreak only three games into the season, has rattled the nerves of football coaches and administrators, most of whom are suddenly very quiet. They know now that any plans for league-only schedules, Notre Dame dreams or ideas of football independence will come with a caveat.
“You want to play football now? You’re going to need a team of good lawyers. And a good judge.
“This is about more than games now.”
--We note the passing of former NHL four-time Stanley Cup champion Eddie Shack, 83, who played from 1958 through 1975, including nine seasons in Toronto when he helped the Maple Leafs pick up four Cups (1961-62, 62-63, 63-64 and 66-67, as in the franchise’s last four titles), scoring the winning goal for the Leafs in the 1963 final.
Shack scored 239 goals, with 465 points and 1,431 penalty minutes in 1,047 NHL games.
But he was also one of the league’s more colorful players on and off the ice. He was nicknamed “The Entertainer” for his trademark cowboy hat and luxurious mustache. He was also one of the few NHL players to be celebrated in a song or top the charts.
“Clear the Track” by Douglas Rankine with The Secrets, started “Clear the track, here comes Shack. He knocks ‘em down and he gives ‘em a whack. He can score goals, he’s got a knack. Eddie, Eddie Shack.”
The song, the brainchild of broadcaster Brian McFarlane, debuted in February 1966 and topped the Toronto music chart. [I just listened to the tune on YouTube…no comment…]
Shack, an enforcer, was born to Ukrainian immigrants on Feb. 11, 1937. He was working at a butcher shop in Sudbury when he tried out for the Guelph Biltmores of the Ontario Hockey Association. He would make his NHL debut with the New York Rangers in 1958.
--A 63-year-old New York woman was killed in an apparent great white shark attack off the coast of Bailey Island, Maine on Monday. She was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.
Witnesses said the woman was swimming off the shore with her daughter when she suddenly went under. Nearby kayakers brought the woman to shore but it was too late.
The daughter, when she saw her mother floating behind her, swam rapidly back to shore, where she climbed to land and screamed for help. The poor girl was uninjured.
It was Maine’s first recorded shark attack in a decade.
--Monday, beachgoers were pulled out of the water following multiple shark sightings off Long Island. At least two different bull sharks were spotted in the water by lifeguards on surfboards, impacting a number of beaches.
Then today, three more sharks were spotted, closing the beaches intermittently.
--According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced during Australia’s devastating bushfires of the past year, making it one of the “worst wildlife disasters in modern history.”
Mega blazes swept across every Australian state last summer, scorching bush and killing at least 33 people.
Mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs died in the flames or from loss of habitat.
--Brad K. passed along an Associated Press story from Canberra, Australia.
“ ‘An Australian Outback pub has banned emus bad behavior,’ and erected barriers to prevent the large, flightless birds from creating havoc inside.
“Locals and tourists have been bemused by the antics of the emus eager to steal food from people in Yaraka, a remote Queensland state outpost with a permanent population of 18.
“But things took an intolerable turn last week when two of the birds, Carol and Kevin, discovered they could climb the front stairs of the Yaraka Hotel, the only pub, publican Chris Gimblett said Tuesday.
“ ‘They’ve learnt to walk up the front steps of the hotel, which has been causing just a few issues,’ especially with the amount of their waste, he said.
“Gimblett solved the problem by stringing a rope across the top of the stairs. A sign advises customers to replace the rope once they enter because emus have been banned from this establishment for bad behavior.’”
The emus haven’t figured out how to duck under the rope yet. Now if there was a bonobo in the area, it would teach the emus.
But this is quite the story in Yaraka. “We’re in lockdown mode,” Gimblett said of his barricaded pub. “At least it’s emus and not coronavirus.”
Not for nuthin’ but I’m guessing the folks in Yaraka know each other pretty well. Just 18 of them? Tongues be waggin’. “He spent last night with -----?!”
--Meanwhile, Johnny Mac had the story from the New York Post of the British safari park, where a “roving gang of baboons armed with knives and even a chainsaw has been wreaking havoc and sowing fear,” according to the Sunday Times of London.
Yes, a chainsaw. This is not good. Some workers at the park believe visitors are bringing in the weapons for their own amusement. Or the baboons could be “fishing them out of pickup trucks and vans,” as one employee noted.
But one park official told The Sunday Times, “We believe many of these stories have grown in exaggeration as they’ve been retold.”
Well, I wouldn’t be so sure. The safari park also houses lions, tigers and rhinos, among others, so the baboons could be preparing to stage a breakout with their compadres, resulting in incalculable destruction, loss of human life, and general diminishment in the standard of living in Britain, especially when you add in a messy Brexit.
Or maybe I’m reading too much into this story.
Top 3 songs for the week 7/26/80: #1 “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me” (Billy Joel) #2 “Magic” (Olivia Newton-John) #3 “Little Jeannie” (Elton John)…and…#4 “Cupid / I’ve Loved You For A Long Time” (Spinners) #5 “Shining Star” (Manhattans) #6 “Coming Up (Live At Glasgow)” (Paul McCartney & Wings) #7 “Steal Away” (Robbie Dupree) #8 “Tired Of Toein’ The Line” (Rocky Burnette) #9 “Take Your Time” (The S.O.S. Band…gotta admit, loved this one… “Soul Train” YouTube version particularly good…) #10 “The Rose” (Bette Midler…back to the 60s, boys and girls…)
PGA Tour Quiz Answer: Top ten on the career money list.
1. Tiger $120,698,445
2. Phil Mickelson $91,392,902
3. Jim Furyk $71,294,997
4. Vijay Singh $71,236,216
5. Dustin Johnson $63,722,508
6. Adam Scott $55,257,262
7. Justin Rose $54,081,228
8. Rory McIlroy $52,811,470
9. Matt Kuchar $51,293,153
10. Sergio Garcia $50,468,882
11. Ernie Els $49,339,400
12. Jason Day $47,020,568
13. Zach Johnson $45,665,729
14. Bubba Watson $45,194,759
15. Davis Love III $44,928,979
16. Steve Stricker $44,296,043
17. David Toms $41,901,709
18. Jordan Spieth $41,176,260
19. Charles Howell III $39,996,935
20. Webb Simpson $39,556,814…Go Deacs!
Next Bar Chat, Monday. …does NBA restart successfully?