As teams arrive at Spring Training 2.0, all players have been tested for the dreadful COVID-19, which has put a halt to sports and life as we know it for over three months, and it didn’t take long for several players on the Braves to test positive.
On Saturday, it was announced four players in the organization had been infected, including superstar first baseman Freddie Freeman. Of the four, however, at least two were asymptomatic — Touki Toussaint, and newly signed free-agent reliever, Will Smith. The condition of Pete Kozma is unknown; however, the positive tests to such significant pieces of the organization bring light to just how real this situation is, which is why several players and coaches have decided to opt-out of the season altogether, including a couple of the Braves own.
Shortly after we received the news of the positive tests, Felix Hernandez, a hopeful Hall-of-Fame candidate who was attempting to revive his career in Atlanta, decided he will not play this season. The same goes for Braves’ first base coach, Eric Young Sr.
If there is a positive in all of this, its that no player who tested positive is in critical condition. As of yesterday, Freeman was feeling the best he had felt since Thursday when he began showing symptoms. And because a player of this magnitude has tested positive, the Braves and the league are taking notice of just how serious this situation is and the precautions that must be taken for a season to happen.
Braves Ace, Mike Soroka, had this to say in an article by Mark Bowman on MLB.com:
“I was surprised just like everybody, just because we knew how seriously a lot of us were taking this, especially someone like Freddie,” Soroka said. “He stayed with his family throughout the entire quarantine. That just goes to show how contagious it can be, and it’s really real.”
“It kind of kicked us into gear to make sure we are following protocols down to the T,” Soroka said. “[Rules] are in place for a reason. We want to make sure we stay as healthy as we can as a team. I think we all realize the team that has the best chance to win is the team that stays the most together throughout most of the season. You think about losing Freddie for two weeks — that’s huge in a 60-game season.”
Fellow All-Star for the Houston Astros voiced a similar opinion yesterday, stating just how serious everyone in each organization has to take the situation if a season wants to be completed.
Alex Bregman (@ABREG_1) on hearing about players like Freddie Freeman testing positive: “I think it’s a wake-up call for everybody. It goes to show it doesn’t matter who you are, you can be affected by this virus. They’ve done a good job of taking the necessary precautions here.”
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) July 5, 2020
But it all culminated today with perhaps the most surprising news of all since a 2020 season was finalized, with Nick Markakis also choosing to forgo the season. Markakis, who has often been referred to as an ironman for his ability to stay on the field regardless of the circumstances, made his decision public today. Among the reasons he has decided not to play was the way Freddie Freeman sounded yesterday after talking to him about contracting the virus, and the fact that there will be no fans, which isn’t baseball in his eyes.
Brian Snitker commented on the situation, saying he backs Markakis’ decision 100% and that he will be sorely missed, calling him “the backbone for our club.”
So should we worried about the 2020 MLB season? I’m not sure how you say no at this point — at least a little bit. There’s certainly a path for a season to happen, but positive tests over the next couple of months among players and staff are inevitable. It’s up to the league to manage these potential outbreaks as safely as possible. Right now, things are not going as smoothly as organizations were hoping, judging by the number of teams that still have not received their test results. Meanwhile, the league is hosting a schedule release at 6:00 PM Eastern Time tonight.
What also needs to be considered is, when is the breaking point? It’s become quite apparent over the last few months just how contagious this virus can be. If seven starters on one team test positive at the same time, does the league just decide to pack it in and shut it down, or must the show go on? Simply put, this is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Hopefully, positive tests stay within reason because there will undoubtedly be plenty of them as the season goes on, but nobody can say with any shred of confidence they know how things will play out in the coming months. We just have to hope the players, and society as a whole take this pandemic seriously, allowing for the game we all love to continue.