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The Miami Marlins, itinerant virus epicenter and leaders in the National League East, on Tuesday evening remained cloistered in their Philadelphia hotel rooms, the reward for being decent at baseball and for nearly half of them spitting positive.
They’d learned midday they would not be playing baseball again for at least another seven days, that news coming amid 60 hours of disorder that began with a series of jarring test results. Somewhere along their travel route — Miami to Atlanta to Philadelphia, across four or five or more days — they’d been exposed and exposed hard, this guy, then that guy, then another, and then enough of them to threaten even the fragments of a baseball season.
Separated from the world by door peepholes and the sort of news that turns every throat tickle into existential upheaval, the Marlins on Day 2 of their quarantine believed some among them might go home by Friday. The rest of the plan is by comparison wispy.
They’d sit out a week of the season or more. They’d not swung a bat or thrown a ball since Sunday afternoon and there was nothing on the schedule to get back to it. They read or slept or watched nothing on TV, heard that the Washington Nationals voted not to be near them, traded conspiracy theories with their teammates by text message, calmed family members with confidence real and feigned, and they waited.
Beyond those walls and black-out curtains, beyond their own bed-weariness and boredom, the game was trying to save itself.
It was, for another day, chaos.
Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees, who were in Washington D.C., then Philadelphia, where they did not play a game, then Baltimore, where presumably they would play a game but only after calling back their equipment truck, which had started on the road back to New York, likened the whole experience to “drinking out of a fire hose.”
The Phillies are shut down until Friday. The Marlins, of course, are done until at least next Tuesday, when they are scheduled to host … the Phillies. The Nationals will have the weekend off. Two games were postponed Monday night. On Wednesday the Toronto Blue Jays will play their first home game of the season — in Washington D.C. Their first real home game, which will be played not in Toronto but in Buffalo, is scheduled for Aug. 11, when they are to host … the Marlins.
Because the ball will find you.
The testing, outside of the Marlins, has been largely reassuring. Also, it’s been six days, and already 60 games looks unreachable for at least one team, and the easiest reporting job ever is finding a doomsaying epidemiologist, and the second-easiest is finding someone who’ll rip the baseball commissioner. The game chose 30 bubbles instead of one, which means no bubbles at all, in part because the players would not agree to one, and so this is the razor’s edge upon which they crow hop. At some point they would be out there beyond the door peepholes, and at some point someone was going to walk back in carrying more than a Gucci murse.
The thing about chaos, sometimes you can see it coming. Even prepare for it. Make plans and assign them different letters, set your jaw, commit to a single step at a time, breathe through it and tell yourself it’s temporary.
Then, holy crap, it’s everywhere.
Then there aren’t enough stadiums to go around, and not enough players to fill them anyway, and the D.C. mayor makes life a little tougher while doing her job, and dozens and dozens of players find something to gripe about, and a press release that’s supposed to tell everyone what’s going on in this minute needs MLB and union approvals, and a new set of test results are due any second, and it kind of looks like pitchers’ arms are taking a beating, and the manager of the Chicago White Sox is sick but maybe not sick-sick, and the phone never stops ringing because everyone needs to know what is going on.
The fact is, the game is day to day. That was the agreement from the start. If they were going to put 30 teams on the field most nights, then the chaos was going to come. The gaps in protocols were going to be exposed. The lapses in judgment and the randomness of the virus were going to cost at least one guy and maybe 30 and maybe 60 and one day leave them all trapped in a hotel room in Philly.
So, after a Sunday in which Marlins players themselves made the call to play baseball in spite of an apparent outbreak, and a Monday in which it became clear someone else probably should have made that call, and then a Tuesday that reinforced Monday, and in a swirl of test results and rescheduling and door-locking and finger-crossing, there could be only one lingering hope for baseball.
That is, that this is the chaos.
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