Astros Manager Dusty Baker has been around baseball a long time. He has seen more than his fair share of odd situations, but nothing could have prepared him for 2020. Over the weekend, after the Astros had to cancel yet another workout thanks to potential exposure of a staff member to COVID-19, he had some rather disconcerting things to say in his press conference.
When asked what MLB's protocols are for occurrences like the staffer's possible exposure, he said, "I don't know." He went on to say this is why they are taking a long hard look at all the players on the roster, particularly young pitchers like Forest Whitley. Baker understands they are likely going to need them as the season goes along.
But, there was more than that. Despite his many years of experience, it was clear Baker had more questions than answers. "If I’m unsettled there’s a good chance everybody else is gonna be unsettled," he said. "It's my job to remain calm and find a solution — a temporary solution and hopefully a permanent solution."
Of course, this year, permanence is relative. The season has already been trimmed to 60 games and the Astros are among a number of teams who have lost workouts to delayed test results and possible exposure in the first week of their "summer camps."
Of the big three sports, the NBA's bubble probably has the greatest likelihood of success, not just because they are being sequestered, but because there are fewer games and the number of players and teams involved will thin with the playoffs. But even the Association's commish, Adam Silver, has said it could all come crashing down at a moment's notice.
It almost seems unthinkable an entire football season will be played given the nature of the sport, the number of players and the inability to quarantine.
But, perhaps we should have the least faith in baseball. Not only did the league and the players have to settle a nasty, very public financial dispute in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 Americans to date, but they didn't even manage to actually do it. They just agreed to terms set in March and put off bigger decisions until later leaving them with only 60 games and normal playoffs, whatever normal means in these circumstances.
Almost no one realistically expects every team or even the league to make it through the whole abbreviated season. With so many games, so much travel and so little downtime (60 games in just barely over two months), it is simply a recipe for disaster.
It has left Baker in the middle and just trying to figure out how to keep a roster intact. He says he isn't worried, but maybe he should be.