Mets-Nationals Opening Day Game Should’ve Been Played
Back on August 16, 2017, the New York Mets faced a rash of injuries. Instead of postponing the game, Travis d’Arnaud, a catcher, rotated with Asdrubal Cabrera between second and third all game long. The reason that happened is Major League Baseball does not cancel games when teams face injuries.
At times, this leads to tough and frankly bad decisions. A classic example was when the New York Mets took a risk by designating Darren O’Day so Nelson Figueroa could make a start. That led to O’Day getting claimed by the Texas Rangers. O’Day is still pitching now whereas Figueroa last pitched in the majors two years after this decision, and he had a full career arc as the Mets postgame analyst.
Point is, teams are forced to play through injuries. Baseball is unforgiving that way. However, when it comes to COVID teams are not forced to play. Sure, the Miami Marlins played with COVID last year, and Don Mattingly was rewarded for putting the entire season in jeopardy by naming him the National League Manager of the Year, but that is another story for another day.
On the eve of Opening Day, there was a Washington Nationals player who tested positive for COVID, and through contact tracing, an additional four Nationals players were put into quarantine. Since that first test, four other Nationals players have tested positive, and the Opening Day game between the Mets and and the Nationals has been postponed indefinitely.
Again, if there were five Mets players injured and unavailable on Opening Day, the Mets would have been forced to play the game. They would have been put in the position over whether they call up players or roll with the players they had available. Understandably, COVID is different than a torn hamstring, but not really in terms of player availability.
Because of COVID concerns, Major League Baseball has allowed teams to carry a taxi squad of five players with them on road trips. When not on road trips, those players are at the team’s alternate site. Put another way, Major League teams are supposed to have five players ready to be called up to play at a moment’s notice if there is a COVID issue. Coincidentally, that number coincides with the amount of players the Nationals had out.
Now, there are reports Max Scherzer, the Opening Day starter, was away from the team. So, we know he was available. Past him, we really don’t have any idea who could or could not play. On a related note, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said their entire team is in quarantine. Again, while there are reports both teams could play on Saturday, in reality, if the entire Nationals team is in quarantine, there is really no knowing when they will be able to play.
That puts the Mets at a significant disadvantage to start their season. The Mets were setting their rotation where they did not have to use a fifth starter early on in the season. That helped alleviate the loss of Carlos Carrasco, and it did give them a preview of Joey Lucchesi, who may be destined for the bullpen once Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard are ready to return. Again, this was the Mets plan, but now, they can’t execute their plan because the Nationals players got infected with COVID at a time when none of the other 29 teams had any issues.
The answer can’t be for the Mets and Nationals to cancel an entire series. This would have the Mets dormant for half a week before they have to travel to play a Phillies team who has already been playing. This is how you create injuries and problems. Again, if the Mets suffer injuries as a result of this, no one is postponing their games until that players is healthy.
Really, Major League Baseball has to have a better answer than to shut down a healthy team abiding by COVID protocols. The Nationals should be forced to call up their Triple-A team to play if that what is necessary. On that note, there is no Triple-A baseball until May. These are games on the schedule, and the weather is permitting them to play.
Instead, the Mets are going to have to scrap their plans for the rotation, be forced to play cold against teams already warmed up, and they are going to have to force games in later in the season when we are already concerned about pitchers being able to sustain the 2021 season after the 2020 shortened season.
This is ridiculous, and Major League Baseball has to have a better response than postponing games and kicking the rock down the road. Of course, they don’t, so they are going to put the Mets in a precarious position now and in the future. And we know if anyone gets injured as a result of this recklessness, the Mets will play that game even if it means someone playing out of position the way d’Arnaud once did.