With regard to the potential return of baseball in July, Nationals closer Sean Doolittle expressed concern on Twitter about the health and safety of himself and his fellow players on the field as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Doolittle expressed through Twitter that he is concerned about working with others indoors. If a player or staff member gets the virus, does the entire team need to be tested? How long will the quarantine continue? What safety protocols will be in place when a person gets the virus once the season is underway?
We know that sharing indoor spaces greatly increases the infection risk, and it’s rare that only 1 person gets sick. Will there be modifications made to clubhouses or other facilities to prevent a spread?https://t.co/lawfFDV6r6https://t.co/J5Lg1AfDJyhttps://t.co/nIU8MAEXHm-- Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Nats left-handed starter Patrick Corbin appeared on “The Jim Rome Show” on CBS Sports Radio on Friday and echoed some of Doolittle’s concerns, and also raised the question of how players would be compensated over an abbreviated season.
Rays pitcher Blake Snell even ventured to say he would sit out the entire season if the owners’ final offer is just a 50/50 split in revenue sharing.
“There are some good thoughts there,” Corbin told Rome. “We are taking a risk getting back there. We did come to an agreement before. There are so many questions that are still unanswered. Hopefully, we can continue to move on from this. We have been in contact with members of the team, the union, every day to get things to work out. The main thing is we want to get out there and play. We want to play as many games as we can in a safe way. The players are taking a risk by doing this and being away from their families for a long period of time. We know that’s something that’s going to have to happen. Someone’s going to have to give here, so we will see what goes on.”
Corbin also addressed the question of what he would need to see in order to feel confident enough that he would be OK to return to the field in the absence of an approved vaccine.
“I know the testing was a big part of it. I think they will be able to get that done,” Corbin said. “I’m not an expert on any of this. Obviously, we are at an age where it is not as high of a risk for a lot of these players. But you do worry about the families and other people that they would like to see throughout the course of a season. Hopefully, we can figure out that and it seems like there is more and more talk every day about this, so hopefully they can come to a resolution here. Figure out the best way to go about this.”
One solution under consideration would involve limiting the number of hotels and stadiums used, perhaps by restricting play to Arizona and/or Florida, and ensuring those facilities are constantly cleaned and checked. But nothing will be completely safe. Without a vaccine, there is no way to prevent anyone from getting the virus over an 80-game season in 30 stadiums all over the United States and Canada.
What happens when a player gets COVID-19 in season? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining whether there is a season at all.
* From Rookie level all the way to Triple-A, the Nationals organization stresses the importance of working the count each plate appearance.
One example of this can be found from the numbers reached in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) by the high Single-A Potomac Nationals in 2019.
The P-Nats were near the top of the Carolina League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. They had the best batting average at .254 and were second in RBIs with 550.
Their OBP was .333, trailing Fayetteville by only two percentage points. Their .709 OPS was second only to Fayetteville’s .728.
Fredericksburg Nationals manager Tripp Keister said one reason for these numbers is team discipline during at-bats.
“I always feel like we don’t talk about that enough,” Keister said. “In baseball I think we have overlooked some things that are still important, and we’ve made it important too. We have made it important that we are going to have a two-strike approach. We are going to be better with two strikes. Sometimes having a great two-strike approach is not getting to two strikes. Let’s hit the good pitches that we’ve had (available) to hit earlier in the count.
“But also recognize that our strike-zone recognition, our plate discipline has to be good. Let’s swing at strikes. Let’s take the balls. Let’s get in advantage counts. That is something we have talked about a lot as an organization over the last couple years. The commitment that was made to that, it takes time. It doesn’t just happen in a month or a season, it happens over time. We got the same message being sent at all levels across the organization.”
He says this philosophy forces the pitcher to throw the ball over the plate and allows the hitter the ability to not have to reach all over the place for pitches.
“(This strategy) matters because it helps you get a better pitch to hit,” Keister said. “This helps you offensively as an individual. But it also helps the group because now the pitchers are not getting as many outs without having to throw the ball over the plate. That’s ultimately what we are trying to do, is make the pitcher have to throw the ball over the plate. It sounds like, ‘Well, yeah, no kidding!’ Well, it’s not that easy. It’s not.
“Your strike-zone recognition and your plate discipline is a big deal, and it’s something we have really made a conscientious effort across all levels to be better at that with our team offense.”