This was supposed to be the start of the final countdown to opening day. The last week of spring training, with decisions looming on the starting third baseman, the No. 5 starter, a spot or two in the bullpen and maybe a spot on the bench.
The Nationals were going to head north after this Sunday’s Grapefruit League finale, make a brief stop in D.C. for an exhibition game against top prospects one week from today, then continue to New York for opening day against the Mets.
One week after that, the Nats were going take the field in their home ballpark as defending World Series champions for the first time. They were going to raise the banner before a sellout crowd. Two days later, they were going to hang out rings to everyone in front of another sellout crowd.
It was going to be the kind of celebration that hasn’t been seen around these parts in a really, really long time.
That, of course, isn’t going to happen. At least not in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully it’s still going to happen someday. Maybe in May. Maybe in June. Maybe after that. Maybe - though it’s agonizing to consider this possibility - not until 2021.
We just don’t know when it’s going to happen. There’s no reasonable way to know when it’s going to happen, not at this point, with cities across America and some other parts of the world effectively shut down until the coronavirus crisis ends.
The only thing we know for sure is that it’s going to be a while until things are normal again. This is our new reality, cooped up in our homes for an indeterminate amount of time, hoping we bought enough food and soap and toilet paper to avoid any more trips to the grocery store. Trying our best to come up with lesson plans for our kids, who suddenly need us to be their teachers in addition to their parents.
We turn on the TV looking for baseball, and the best we get are reruns of old games. That may be our new reality for a while, as well, not only on air but online as well.
I’ve spent the last couple days trying to figure what in the world I’m going to write every day until I can actually watch real baseball players doing real baseball things in person and then interview them about it afterward. This isn’t like the offseason. There are no trade rumors, free agents to be signed, projections to make about the coming season.
No, it’s a ghost town out there, with players no longer allowed to hold organized workouts at the spring training complex, left to decide whether to hunker down in West Palm Beach for the long haul or return to their respective homes until it’s safe to come out again.
Maybe the answer is to go back and write about some of those old games they’re now forced to show on TV. Pick some favorites from the last decade and a half and revisit them with a new perspective on their significance. Maybe we get through this by reliving Max Scherzer’s 20-strikeout game, Stephen Strasburg’s debut or the night Frank Robinson and Mike Scioscia caused the benches to empty in Anaheim.
That could buy us a week or two. But then what? A countdown of the top 10 Wily Mo Peña homers? (Pausing for a moment to check Baseball-Reference.com and see if Peña actually hit 10 homers for the Nationals, and lo and behold he hit exactly 10!)
There’s no road map for this. We’re winging it now, folks. I’d like to claim I have a comprehensive plan in place, but that would be a lie.
Everyone wants to guess when the season will finally begin. It’s only natural. Problem is, it’s a fruitless exercise. It’s impossible to guess what’s going to happen in two days, let alone two weeks or two months.
There’s really only one thing we can do at this point. Take Davey Martinez’s advice to heart.
Let’s just try to go 1-0 today. Then we’ll try to do it again tomorrow.