These are, unfortunately, uncertain times for the Nationals. They were all set to open the 2021 season Thursday night against the Mets, then learned the game had been postponed when one (eventually three, possibly four) players tested positive for COVID-19.
Now, with Major League Baseball declaring the game would not be made up today, the Nats face another day stuck at home in isolation, awaiting results of another round of tests that should help determine whether they can actually play as scheduled Saturday or not.
We still don’t have answers to every pertinent question at this point, but let’s try to answer what we can for now ...
WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO PLAY?
We don’t know. Really. Though everyone hopes they can play Saturday and Sunday afternoons as originally scheduled, it’s going to depend on what this next round of test results shows, and what conclusions are drawn from the contact tracing that was still taking place Thursday evening after the new positive tests were revealed.
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO PLAY SATURDAY?
Just a hunch here, but you’ve got to believe it would take a complete set of negative test results today. If no new positives emerge, and those who did test positive or are deemed close contacts are safely quarantined at home, it’s possible the remaining healthy Nationals (plus some reinforcements from the alternate training site in Fredericksburg) could take the field Saturday to open the season. But if there’s another positive test, it’s hard to see MLB allowing a game to be played yet.
WHO MAKES THE CALL ON THIS?
MLB, and MLB only. The teams have no say in the matter. And based on what we saw last summer, the league is going err on the side of caution whenever possible.
DOES THE FACT THE NATS AND METS PLAY EACH OTHER SO MUCH MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Officially, no. But practically speaking, sure. If the Nationals were playing a non-division rival that wasn’t scheduled to return to D.C. this season, there might be more of a push to play this weekend, perhaps even to play a 14-inning doubleheader Sunday. But because the Mets make two more trips here this season (June 18-20, Sept. 3-6) there is more opportunity for makeup games. You would have to think that fact helps MLB take a more conservative approach this weekend.
COULDN’T THE NATS JUST CALL UP THE ENTIRE TEAM FROM FREDERICKSBURG TO PLAY INSTEAD OF THE BIG LEAGUERS?
In theory, yes. But in reality, they aren’t in a position to do that yet. Some of the players who are now at the alternate training site traveled on the same charter bus and plane as the major leaguers. (Some did drive their own cars from Florida to Virginia.) The good news is that test results for everyone in the Fredericksburg camp came back negative Wednesday, according to general manager Mike Rizzo. So at some point here, this would be an option. But it doesn’t appear to be an option quite yet.
HOW LONG DO THE AFFECTED PLAYERS HAVE TO REMAIN IN QUARANTINE?
Depends which entity you believe takes precedence over the other: MLB or the District of Columbia. MLB protocols state: “Individuals who test positive will be required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days, receive appropriate care and monitoring from the club medical staff and be cleared by the Joint Committee and the individual’s team physician, following a mandatory cardiac evaluation and a determination that the individual no longer presents a risk of infection to others.” Any others deemed as close contacts to the player who tested positive “will be subject to a mandatory quarantine of seven days and must test negative on day 5 or later among other requirements to rejoin club facilities.” D.C. protocols are even stricter: 14 days isolation for someone who tests positive, 10 days for close contacts.
WHY AREN’T THE NAMES OF THE PLAYERS KNOWN?
MLB clubs are not permitted to publicly name players who test positive for COVID-19 or are forced into isolation due to contact tracing, unless the players give permission. That may happen at some point, but for now the affected players have not chosen to release their names.
WHY HASN’T THE OPENING DAY ROSTER BEEN ANNOUNCED YET?
Rosters must be submitted to MLB on the day of the season opener. Because the Nationals never played Thursday, they weren’t required to announce their 26-man roster. As we’ve seen, things can change very quickly. So they aren’t going to feel any pressure to announce a roster until they know for certain they’re going to play on a given day. And no sense announcing a particular player is on the roster or on the COVID-19 list until it’s clear that player is or is not eligible to play in a game that will be held that day.
WHEN WILL WE KNOW ANYTHING NEW?
Probably this afternoon, much as we did Thursday afternoon, once the next round of test results comes in.