Column

The National Pastime Is a National Disgrace

As it bumbles its way toward what looks like an even shorter season than it planned, MLB itself is leading the league in errors

Michael Hermosillo of the Los Angeles Angels catches a fly ball in an empty stadium. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I think Major League Baseball saw all this coming; they just didn’t give a shit. Baseball returned last week to empty stadiums all across the country, and even before the first pitch was thrown, MLB had fucked everything up. Nationals superstar Juan Soto tested positive for the coronavirus (he has yet to purge it from his system and has reportedly been very testy about the inconvenience). But MLB let the Nats, who had practiced with Soto, play that same night anyway. And I watched it, because I’m a terrible person.

That was mere prelude. Yesterday, it turned out that at least 18 (!!!!!!!) members of the Miami Marlins have also tested positive for the disease. That’s more than half the roster. Three of those Marlins knew about their results as far back as Sunday when the team was on the road to Philadelphia. The Marlins played the Phillies that Sunday after leaving the decision not to commissioner Rob Manfred or to a doctor but to their fucking captain, who himself would turn up Covid-19-positive a day later. Normally when I call the Marlins a scourge, I don’t mean it literally. But here we are.

The Nationals, in prime pot-kettle-black mode, themselves voted to not play the Marlins last night. It was then, and only then, when MLB finally acted and postponed all of the Marlins’ games… until Sunday. We are all now pandemic veterans, so we know the basic protocols, do we not? Wear a mask. Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Avoid large gatherings, especially inside. Oh, and if you and 17 of your buddies test positive, stay home for at least two weeks. The Marlins have been put on hiatus for a mere six days. The fuck is that gonna accomplish? It’s a lethal disease. You can’t purge it from your team by taking a long weekend.

Baseball, like America, believes its inherent specialness makes it exempt from the rules, even the ones governing human biology.

Back in March, the entire NBA shut down when two players tested positive for this thing. I’d lived through this already. I was set for the dominoes to fall and for MLB to abandon a season that they clearly hadn’t adequately planned for. But I failed to account for MLB’s commitment to evil and incompetence, and so the games continued last night. And listen, I’m deeply grateful that the Dodgers capitalized on that opportunity by beaning the fuck out of the Houston Astros, but this is deranged. I appreciate managers in masks and first basemen doling out hand sanitizer, but that’s begun to read as hygiene theater in the wake of baseball’s broader decision-making, or lack thereof. Instead of shutting down for the sake of players, coaches, hotel workers, and the world in general, MLB instead enlisted volunteer water carriers to portray this as an isolated incident (funny how that isolated incident happened 18 times).

So true. Think of all the players who aren’t infectious agents of the most disruptive virus in modern history. And look at how many Nationals were not infected by Soto — yet! Shouldn’t we be congratulating baseball? I think we should. Look how open and communicative they’ve been with their employees!

This is a disgrace. But of course, I’m so inured to disgraces by now that I can hardly feel anything at all. What’s happening with baseball is a reflection of the rest of this broken nation’s response to the pandemic. Baseball, like America, believes its inherent specialness makes it exempt from the rules, even the ones governing human biology. It wants to be congratulated for putting in the absolute bare minimum of prevention measures and then for using those meager efforts as an excuse to justify all the horrible shit its negligence has wrought. MLB learned from the best:

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, fans of the Korea Baseball Organization, which started up back in May, were able to return to stadiums in a limited capacity just this past Sunday. The presence of fans in Korean stadiums was a testament to both South Korea’s and the KBO’s diligent handling of the pandemic. Before the season started, KBO said that the whole league would shut down for three weeks if any player on any team tested positive. They also delayed the introduction of fans to the stands after South Korea as a whole had a cluster breakout. That kind of mini-outbreak was a big deal in Korea. Here, it’s a birthday party in Scottsdale.

And so MLB continues even when it shouldn’t. Basketball and hockey are coming back too, but both of those leagues are adhering to a bubble model that baseball considered and discarded. That model, during its most recent testing phases, produced zero negative tests across both of the leagues using it. They’re not flying players all across the country. They’re not letting team captains decide vital safety protocol. They’re not playing in multiple stadiums when those stadiums can’t even have fans in them. The NHL isn’t even playing games in this country at all — it opted for twin bubbles in Canada — because why do anything in America right now if you don’t have to? The NHL knows they can’t openly play here right now because this country is radioactive thanks to lax government, widespread ignorance, and soulless institutions like MLB that view saving lives as an inconvenience. While they endanger the rest of us, Taiwan — a country that has had a total of seven deaths since the pandemic broke out — has baseball fans in its stands with no need for restrictions:

That could have been us. That could have been our baseball if we had just done our fucking homework. Instead, we keep falling farther and farther behind, destined to look on hopelessly as other countries enjoy the fruits of their labor while we pretend we never had any work to do. The longer we keep pretending, the farther we get from ever having the chance to see baseball in person again.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said there had been no positive covid tests among NHL players. There have been zero positives since the league’s phase three testing began on July 13, but some players tested positive during phase two.

Columnist at GEN. Co-founder, Defector. Author of Point B.

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