Summer camp is underway, and let’s face it — this is not like anything any of us have ever experienced. There is baseball happening — or at least baseball practice happening.
We get glimpses of familiar faces (even if masked) in familiar baseball positions.
But does this feel normal? Does this feel like just another start of a baseball season but a few months delayed?
No, it does not.
Here are some reports on the team:
Juan Toribio checked in with Yoshi Tsutsugo, who must surely be wondering why he picked THIS year to come to the US.
Chaz Roe and his slider make an appearance in this article about players who go to extremes.
Part of me thinks this prediction of a Rays 2020 World Series victory will just jinx the team. But part of me thinks that of course the Rays big year will be this weird asterisk of a season, and can already anticipate the derision from our enemies when we hang the banner in the Trop in 2021.
And meanwhile, we have a schedule!
Rays open against Toronto on Friday, July 24th. Let’s get our favorite TV-viewing chairs ready! Note that home games have been moved to an earlier start time — 6:40pm — reportedly to account for the extra postgame sanitizing required by staff.
As you can see, schedules have been made to minimize travel — no late night west coast games with Brian Anderson getting silly. This visualization helps see how match-ups across the league have been planned for geographic proximity:
But Rays are still going to be among the better traveled teams in the league, traveling about 10,000 miles (in contrast the NY and Chicago area teams barely need to leave home).
COVID-19 and the 2020 season
But a lot of the news is about the ongoing risks and fears and dangers and confusion over COVID-19.
Some teams haven’t yet been able to test players or get back test results, delaying practices. The Nationals, for example, did not have test results back from players who had reported to camp several days earlier, so they cancelled practice. This led Rob Manfred
to apologize for any disruptions and promise it wouldn’t happen again. Sorry, no, it led to Rob Manfred reportedly jumping on Nationals GM Mike Rizzo for bringing this up. We did get some MLB-splaining about how the testing process fell short because something something weekend, but it’s a bumpy start.
Let me be clear: it’s not easy getting this entire mini health system set up and I do expect hiccups. But it would be nice if the commissioner’s response was to acknowledge the importance of getting this right. The ability to practice and play games rests of the promise of frequent testing with short turnaround times. If this proves difficult to achieve, this season will not move forward. It’s a big ask.
Players, especially veterans, are opting out. This week we learned that Nick Markakis will not be playing. Sean Doolittle is in camp but not yet sure he’ll stick it out.
You can find a great summary of the whole messy business from Fangraphs here.
Other baseball news
None of our business, I guess, but that Yankees “rule” banning players from having facial hair (or wearing their hair long) is silly as well as demeaning to the grown men who play for them. Yes, I know, there are some businesses that have dress codes, but those dress codes are linked to the sort of business they do. The Yankees are a sports team where their employees play a game for a living. So...you tell ‘em Andrew McCutchen:
For those who like getting deep in the analytical weeds, here is a review of the aging curve literature as applied to hitters. It includes links to a GitHub data repository for anyone eager to run the numbers themselves. I can’t explain all the math but my quick look at the graphs makes me wonder why teams sign 30 year olds to multi-year contracts, and also wonder why teams are willing to watch talented 22 and 23 year getting knocks in the minors just to get that extra year of service time.