By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and a mere three days into the MLB season and COVID-19 has already presented a significant hurdle. The Miami Marlins entered Sunday’s game with four players sidelined due to positive tests for the virus. Against all logic, and in large part because MLB has no plan in place, the Marlins elected to play on Sunday without knowing the extent of the spread within the team’s locker room. Now, 15 players on the team are all positive with COVID-19, and Miami’s season is suspended until further notice.
Unfortunately, the Phillies are stuck in the crossfire of Miami’s decision to play on Sunday, and Philadelphia has had its season postponed until further notice. Given the gestation period for COVID-19 is approximately two weeks, even a negative test for the entire Phillies roster later this week does not negate the possibility that players were infected during the season-opening series against the Marlins. MLB seems intent to have Philadelphia resume its season well before the two weeks, indicating that the league was ill-prepared to deal with the occurrence of a roster contracting COVID-19.
At present, the rest of the baseball season will continue, with Miami and Philadelphia’s respective opponents, the Orioles and Yankees, beginning a two-game set today. However, MLB’s infatuation with dragging the MLBPA through the mud before the start of the season has come at a second—and easily foreseeable cost—there is absolutely no structure to the league’s attempt to successfully stage the 2020 season. A week ago, there was optimism that a baseball season could be staged amidst a pandemic. Now, it seems pointless to imagine playoff scenarios for the season.
As NFL training camp nears, there is a growing list of players deciding to opt-out of the 2020 season. Thus far, no team has been harder hit than the New England Patriots. Already entering a transition season with Tom Brady now in Tampa Bay, the Patriots suffered a trio of significant losses on Tuesday afternoon. Safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Donta Hightower, and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon announced their intentions to miss the upcoming season. Attempting to replace the production lost by these decisions will be nearly impossible for the Patriots at this late date in the off-season.
On the other end of things, the NBA bubble in Orlando is proving to be a rousing success. In large part, this is due to the NBA’s meticulous planning. However, the commitment of the players to sustain the integrity of the bubble cannot be overstated. After a few warm-up games during the past week, the NBA season begins on Thursday night. Every team in the bubble will play eight games, with seeding for the postseason the bulk of the focus. In the East, the eight playoff teams are likely set. In the West, five teams are vying to catch the Memphis Grizzlies in the standings to force a play-in game.
Games resume tomorrow night with the New Orleans Pelicans taking on the Utah Jazz. The Pelicans aim to catch the Grizzlies in the standings. Meanwhile, Utah will be looking to solve the issue of replacing Bojan Bogdanovic, who underwent season-ending wrist surgery during the suspension of the NBA season. With Bogdanovic, Utah had the look of a team capable of making a deep playoff run this season. Without him, the Jazz offense will need Donovan Mitchell to assume a larger role and veteran point guard Mike Conley to solve the shooting woes that plagued the bulk of his debut season with Utah.
Closing out tomorrow’s two-game slate is a potential Western Conference Finals preview as the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers square off. It is unlikely that anything meaningful will be able to be taken away from this game due to circumstances. Still, it is definitely going to be a game both teams enter looking to make a statement. The Clippers will be short-handed, without big man Montrezl Harrell and guard Lou Williams. The Lakers are locked in atop the West. For the Clippers, the most essential thing during the eight seeding games will be remaining ahead of the Denver Nuggets and the aforementioned Jazz in the standings. Entering Thursday, the Clippers are a half-game up on Denver and three games ahead of Utah.