Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”
As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.
“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”
Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.
The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home.
“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”
To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.
“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.
“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."
Baseball has returned to South Bend. The Cubs’ alternate site this season, which is usually the home of the Cubs’ Single-A affiliate, welcomed a group of players to Four Winds Field on Tuesday.
South Bend Summer Camp is scheduled to start in earnest Wednesday, according to Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer.
Hoyer praised Cubs senior director of player development Matt Dorey and assistant director of baseball development Jeremy Farrell for their work setting up the South Bend site, as well as South Bend Cubs owner Andrew Berlin and president Joe Hart for “a really good job of catering to our every need.”
Player housing is so close to the ballpark that, “players can literally walk from their room right down into the field,” Hoyer said. “I think that should be a really good setup for those guys.”
Throughout Summer Camp, the number of players at South Bend will increase. The Cubs originally assigned 11 players to the alternate site, but the club has 10 open spots in its 60-player pool. The Cubs will evaluate its depth before filling those spots.
The club also has to cut its Wrigley Field Summer Camp roster from 39 players down to 30 by Opening Day. Those who do not make the Opening Day roster will move to the alternate site.