Cubs

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo on coronavirus fears: 'More players will opt out'

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo on coronavirus fears: 'More players will opt out'

Here we go again.

Another day of delayed and pending coronavirus tests. Another six Cubs sit out workouts and a scrimmage as a precaution.

Another reason to doubt whether Major League Baseball can shore up the minimum, baseline safety expectation it promised — timely testing — to pull off a 60-game season that involves teams traveling to and from 30 different locations for nine weeks.

“Yeah, I think some more players will opt out,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Wednesday as the Cubs and other teams adjusted to yet another day of last-minute personnel and scheduling adjustments because MLB’s every-other-day testing process continues to produce gaps, delays and flaws with results.

“There’s definitely a level of fire drill some mornings,” Cubs manager David Ross said.

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Neither Ross nor Rizzo pointed fingers at MLB or anyone else, Ross again pointing out this is a first-in-history undertaking. And both said they expected the system to improve.

But to Rizzo’s original point, as each day of training camp passes through the hourglass toward next week’s openers without a solution so, too, it seems more players are likely to pass on playing at all.

Thirteen already have opted out, including Giants star Buster Posey and former Cy Young winners David Price and Felix Hernandez — none of those with a pre-existing condition that puts him at higher risk.

MORE: Tracking MLB players who have opted out or declined to play

Many other high-profile players throughout the majors, including Angels superstar Mike Trout and the Cubs’ Yu Darvish say they haven’t ruled out joining the 13, depending on what they see from health and safety conditions as this progresses.

“We didn’t sign up for these bad protocols as far as testing,” said Rizzo, already sidelined with a bad back. “The biggest thing for us is the safety.

“Listen, we are in a pandemic. We are all at risk,” he added. “We all want to play baseball because that’s what we love to do, and we have an opportunity to bring joy to a lot of people that are home, through these tough times.

“But we are all human. If guys start testing positive left and right and this gets out of control, I’m sure you’ll see some guys opt out.”

Darvish said over the weekend that he was prepared to go home if he didn’t like what he saw from a safety standpoint with the Cubs — who so far have been the only team in the league yet to have a player test positive since intake testing.

But he also said, “I’m still concerned.” And it’s hard to imagine that continued delays and uncertainties within the testing process will ease that concern as teams begin to travel out of their bubbles next week.

“Credit to all of our guys for the most part coming in and staying safe,” Rizzo said. “Obviously you can’t control [everything]. You go pick up something at the grocery store and you get it, you can’t control that. But being as safe as you can away [from the park is key].

“Generally, a lot of people want to play, and that’s what we want to do, and it’s just about staying safe.”

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Cubs' David Ross' plan for weekend off: watch baseball, hang out with his dog

Cubs' David Ross' plan for weekend off: watch baseball, hang out with his dog

The Cubs have a few unforeseen days off from playing after several new Cardinals tested positive for COVID-19 this week. 

With this weekend’s series in St. Louis postponed, the Cubs returned to Chicago, where they’ll remain until heading to Cleveland on Tuesday morning. They have a light workout scheduled for pitchers on Saturday and a simulated game scheduled on Sunday.

What will Cubs manager David Ross be doing otherwise with no games scheduled, though?

“Me personally, it’s just sitting on my couch with my dog and watching baseball and highlights and catching a game,” Ross said Saturday.

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Cleveland is coincidentally in town this weekend, facing the White Sox on the South Side. Ross has the opportunity to get an early look at the Indians ahead of their two-game series on Tuesday and Wednesday. They're playing on Sunday Night Baseball this week in place of the Cubs and Cardinals.

“We’ll definitely have baseball on, try to get a nice meal delivered and just hang out with myself. I’m pretty awesome by myself,” Ross said with a smile.

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Why Cubs-Cards COVID-19 postponement raises heat on MLB, ethics questions

Why Cubs-Cards COVID-19 postponement raises heat on MLB, ethics questions

Millions of Americans have lost jobs or taken pay cuts because of the economic impact of a coronavirus pandemic that in this country shows no signs of going away anytime soon, including countless members of the sports media.

So despite some of the more laughably ignorant opinions from the dimmer corners of social media, exactly nobody in the media wants any sport to shut down again.

That said, what the hell are we doing playing games outside of a bubble during the deadliest pandemic in this country in more than 100 years?

With Friday's news that another Cardinals staff member and two more players tested positive in the past two days for COVID-19, the Cubs-Cards weekend series was postponed as officials scrambled to test and retest Cardinals personnel and try to get their season restarted.

The Cubs, who have not had a player test positive since the intake process began in June, have done everything right, from management to the last player on the roster, to keep their team healthy and playing.

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But the operative, most overlooked, word in all of this has always been “playing.”

And the longer MLB pushes through outbreaks, and measures the season’s viability in counting cases instead of the risk of a catastrophic outcome for even one player, the deeper its ethical dilemma in this viral cesspool.

“Ethically, I have no problem saying we’re going to keep doing this,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said over the weekend about asking players to continue working as the league experienced outbreaks involving the Marlins and Cardinals.

“That said, we have to do it the right way,” Hoyer said, citing the extra lengths the Cubs have taken to keep players and staff safe.

RELATED: Cubs better prepared than MLB to finish COVID-19 season — which is the problem

But even he and other team executives understand the limits of all the best-made plans.

“The infection is throughout the country. That’s the reality,” team president Theo Epstein said. “If you’re traveling around, there’s a real risk. Protocols are not perfect. No set of protocols are perfect. They’re designed to minimize the risk as best you possibly can.”

And while the odds for surviving the virus favor young, athletic people such as baseball players, the nearly 160,000 Americans killed by COVID-19 in the last five months include otherwise healthy toddlers, teens and young adults.

Add that to the best-known characteristic of this virus — its wildfire-like ability to spread within a group — and baseball’s attempt to stage a two-month season involving travel in and out of 30 locales starts to look like Russian roulette.

Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez, 27, contracted COVID-19 last month and as a result developed myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart — that might shut him down for the season even after multiple tests say he’s clear of the virus.

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, a fit, 39-year-old, recent major-league athlete, had a monthlong case so severe he went to the emergency room at one point for treatment before the viral pneumonia and high fever began to improve.

The vast majority of players insist they want to play, including Rodríguez, even after his heart diagnosis. More than 20 others have opted out because of the risk, including All-Stars Buster Posey, David Price and — in the past week — Lorenzo Cain and Yoenis Céspedes.

Obviously the owners want to play, with more than $1 billion in recouped revenues at stake in a season of deep financial losses.

“Everyone that I know outside of baseball who’s become positive, who’s gotten COVID-19 at some point, did everything right — washed their hands, wore masks, socially distanced — and they still became positive,” Epstein said. “They don’t know where. It could have been the grocery store. It could have been walking down the street.

“And as far as I know that’s the case inside baseball, too,” he added. “This is everywhere in the country and unfortunately going the wrong direction nationwide. It’s a fraught environment out there that we’re operating in, and we’re going to need to do our absolute best and also be fortunate.”

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