Compared to COVID-19’s treatment of other teams, the virus has been kind to the Cubs so far.
Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy bore the brunt of it, fighting a harrowing battle against COVID-19 for a month. Three staff members were delayed in joining the team due to positive COVID-19 tests before or during intake screening.
But all of the club’s tests from Tuesday came back negative, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced Friday -- after the Cubs pushed back workouts due to testing delays for the second time this week. No Cubs players have tested positive since this undertaking began. They’re believed to be the only National League team that can say that.
“We can’t allow the good results thus far to create the illusion for us that we’re in control," Epstein said. “Because we’re not. The virus is the only thing in control right now. We’re taking every safeguard that we possibly can, and I’m proud of the way the players have been responding. But we can’t let our guard down and we can’t fool ourselves into thinking we can control all the variables here.”
COVID-19 has wielded that control to warp baseball’s – and the world’s -- definition of lucky.
The Cubs have been “lucky,” but by no means have they been untouched by the pandemic. Hottovy’s story made such an impression on the club because of pain it caused him and his family, as he quarantined away from his young children and suffered severe symptoms.
Then there are the Cubs staff members who remain separated from the team due to the results of their COVID-19 tests. The Cubs have not released the names of those three individuals. Two coaches tested positive prior to intake screening and one front office member tested positive during intake screening, according to Epstein.
“Everyone is doing well, all things considered,” Epstein said, “and hopefully progressing to a place where they can test negative and return, but we’re not quite at that point yet.”
But at least the Cubs aren’t the Phillies -- who had 12 members of their organization test positive in the last two weeks of June alone – right?
“We’re going to face our challenges with (positive tests) at some point,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this week. “I think that’s inevitable."
Delays in results have been the other prominent area of concern across the league, the Cubs included.
“There’s a bit of a tradeoff sometimes between timing and accuracy,” Epstein said. “And we prefer accuracy. And that’s what today’s tradeoff was about, was waiting for just a couple results that weren’t clear yet to make sure that they were re-tested, and we could get total clarity.
“So, all in all I think we’re getting towards a really good place with the testing program.”
Delays in testing sparked complaints across MLB last weekend, as one of baseball’s vital weapons against the virus was temporarily taken out of the equation.
Cubs manager David Ross and third baseman Kris Bryant voiced their concerns – in the transition from intake testing to regular Summer Camp testing Bryant and others went four days without being tested.
According to Epstein, the league has addressed the issue and put a backup plan in place for shipping.
“Major League Baseball had not previously tested for viruses like this before,” Epstein said. “So, to go form zero tests to 17,000 a week, I think it would have been naive to expect no learning curve whatsoever.”
The Cubs’ workout schedule was affected Tuesday and Friday. But they played evening intrasquad scrimmages both days, after receiving the late results.
At least they’re not the A’s -- who held their first position full-squad workout late Monday due to testing delays – right?
The Cubs are preaching patience. And vigilance.
One week into the 2020 baseball experiment, so far so good.
“We’ve told the players this,” Epstein said, “we’re very proud of the way they’ve conducted themselves, how seriously they’ve taken the protocols, that they understand that their actions and their decisions, their behavior here and away from the ballpark have consequences. Not just for themselves, not just for their families, but for their teammates and their teammates families, the organization, society as a whole. And they’re taking this very seriously.”
The rest is up to the virus.