Anybody who looks at Monday’s news of the Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak and thinks the league and players aren’t doing enough to keep each other safe during a pandemic might want to shut up around Cubs manager David Ross.
“If I had to say one thing that’s bothered me about [Monday], it’s the comments from folks that aren’t in this environment and how hard this is,” said the manager of the league’s only team that hasn’t had a player test positive for COVID-19 since teams reconvened for summer training camp.
“It’s extremely difficult. To tell everybody to not touch and not celebrate and stay six feet apart and all the things that we’re trying to do the best that we can [within] our emotions of our game that everybody wants to see ...
“It’s just been a little frustrating. This is difficult. We’re all trying to do our best. Nobody’s taking anything for granted. We’re trying to compete at the highest level, and we’re doing something that a lot of people haven’t been able to do.”
The Cubs traveled to Cincinnati Monday morning for their first road trip of the 60-game season, a rare day-of-game travel schedule meant to reduce the length of their hotel stay and generally limit exposure risk.
And one day after Ross reiterated that “every day is mentally taxing” during this process, their travel morning coincided with news that at least 11 players and two coaches with the Marlins had tested positive, that games in two cities were consequently being canceled and that Major League Baseball was pressing on, for now.
“I think everybody’s aware of what’s going on,” Ross said. “It just re-heightens your awareness and continues to create a focus on going through the protocols.”
Cubs outfielder Ian Happ, who’s also the team’s union rep, said every rep met with his own team and also talked with the union to stay abreast of news related to the outbreak — but with few specifics from the league to share so far.
He said he expects more communication between opponents ahead of series on health/testing specifics — as the Cubs and Reds did before Monday’s series opener.
He also said the team discussed taking even greater safety steps for games in the wake of Monday's news, including wearing masks on the bases and in the field.
Case in point: Kris Bryant immediately put on a mask when he reached first after being hit by a pitch leading off the game.
“I think the most important part of these protocols that isn’t being talked about enough is the wearing a mask, the distancing, treating every single person that you come into contact with — even your teammates that you know are negative — like they’re positive,” Happ said. “That’s the best way to make sure there isn’t a spread, that there isn’t any kind of situation where a team has five or 10 positives.”
That’s how serious players seem to be taking this already stressful undertaking — and what gets Ross chapped when somebody tries to suggest the Cubs or anyone else in the game should be doing more.
“Everybody’s been stressed since the first second that we stepped into camp,” Happ said. “That’s the name of the game this year, dealing with the stress, managing it.
“It’s not an easy situation for anybody, from the players down to every single staff member. it’s a difficult situation, but everyone’s dealing with it really well. I think that’s going to be part of the challenge this year.”
Whether the baseball “year” lasts three more days or the full remaining three months.
Monday’s news brought that point home as much as any day of the season so far.
“I’ve talked about how hard this is on the players and the things they’re being asked to do and what a mental grind this is,” Ross said. “And our guys have done a great job, and I’m super thankful for our group and proud of them.
“It’s going to be a year of adjustments and overcoming a little bit of adversity, and we’re all trying to do our best and play baseball.”