White Sox

Two baseball players in Japan test positive for coronavirus as Opening Day nears

Two baseball players in Japan test positive for coronavirus as Opening Day nears

One day.

That’s all it took for Nippon Professional Baseball, the top pro league in Japan, to experience its first positive tests for COVID-19.

Two players, including a reigning league MVP, tested positive just one day after the league started playing exhibition games. What happens next is unknown. Opening Day in Japan is set for June 19, just 16 days from now.

Major League Baseball doesn’t have a scheduled Opening Day at the moment, the league and players’ union trying to figure out how players will be paid in a shortened season team owners claim will have disastrous economic consequences.

But as the fiscal fight grabs headlines, the biggest question remains how a season can be safely played in the middle of a pandemic. While it sounds like money still has a greater chance to derail a 2020 season than the coronavirus does — still, though, national reporters seem sure there will be baseball played this year — the players, saving their comments on the matter until they could comment on the economic proposal, as well, said the two sides were apart on health and safety, too.

To MLB’s credit, the league is taking that issue seriously, sending 60-something pages’ worth of health-and-safety proposals to the players that included everything from testing to bans on in-game spitting and on-site showers.

But for as many details as there were, there were questions left unanswered. And now that positive tests have instantly come to pro baseball in Japan, those questions demand answers.

RELATED: Why reported MLB coronavirus testing plan raises some big red flags

MLB pitched a testing strategy that included players being tested multiple times a week, but not daily. Plus, the kinds of tests used for asymptomatic players would not deliver results for 24 hours.

Those two details combined seem to make for a situation in which an asymptomatic player could arrive at the ballpark, get tested, play a game and therefore interact with not only players from his own team but players from the opposing team, get on an airplane, travel to another city and arrive at another ballpark before knowing he tested positive, exposing many to the virus both at and away from the ballpark.

Even more worrisome was the league’s desire not to have a positive test result shut down a team, multiple teams or the league as a whole while recommended quarantining was practiced. Major League Baseball would not require teammates of a player who tests positive to quarantine, flaunting the contact-tracing guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After several players balked at the idea of being confined to hotel rooms and ballparks when a plan for a quarantined season in Arizona was being discussed, the league’s official health-and-safety proposals didn’t mandate that players had to stay in their hotel rooms on the road — even while it did mandate such restrictions on movement for other members of the traveling party — increasing the risk of the virus coming into the league from an outside source.

And let's remember that there are vastly more people than just the players that will be needed to stage a season. The more people involved, the higher the risk of spreading the virus within the game.

So while bans on Gatorade coolers and mound visits are all well and good, even viewed by some players as excessive, the most effective measures for preventing the spread of the virus are perhaps not stringent enough.

It remains to be seen what will happen in Japan, how that league handles these positive tests and whether more positive tests pop up in the wake of these first two. But the coronavirus will not stop at the ballpark gate. And Major League Baseball needs to make sure it’s doing everything it can as best it can to keep its players safe, or risk a season — however long — in which players could get sick and get others sick, too.


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

2020 MLB season: White Sox opponents, schedule, format and odds

2020 MLB season: White Sox opponents, schedule, format and odds

Major League Baseball announced the White Sox 2020 schedule Monday. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming season.

When does the Major League Baseball season begin?

After a three-month layoff due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, teams are currently in the middle of a second round of spring training, branded “Summer Camp,” that will last roughly three weeks. Opening Day is set for July 23, when Major League Baseball will showcase games pitting the New York Yankees against the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Francisco Giants. The White Sox will open their season a day later, on July 24, with the start of a three-game series against the division-rival Minnesota Twins.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

How many games will be played this season?

Every team is scheduled to play 60 regular-season games over 66 days, with games being played at teams’ home ballparks. At the conclusion of the regular season on Sept. 27, the playoffs will begin and are scheduled to take place during the month of October, as usual. Though there was talk of an expanded playoff field including as many as 16 teams, more than half the league, the lack of an agreement between the league and the players’ union means the playoff field will be the same as usual: five teams from each league.

Which teams will the White Sox play this season?

Major League Baseball is using a geographic schedule this season, with the intent of minimizing travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The White Sox will play 10 games each against their AL Central rivals: the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. They will play six games against the Crosstown-rival Cubs, and the remaining 14 games will be played against the other four teams from the NL Central: the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates.

RELATED: White Sox 2020 schedule: 5 key series during 60-game race for AL Central crown

2020 White Sox schedule

The White Sox open the season against the Twins on July 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field. They close the season with three games against the Crosstown-rival Cubs on the South Side. See the entire White Sox schedule here.

Updated odds to win the 2020 World Series

The Yankees are the favorite to win the World Series, at 3:1 odds. The White Sox have 40:1 odds. Seventeen teams have better odds.


White Sox schedule release: Slow start not an option with brutal first week

USA Today

White Sox schedule release: Slow start not an option with brutal first week

When the White Sox officially open their long-awaited "competitive window" on July 24 against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field, Opening Day will serve as Opening Day only in the sense that it is the first game of the season. The reality is, in a 60-game season, the game means a whole lot more.

“This is the way I’m approaching it,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Monday. “We got a 60-game schedule. I’m going to assume we already played 102 games and were in first place and we’re trying to hold onto that slot.”

It makes sense. All 30 MLB teams are being given the chance to be in first place in late July with 60 games to go. Who can take advantage the fastest?

The White Sox are certainly being given one heck of an opportunity – or challenge, depending on how you look at it. They will open the abbreviated season at home with a three-game series against the Twins before going on the road for three in Cleveland.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

If you were to picture a normal year in which the White Sox, Twins and Indians were in a three-way tie for first place on July 24 with those six games next up on the schedule, the hype and anxiety would be real. A bad week could cost the White Sox its season.

So consider this a 100-meter dash in which a stumble out of the blocks could end the race early.

RELATED: Full 2020 White Sox schedule

“We’re going to try to proceed that way, obviously without putting anyone in harms way, but it is important for a club to get off to a good start because obviously because the schedule is waning. It’s short,” Renteria said. “So I’m going to approach it that way and put us in a position where we are creative, try to have a good eye on what everyone is doing, and see if we can kind of maintain ourselves throughout the whole schedule.”

If you’re one who claims managers aren’t important, try being a manager in 2020. Typically, a first-place team in late July would have the benefit of having an established lineup, reliable starters and a bullpen the manager knows how to navigate. This year, the White Sox – and every other team – will be starting cold, perhaps even risking injury after just three weeks to ramp up, all while not knowing who might test positive for COVID-19 on any given day.

And simply from a pure baseball standpoint, will a rookie like Luis Robert go though understandable early-season struggles against Major League pitching or will he benefit from bypassing the April/May weather in Chicago and start hot?

"I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to start the season pretty hot and display all my talent,” Robert said Monday. “I will have to adjust as much as I can if I have any trouble."

There are a lot of unknowns, except for the fact that the White Sox will be thrust into a pennant race on Day 1 with six crucial games against the two teams they figure to be competing against in the A.L. Central. Zooming out a bit, their next 10 games include three against the Royals, four against the Brewers and three more against the Indians, meaning 13 of their first 16 games are against realistic contenders.

In other words, a slow start isn’t an option.

From there, the White Sox do have a couple favorable stretches in their schedule, including a 17-day period at home after their Aug. 13 game in Iowa against the Cardinals. But no one will want to be playing catch-up that quickly. Even just a .500 record through the first two weeks could set the White Sox up for a run, but like every other team, they must avoid an early losing streak, especially since they open against the Twins and Indians.

Of course, the goal is to make the final week really count. The White Sox end the season with four in Cleveland before a three-game series at home against the Cubs. If those games matter, well, perhaps this wonky, nightmarish 2020 season can be considered a success after all.