There has always been an element of self-policing in clubhouses. The place is a merger of 25 people with often varied priorities. Their professional station in life -- rich, famous, trying to hang on to a job -- couples with their personal position -- married, single partier, 26-year-old millionaire -- to influence how they operate.
And, how they do things away from the park often has an affect on what happens once they are within it. Are they early to work? Are they always on the last bus? Are they part of the family climate? Do their teammates think of them as reliable? Does someone need to say something to them for the greater good?
Personal priorities enter a whole new light in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Major League Baseball’s expansive operations manual has instructions for everything down to how to use the bathroom on flights. Many of these directives are reliant on the individual to accomplish. At the basis of concern is whether someone will unknowingly transport coronavirus into the clubhouse because of poor off-field decision-making. Players are expected to check their temperatures and check-in with a personal health assessment at the same time each day. They are expected to speak up if they don’t feel well -- something completely against a baseball player’s general nature. They are advised not to go out in social settings, but not restricted from doing so.
Which means clubhouse leaders will be dealing with new complications when trying to hold the environment together. When is it time to tell someone they should stay in for the greater good of the team? Can this become a divisive topic? Political and personal views will be part of the equation, just like they are outside of clubhouses.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how that does transpire in clubhouses,” Max Scherzer told NBC Sports Washington. “Because not only do we need the Nationals’ clubhouse to function well, we need all the clubhouses across the league to function well, as well.”
This is a key premise: the possible damage of one lit match. Major League Baseball’s operations manual has hundreds of mitigation efforts in place. From the aforementioned plane activities, to no spitting during games, to spreading out employees in the park. It’s designed to combat human nature. It will lose. The question is to what degree, and how to respond when that is happening.
“I think everybody is going to have to address it in their own way,” Scherzer said. “It’s harder to actually speculate what it’s going to look like, because until we actually get the protocol list and what’s going to happen, and how we see best what’s going to fit, it’s hard to say what that’s actually going to look like.
“How I envision this really going down is it’s going to be ever evolving. There’s going to be new challenges every single day of what it’s going to take to play baseball. You’ve got to keep a smile on your face and just got to continue to meet them and want to keep tackling them and find ways to [manage] different problems that are going to be created.
“If we try to just hold our head and go crazy over one issue, and let that issue tear us apart...I have no idea what that issue is going to be. There’s probably going to be things we haven’t really thought about as we get going into the season. But we’ve got to be ready to be able to meet it and jump through every single hoop that we need to make sure we run the league as safely as possible.”
The first hoop every day starts in a player’s house. It ends with what they decide to do after the game. Each choice is a chance for risk or mitigation. It’s individual but also group influencing, the possible start of something problematic or the maintaining of another clean day. Major League Baseball is trying to put on 900 regular-season games in the middle of a pandemic. Whether that happens is largely going to depend on singular, and personal, choices by players.
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