It’s starting to feel like this will be a theme as we go through the season, journalists notice a player hasn’t been on the field, and inquire as to where he might be. Coaches answer with a vague confirmation that the player was indeed not there. That’s it, end of story.
It is driving some people nuts, and I get it. I’m sure it’s frustrating for the reporters too, its not like they can just wander around the bowels of PNC Park digging for answers and it’s unprofessional to straight guess. Don’t want to push because it might be COVID related and everyone understands keeping it private is entirely up to the player affected.
I’m not saying Derek Shelton is lying or using this incorrectly, but you could absolutely assume someone will. A player is off doing cage work and trying to fix something in his mechanics, so he isn’t seen for a few days, a coach sees no reason to share. See, last year someone would have done exactly what I suggested above, walked around in the lower levels of PNC and seen this going on and asked a pointed question. Today if it doesn’t happen on the field, and you don’t want to talk about it, it didn’t happen.
We’re used to coaches being vague, especially if you’re a hockey fan. I could watch Evgeni Malkin take a skate in the face and Coach Sullivan will know for sure everyone saw it happen, he’ll still come out with “upper body”. Baseball has never been like that; I mean most of the time when a player winds up on the IL it sends fans to Google to research the entire nervous system of an elbow or hamstring.
2020’s parade of weird continues and this is simply one more thing we’ll have to deal with. Right now, the Pirates have three players who are in this situation. Gregory Polanco who has missed the last two days with no explanation beyond a confirmation he isn’t on the field. Ke’Bryan Hayes, nothing. Keone Kela, nothing.
There have been two players who publicly tested positive for COVID, Blake Cederlind who is reportedly feeling better but not cleared to return and Socrates Brito who just returned to the field. They publicly tested positive because they chose to.
On the surface I think, well if that’s what’s going on with the other three, why not just say it? Why would the players not all want to just put it out there? Well, stigma I guess, maybe there is some kind of thought that they weren’t as careful as they should be, as untrue as that probably is, I could see some thinking that. Maybe the team itself wants to keep it internal so as to avoid answering questions about contact tracing that inevitably would lead to the club having about 5 players left?
Who knows, but the point is I think we can expect baseball to continue to be vague about players missing time for the entire season. I think digging too deep into the plan, which is essentially a positive test puts you into a quarantine, just you, means we can expect teams to avoid publicly stating much of anything unless they can feel reasonably sure it has been contained. In other words, they’d rather not say Polanco has tested positive (and no I don’t know either) then have people posting pictures of he and Bell hugging or standing 3 feet away from one another with questions about why Bell too isn’t quarantined.
There will come a point where it becomes more of an issue. For now, it’s just a curiosity, but as we move forward, we’ll see benign things like a day off for Bell in the middle of a 17-game stretch and our minds will immediately go to, what if. I expect scheduled days off for players who are everyday types to be announced in an effort to prevent the speculation.
Add less certainty about who is and isn’t available to the list of things that will make this season a little tougher to follow, but I’d say jumping to conclusions won’t help anyone. We’ll just have to do something we Americans don’t particularly enjoy, be patient.