Postponed. The Story of MLB’s Lack of a Plan That Punishes Non-Offenders

As everyone is by now aware, the three-game series set to start tonight between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals has been postponed. Postponed is an important distinction because it very much denotes the intention to play these games in the future. Most likely these games will be part of double headers under the new 7 inning per game rule that was agreed to after the Miami Marlins found themselves in COVID trouble.

The Cards have played 5 games. That’s it. The list of games they have backlogged that the league and for that matter St. Louis plans on making up grows every single day and once this postponed series has passed, they will have missed 15 total games. Affecting the Tigers, Brewers, Cubs and of course the Pirates.

Everything that happens to a set schedule has ramifications that reach far beyond the offender. Because this 60-game schedule was built with few off days to begin with most of these make up games will be played on the backs of the remaining opportunities these teams are already meeting up. A three-game series could realistically become six.

It’s going to create a murderer’s row for St. Louis as they could be forced to play 8 games in 4 days to make up the time missed. Honestly, it’s hard to feel bad for them, after all they broke protocol and put themselves in this situation. Now when a team that didn’t so carelessly treat their responsibilities starts paying for it, I have issues.

See St. Louis doesn’t just have to destroy their own starting rotation. They won’t be the only club finding a way to get through 56 innings (if none of those games head to extras) with their already taxed from playing every day pitching staff. No, they’ll be dragging another team along with them.

The Pirates arms could actually use this break, they’ve been decimated by injury and pitchers who probably have no business seeing an MLB field were forced into action. The bats however have just started getting their timing back, some more successfully than others, a three-game stop in play could be less than optimal. One day soon they’ll pay for this, for instance the Pirates aren’t even scheduled to go back to St. Louis the rest of the season, do they now get forced to sacrifice one, or two of their off days to accommodate these games being played there?

I’m not saying that players going out to a club or casino and catching a virus is a crime, it isn’t. I’m not even going to say it isn’t just as likely that a player’s wife gets it while grocery shopping and passes it on to her husband. But when your club purposefully flaunted the rules and created this much havoc, why in the world do other teams have to suffer for it?

MLB is silent.

The first thing they’re silent on is why these games can’t go forward. The reason for the 60-man rosters was to create an ability to absorb incidents like this and repopulate the club to keep the games rolling. Most teams used the satellite player groups as a way to play with their new toys and include some prospects that probably had a shot of making the club by September. Are there exceptions, oh yes, some teams are so deep they have several players with actual MLB experience in their off-site location.

On top of building these rosters with the wrong goal in site, many are also still worried about service time causing players who could actually help to continue doing whatever it is they’re doing rather than help the club now.

The next issue is punishment. Maybe punishment is too harsh, how about penalty? If it can be proven that gross negligence led to missing these games, why does everyone else have to pay for it with them? This is probably a slippery slope I’d imagine, take that example I had up there for a player’s wife catching the virus just living life. What happens there? You can hardly penalize a club because your no bubble return to play shockingly resulted in no bubble results.

Let’s pretend that Rob Manfred understands there is nuance here and he can tell the difference between purposeful negligence and accidental contraction. I’m not saying the Pirates deserve 3 wins from this cancelled series, but does St. Louis deserve three losses? Would even something like this be unfair to a team that might lose out on a top pick because a team like the Cardinals has no business coming close to the top pick in the draft.

Hey, what about a loss of their first-round pick? Probably a penalty that would have needed outlined prior to a team having a self-inflicted outbreak. That’s a stiff penalty and my guess, the Marlins and Cards are likely not the only clubs who have done something similar, with different results. Might be hard to get everyone on board with that.

Another caveat here is how Rob Manfred decides to consummate the draft order. If they somehow decide that they can get by without every team playing 60 games, which looks more likely by the day, he’ll be forced to probably field the playoffs by way of win percentage. That same method could not be fairly applied to the draft order. Imagine St. Louis somehow ending up with the top pick after screwing the sport.

A lottery is very likely, and here’s why. Manfred wants non-game programming and this situation is a perfect excuse. Can St. Louis or Miami even be in that lottery? As of right now, yes.

I don’t know where I land on this. It’s really easy to say I want the Cardinals punished, it’s much harder to actually do it. Where does baseball go from here? It seems to me they don’t want to come down too hard on either of those clubs but the unfairness to the rest of the league can’t be ignored. I think we’re seeing the results of that play out every time Houston takes the field. Sure would be nice if Rob Manfred learned from previous failings.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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