As Major League Baseball and the players’ union contemplate various ways to create a schedule for whenever the coronavirus pandemic subsides, Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart raised a concern that is surely shared by others around the sport: Could trying to cram in games, and maybe extend the season into late November or December, lead to injuries?
“The player safety piece is a big thing,” Barnhart, a union representative, said Monday on a conference call with reporters.
That involves how many off-days are salvaged in 2020, how many times teams are told to play in any given week and how 2021 could be affected if there is a shorter-than-usual offseason.
“Moving forward, I don’t think you can do things that are going to compromise the integrity of next season, as well. What I mean by that is forcing the issue of getting so many games in that you risk injury, and you risk major injury to players, because you are trying to get in as many games as you can,” Barnhart said.
“This is all assumptions and thoughts from me specifically — it’s not from the union — but you’re going to have to protect us as players,” he continued. “And if you can’t do that, I think that would be where I personally would kind of draw the line.”
That’s also top of mind for Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon, who already has been ruled out for 2020 while recovering from a second reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. He’s brought up the idea of trying to return if the season goes into November, but said that’s been “shut down pretty quickly.”
Speaking more generally about the effect an altered season could have on guys around the majors, Taillon said: “This is a unique situation. We’re going to have to be careful health-wise.”
No one knows when baseball and other suspended sports will resume, because no one knows when life might return to normal in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak. Three-quarters of a million people around the world have become infected and over 35,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University, counts that include more than 140,000 infections and more than 2,500 deaths in the U.S.
Spring training was halted on March 12; opening day was supposed to be last week and won’t happen any earlier than mid-May.