Back when the Cubs and Cardinals were still scheduled to square up tonight (sigh), Chicago was going to have a significant competitive advantage, to the extent you could focus on such things. They would get to start Jon Lester on regular rest in front of a lineup that has had regular at-bats, a defense that has had regular reps in the field, and a bullpen that, while struggling, had given manager David Ross some time to figure things out. They also have zero players sitting out with positive cases of COVID-19.
The Cardinals, by contrast, were going to be forced to start Daniel Ponce De Leon over their ace, Jack Flaherty, because Flaherty hadn’t pitched since Opening Day (a 14-day layoff), while the rest of the team was coming in cold from quarantine since July 29th. All the while, seven players – including some key members of the roster and several other members of the staff – were to be sidelined until they are clear of symptoms and test negative the requisite number of times. And on top of all that, the Cardinals still have a significant number of games to make up in a very short period of time, further stressing the players both physically and mentally.
Needless to say, staying negative for COVID-19 is not just an obvious health goal, but it has a significant impact on the season, especially when there are just 60 total games.
But how do you maximize your chances, as a team, of staying negative for COVID-19? As we know, a virus this contagious is going to spread, even under the most thoughtful adherence to safety protocols. Life just happens. Of course, there are ways to dramatically reduce the risks, including the obvious stuff like wearing a mask, socially distancing, and washing your hands. But for baseball players, there’s one other big life change that can help ward off disease: staying at “home” whenever you’re on the road.
And according to Patrick Mooney and Marc Craig at The Athletic, the Cubs (and Yankees) have aggressively been diverting resources to this effort. It’s your must-read of the day:
How the Cubs and Yankees are turning the team hotel into the new clubhouse, trying to create a bubble for their players and find the competitive advantage in pandemic baseball.
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) August 7, 2020
The regulars already strongly discourage players from leaving their hotels on the road, but the stick can only work so much. In some circumstances, the carrot is a better motivator. The Yankees, for example, “have turned their road hotels into an extension of their lavish home clubhouse, providing amenities such as a game room, complete with a ping pong table, electronic dartboards and the arcade classic Galaga.”
And according to The Athletic, the Cubs have “shopped for hotels with outdoor space that could be turned into an open-air lounge for the duration of their stays. Instead of sitting in their rooms, players and staffers could eat, hang out and make phone calls in those patio areas. In addition to meal money, the team is supplying three boxed meals a day on the road.” Using anonymous quotes from players on other big league teams, The Athletic paints a picture of distinction between the Cubs and Yankees and the rest of the league.
There’s a lot more to it than that – and, as we’ve seen just today, external positive tests can still derail the Cubs’ best efforts – but it’s a great way to lead by example, while also keeping your players safe and maximizing a competitive advantage. Good on the Cubs.
As much as I hate to praise the Yankees or the Cubs (much less both), this is an example of working WITH people, not against them. Form an alliance against the virus. Smart moves. https://t.co/rVwgMs2xmL
— Zachary Binney (@zbinney_NFLinj) August 7, 2020