What I’m Hearing: Bob Nightengale on how the rest of the season will look for the Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals believed all winter, and reinforced this spring, they had the talent and character to win the World Series this year.
Now, they have no idea when they will play another game.
The Cardinals will have gone at least 12 days without playing a game after their three-game series beginning Friday night against the Chicago Cubs was officially postponed with two more players and a staff member testing positive for COVID-19.
The outbreak, believed to start with a person who was employed by a Cardinals player, has left nine players and seven staff members infected with the virus, leaving their team in disarray.
“I don’t know what our future looks like at this point,’’ Cardinals president John Mozeliak said. “For all of the optimism we had a couple days ago, it’s frustrating for everyone involved. …
“I haven’t slept in days.’’
They have played only five games this season, and not a single inning since July 29, and are now faced with the daunting task of playing 55 games in 49 days just to complete their 2020 season.
It will be the first time in 45 years, according to ESPN STATS, that a team will have played that many games in such a short span since the Minnesota Twins in 1975, who went 20-35 in that stretch.
Is it possible for the Cardinals to still play a 60-game season?
“Mathematically,’’ Mozeliak said, “it would be challenging.’’
Forget trying to realistically compete for another World Series title.
How about just praying they can get back on the field to even play games?
“‘Nobody said it was going to be fair,’’ Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said this week. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. No one’s going to feel sorry for us. …
“Fair is relative. The fact of the matter is that a lot of what’s going on isn’t fair in our game, in our society. It’s definitely not what we’re used to.’’
It’s like having three All-Star breaks at once while everyone else has been playing.
The Cardinals already went through spring training and summer camp, and with this layoff, they might have to call it a fall sleepover.
The Cardinals are facing at least six doubleheaders on the schedule while missing at least four of their pitchers.
Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson might be 84 years old, but the boys could sure use you, with 64-year-old shortstop Ozzie Smith already telling the Cardinals that he has a few innings left in him.
Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
This a team that just lost their future Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina, All-Star shortstop Paul DeJong, starting pitcher Carlos Martinez, three relievers, their backup shortstop and their top right-handed pinch-hitter.
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The Cardinals, after being marooned in Milwaukee for a week when they couldn’t leave their hotel rooms, believed they were in the clear when they had two consecutive days of negative tests. They returned home to St. Louis, staged workouts Wednesday and Thursday at Busch Stadium, and were pumped up to play the Cubs on Friday night, only to learn the virus never went away.
The Cardinals returned to self-isolation, with the entire team quarantined, but who knows who else might test positive this weekend.
“We’re trying to do the very best to control something we can’t see,’’ Mozeliak said. “”It’s an invisible virus. I think the one thing we are all understanding is that we don’t know much about it. …
“We don’t know where its headed. There’s so much more uncertainty around this. You’re asking what tomorrow looks like. We don’t know. Nobody does.’’
The Cardinals had just been informed of the makeup dates for their three doubleheaders with the Milwaukee Brewers (Sept. 14, 16 and 25) and two with the Detroit Tigers (Aug. 13 and Sept. 10) this week with now three more now being placed on the calendar.
So, they have eight scheduled doubleheaders in the next seven weeks after playing only five games in the first 19 days of this season.
“The more we play baseball,’’ Shildt says, “the better. That’s what we’re here for.
“Fact of the matter is, guys need to get on the field and play.’’
The cold reality is that they have no choice, and when they do finally play, the schedule won’t even be close to being equitable in their quest to land a playoff berth.
“I do think that is a concern,’’ Cubs GM Jed Hoyer recently said. “You sort of assume we don’t play the same schedule, but roughly the same schedule and this is a competitive business. We’re all looking to make the playoffs and looking to win a championship, and you want people to be competing in the same way.’’
It just can’t happen.
Not this year.
Not even close.
The Cardinals will consider it a victory just to be able to step on the field again.
“Emotionally,’’ Mozeliak said, “we’re pulling on a lot of different cords here. Obviously, a lot of frustration, a lot of disappointment.
“We would really like to get back to playing baseball.’’
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale.