No shortage of ques­tions

A’s, with all of sports, are deal­ing with sus­pended sea­son

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - SPORTS - By Shayna Ru­bin

The re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion might take a bit to hit: No live sport­ing event will take place within, at least, the next month as the globe inches to­ward mit­i­gat­ing the ex­po­nen­tial spread of

COVID-19, or coro­n­avirus. The A’s shut down their fa­cil­ity in Mesa, Ariz., to fans and me­dia on Friday. That shut­down could ex­tend in­def­i­nitely as the team, along with the rest of baseball, tries to plan ahead.

A harsh re­al­ity that pales in com­par­i­son to the global health im­pli­ca­tions: the 2020 sea­son was sup­posed to be the A’s year. Per­fectly co­a­lesced tal­ent hoisted the team’s big­gest win­dow for suc­cess. Now, we must grap­ple with re­al­i­ties that go be­yond the baseball di­a­mond. Here are five ques­tions as the sport­ing world heads into uncharted wa­ters.

WHEN WILL BASEBALL START AGAIN? HOW MIGHT THE SEA­SON LOOK? >> This all de­pends on how the coro­n­avirus is man­aged. Baseball will start again when it’s deemed safe to gather in large groups again.

Let’s put the pan­demic in con­text: the virus is highly con­ta­gious, spread by hu­man-to-hu­man close con­tact through “res­pi­ra­tory droplets.” Sus­pend­ing sport­ing events with large groups of peo­ple sit­ting arm-to-arm, touch­ing the same rail­ings and seats and shar­ing the same air, is para­mount to help prevent the virus’ ex­po­nen­tial growth.

MLB’s state­ment said that the regular sea­son will be de­layed by two weeks, at least through April 9. Given how quickly this virus spread and wors­ened, there’s rea­son to be­lieve that play­ers won’t be trot­ting out on the di­a­mond in front of fans in four weeks. ESPN’s Jeff Pas­san re­ported that baseball may not be played un­til May.

More ques­tions stem from this re­al­ity. Will the league in­sist on a 162game sea­son de­spite the trun­cated year? There is a chance the sea­son ex­tends into win­ter (which might not be pos­si­ble, weather wise, in most parts of the coun­try). There may be fewer games, the sea­son be squeezed into the months al­lot­ted. Could the ex­tra months-worth of games be squeezed into a se­ries of night­mar­ish dou­ble­head­ers and zero-off-day games? There will be some key di­vi­sional games missed dur­ing the sus­pen­sion that could de­ter­mine key post­sea­son po­si­tion­ing, those games might need to be squeezed into the trun­cated year.

How might that im­pact the post­sea­son and, fur­ther, how might a 2020 World Se­ries Cham­pi­onship team be viewed in his­tory? That all seems triv­ial, at this point. But those ques­tions are in the pike and should be dealt with on a rolling ba­sis as the league deals with this un­prece­dented event.

WILL THE PLAY­ERS BE READY? HOW MIGHT THIS IM­PACT IN­JURED PLAY­ERS? >> Spring train­ing pro­vides play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to find their rhythm at the plate. It af­fords starters the chance to get stretched out for the sea­son. Up un­til this past week of may­hem, the A’s big­gest is­sue at hand was manag­ing a sec­ond base race be­tween two high prospects in Jorge Ma­teo and Franklin Bar­reto, both with­out mi­nor league options.

“In this cir­cum­stance, maybe it will be three weeks, maybe it’ll three months, maybe it’ll be no sea­son.”

— Andy Dolich, long­time A’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent.

It’s likely that the play­ers will con­tinue their typ­i­cal rou­tines in closed-door work­outs out of the con­text of com­pe­ti­tion in or­der to be ready within weeks.

This could pro­vide some cush­ion for A.J. Puk, Stephen Pis­cotty and Daniel Meng­den to re­cover in time for the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, which could al­ter the pro­jected open­ing day ros­ter. Puk was ini­tially a long­shot to start the sea­son in the ro­ta­tion af­ter in­cur­ring a strain on his throw­ing shoul­der. He be­gan throw­ing again this past Tues­day, pro­jected to come out of the bullpen, pos­si­bly, this sea­son. An ex­tra month could al­low him to step back into the ro­ta­tional mix and push Chris Bas­sitt back into the swing­man role.

Pis­cotty has been in a “per­pet­ual cy­cle of hurt” over the last year, sprain­ing his right an­kle and right knee play­ing last year and in­jur­ing his ribs this offseason. It looked like his spot on the ros­ter could open up space for a Seth Brown, or out-of-options re­liever J.B. Wen­delken, or per­haps both Ma­teo and Bar­reto. But this time could pro­vide Pis­cotty the space to re­cover and claim his spot back.

Meng­den, too, is sched­uled to start throw­ing again on Friday. Man­ager Bob Melvin said he could re­turn mid-sea­son, but the al­tered sched­ule could bring him back sooner. HOW MIGHT THIS IM­PACT THE OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION BE­YOND THE PLAY­ERS? >> Let’s not for­get that ev­ery league, ev­ery team has hun­dreds of employees — full- and part-time — that are de­pen­dent on the game’s op­er­a­tion to make a liv­ing. Con­cerns sur­round­ing part­time employees at sta­di­ums, parks and are­nas first arose when the NBA sus­pended its sea­son. Dal­las Mav­er­icks owner Mark Cuban vowed to put in place a sys­tem to pay hourly work­ers. But can, and will, ev­ery team fol­low suit? This is a con­ver­sa­tion to be had once teams can set forth a plan of ac­tion. Right now, the teams, in­clud­ing the A’s, don’t have any in­for­ma­tion to pass down on how they plan to pro­ceed with daily op­er­a­tion.

Fewer games played at the Coli­seum this year could put ven­dors, se­cu­rity guards and ush­ers (to name a few) out of daily work serv­ing fans. But this epi­demic is ex­pected to cause a mas­sive eco­nomic rip­ple ef­fect as busi­ness — in sports and out of it — dwin­dles sig­nif­i­cantly. All jobs in baseball and out of it may be in dan­ger as rev­enues are ex­pected to pivot south.

A month with­out sports takes away an escape for the masses, but the im­pli­ca­tions of the sus­pen­sion should be put in per­spec­tive.

ARE PLAY­ERS AND STAFF WOR­RIED ABOUT TRAVEL? HOW MIGHT THEY MOVE THEIR FAM­I­LIES BACK HOME? >> For now, the A’s are still in Ari­zona. It’s un­clear if the team is ex­pected to dis­perse be­fore March 21, which was the fi­nal day of spring train­ing be­fore the sus­pen­sion came down.

Plans for the play­ers and staff should be­come clear as the or­ga­ni­za­tion comes to grips with the sit­u­a­tion and sets forth a plan. But travel with fam­i­lies and young kids could be a con­cern.

“I’m not wor­ried too much about my­self or some of the guys in the club­house con­tract­ing it,” Liam Hen­driks said last Tues­day. “It’s more of who we can pass it onto, the guys with lower im­mune sys­tems, older, young, or don’t have the im­mune sys­tem built up that. Right now, this doesn’t have a treat­ment plan. This is a straight pre­cau­tion that makes sure noth­ing goes awry. Not just with us but our fam­i­lies.”

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE LAST TIME THE SPORT­ING WORLD SHUT DOWN? >> Sports went on hia­tus last af­ter the Septem­ber 11, 2001, at­tacks. A na­tion reeling sus­pended games as its peo­ple re­cov­ered and re­grouped slowly.

Af­ter Loma Pri­eta shook the Bay Bridge World Se­ries and the Bay Area in 1989, baseball was sus­pended for 10 days. The A’s, back then, went into re­cov­ery over­drive to get the se­ries back in ac­tion.

“We all worked with­out fur­lough in the 10-day pe­riod af­ter the earth­quake,” Andy Dolich, long­time Oak­land A’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, said over the phone on Friday. “We were work­ing 24/7 with as many gov­ern­men­tal peo­ple as we could.”

Re­cov­ery from earth­quakes and other lo­cal­ized in­ci­dents and hor­rific tragedies were, at least, more con­trol­lable. It’s dif­fi­cult to prop­erly as­sess how the sport­ing world and the MLB can plan for a virus pub­lic of­fi­cials have yet to prop­erly set forth a plan for.

“In this cir­cum­stance, maybe it will be three weeks, maybe it’ll three months, maybe it’ll be no sea­son,” Dolich said.

RANDY VAZQUEZ — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

The A’s Frankie Mon­tas, cen­ter, smiles next to team­mates Sean Manaea, left, and Je­sus Luzardo, right, dur­ing the team’s Cac­tus League game against the Giants at Ho­hokam Sta­dium in Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 23.

RANDY VAZQUEZ — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Franklin Bar­reto at­tempts to catch a ball dur­ing spring train­ing at Lew Wolff Train­ing Com­plex in Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 17.

RAY CHAVEZ — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Fans at­tend the wild card watch party of the Amer­i­can League be­tween the A’s and Yankees at the Coli­seum in Oak­land in Oc­to­ber 2018.

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