Baseball will certainly look different when it returns. That’s what Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom hammered home during Wednesday evening’s Zoom call.
The Red Sox will take every precaution necessary as they — and the country — attempt to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
There will be testing of players and staff upon arrival, per the protocols established by Major League Baseball.
And if a player or staff member tests positive?
“If they test positive, they’ll have to test negative more than once and be asymptomatic before they return, in addition to getting medical sign-off,” said Bloom.
The player or staff member also must go through at least a 14-day quarantine period.
“It’s pretty robust,” said Bloom. “We’re still digesting exactly the steps that would need to take place in these situations. We need to be ready.
“But the good news is that the protocols are really well set up to both care for an individual who tests positive and also make sure that we give ourselves every chance for it not to turn into a widespread outbreak.”
MLB won’t implement a “bubble” like the NBA players will have in Orlando. Players will live in their own homes, and the Red Sox brass hasn’t mandated any type of restrictions on where players can be away from the park. However, they are preaching diligence.
“There’s a big cultural and educational component to this,” Bloom said. “We need to make sure everybody understands why these protocols are in place, the importance of being responsible off the field.
“I also think everybody is in a bit of a different situation with what they’re navigating at home. We’re going to educate them on the things they can do to be responsible.”
A bad aftertaste?
The dispute between the Players Association and MLB owners that played out publicly these last couple of months left a lot of fans displeased. Critics called both sides tone-deaf, arguing over dollars in the midst of a pandemic instead of working in unison to bring the sport back.
“Any time you have very public, tense negotiations, I certainly can understand why that would turn people off,” said Kennedy. “I hope that people that have been turned off or frustrated, we can move beyond these discussions.
“I do think that once we get back on the field, the attention will turn to the game on the field, and that will be a very, very positive thing.”
Kennedy added that the organization has very close relationships with its players and the players understand that the organization is about making sure they are supported. Bloom doesn’t worry that the players will carry animosity into the season.
“Regardless of what the past few months and the past number of weeks have [been], the excitement to get out there and play baseball again, I think, dominated all of that,” Bloom said. “You’re talking about people that this is what they love to do.”
Hopping on a flight during a pandemic can be risky, particularly as case numbers are rising in certain areas of the country. That holds true for Sox players, who will be traveling from their offseason homes — some international — to Boston.
“It is challenging,” Bloom said. “We just have to make sure we’re working with them to make sure they’re traveling as safe as possible. As far as international travel, that does add another level of complexity. Major League Baseball has been working pretty hard to help teams navigate that. As of now [we don’t think] there will be issues bringing players back who have been in other countries.”
The Sox have a depleted starting rotation with the injury to Chris Sale and the trade of David Price to the Dodgers. Currently, there are only three locks as starters: Eduardo Rodriguez, Nate Eovaldi, and Martin Perez. Yet anything can happen in a shortened season, and the Sox may be able to lean on their bullpen more. Bloom, though, was cautious about believing a 60-game season was an advantage.
“This is one of those things where I think you could very easily, for any club, argue either side of that question,” Bloom said. “I think the game is humbling enough that we should be careful to think we can know too much. There are going to be some other things that are different. Given that we haven’t done this before — especially under these circumstances — I don’t think we really know.”
There’s a chance the Sox could play some exhibition games, but Bloom wasn’t sure of that. “It’s a possibility,” he said. “But it’s something we have to discuss further. Obviously we don’t have a schedule yet, either.”
Teams will be allowed to make up their rosters from a pool of 60 players instead of 40. The Sox have until Sunday afternoon to decide who makes that cut. They will use McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket as the auxiliary location for those players who aren’t on the 40-man.
“There are still some things we need to nail down there, but that’s the plan that we’re working on,” Bloom said.