Thursday night kicked-off an abbreviated MLB season after months of negotiations, both health related and collectively bargained. A few things we learned about this year’s season, both on-and-off the field.
The show will go on...until it doesn’t
The Nationals hosted the Yankees in the season opener, with a grand total of zero fans, and ended up playing only six innings due to a deluge of rain. Despite COVID-19, baseball is back, and MLB is raring to go...until Mother Nature puts a damper on everything.
Last night’s season opener is basically a microcosm of the entire season. A shortened game, no fans, and perhaps most importantly, the first evidence we have that MLB and the players are going to be pretty squishy about how they interpret ‘close contact’ and what it means as far as safely quarantining players.
From a safety standpoint, the league and players are likely going to do whatever suits them
Safety measures were a major part of the negotiations to salvage the 2020 season, but based on the evidence we’ve seen already, it would appear that MLB will take the side of ‘hoping for the best’ over ‘precautionary prudence’.
Juan Soto’s positive COVID test came back hours before he was slated to start in the Nationals’ opening game, yet, the rest of the Nationals team took the field despite Soto clearly being among the players in the clubhouse, and having played in games as recently as Tuesday.
Per MLB, which took its definitions from the CDC, any player who comes into “close contact” with someone who has tested positive has to pass an expedited diagnostic test and be tested daily for an entire week. We’ll see what the health-related ramifications are from the Soto test, hopefully it’s nothing, but it just shows the risk the players are assuming suiting up in relatively close quarters of a clubhouse.
Crowds make a difference
Amidst empty stadiums, the league decided to pump in crowd noise as part of all broadcasts. While it’s a creative way to generate some literal buzz in the ballpark, the sound comes off as ambient white noise, with a consistency that makes it almost pointless. I’m no sound technician, but wouldn’t it be great if they could match the sounds to what’s happening on the field? It’ll never be a substitute for the real thing, but as currently taking place, it left a lot to be desired.
Yankees’ sluggers best the best pitcher in the NL
The Yankees offense came out looking strong in the abbreviated opener against Max Scherzer, particularly their sluggers. A slimmed-down Giancarlo Stanton smashed a Scherzer fastball to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead, and ended the night 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Aaron Judge looked good as well, going 2-for-3, and driving in a run.
The Nationals are no pushovers, but on the other side of the ball, Gerrit Cole looked good, allowing only one run off a blasted fastball by Adam Eaton.
The Dodgers are good, the Giants are...not
This one was to be expected as this was a pretty big mismatch on paper, but we really did get to see how truly bad San Francisco’s roster is this season.
With Clayton Kershaw a late scratch, Los Angeles put 22-year-old Dustin May on the hill. May had totaled all of 34 ⅔ innings last year, and was not expected to play last night, but he had little trouble in his 4+ innings of work.
Other than catcher Austin Barnes, every starter had at least one hit for LA. Enrique Hernandez was the offensive star of the show, going 4-for-5, and driving in five runs. Mookie Betts, who just this week minted a long-term deal with the Dodgers went 1-for-5. This looks like a team that can have a different offensive player of the game on a daily basis.
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano