Bob McKinney

My column from last week, celebrating the start of baseball, was outdated by the time it was posted.

I expressed concern that the condensed 60-game season might not be completed, given the spread of COVID-19 and the ripple effect an outbreak with one team could have.

Well, things started rippling rather quickly. We were getting word of it last Monday morning around the time you might have been reading my cheery installment.

Players and staff of the Miami Marlins had tested positive. They had to stay in Philadelphia, where they had been playing when the outbreak occurred.

Their games were pushed off, as well as the Phillies’ games.  

Again with the ripple effect.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred could not have received worse news, of course. Apparently, under the agreement to play ball this season, the decision as to whether teams will play or not play falls on his shoulders.

But according to reports, Miami players, aware of the COVID cases, made their own decision to play on Sunday, July 26.

(I won’t say ripple effect again. Draw your own conclusions).

There was a flurry of commentary from pundits after the news broke, many of whom believed the season was already doomed and some of whom believed it should be, calling on Manfred to shut it all down.

(Anyone who reads this column with any regularity knows I am a great defender of the press, but I have to say there are some sportswriters who have a flair for the dramatic and go to worst-case-scenario with warp speed.)

As of Friday afternoon as I write this, however, the chatter seems to have died down. Manfred says MLB has issued even more stringent protocols for teams to follow, and there are plans in place to have seven-inning double headers to make up for games lost.  

However, as I prepare to hit “send” on this column, I’ve just learned the Cardinals-Brewers game scheduled for tonight has been postponed due to an undisclosed number of Cardinals players having tested positive. The plan – for now – is for them to play one of those double-headers tomorrow to make up for it.

But the party line seems to be this was not unexpected, and the season will continue. Regular season play is already more than ten percent done. 

As for me, well, I’m enjoying the games. Most weeknights, my wife and I are happily watching the Braves while we eat dinner.  We toyed with adding MLB Network to our package, but with most Braves’ games being broadcast on Fox, and with the games ESPN airs, we think we have enough to satisfy.

In other sports news, the NBA and NHL will play under the “bubble” model. All the NBA games will be in the Disney World complex near Orlando, while hockey games will be played in Canada, either Edmonton or Toronto.

This type of controlled environment will theoretically keep players, coaches and staff contained, with limited outside contact. By restricting comings and goings (and having no fans), the hope is to greatly lessen the chances of an outbreak.

The NFL has plans to follow a similar model as the MLB. Preseason games have been canceled, but as of now the teams will play as scheduled in team stadiums with no spectators.

As for college sports, we have just learned the SEC’s plans to a play a 10-game conference-only schedule that will begin Sept. 26, three weeks after the conference teams’ regularly scheduled openers.

This SEC plan is in line with the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences, which announced conference-only schedules earlier in July.  The ACC has announced an 11-game schedule with 10 conference games plus one non-conference game to be played in the state where the ACC team resides.

I am assuming these college games will be played with no fans present, but I can’t seem to find confirmation for that.

Closer to home and, for many, our hearts, Governor Lee and the TSSAA have given the go-ahead for Tennessee secondary school athletics to resume.

Different schools across the state are taking different approaches, with Metro Nashville delaying until at least after Labor Day and others postponing indefinitely. I have found nothing to indicate any changes have been made for Williamson County Schools’ sports schedules.

Since COVID began changing our lives in March, we have come to expect not just the unexpected, but minute-by-minute adjustments. We can expect no less with upcoming games. And there are likely new developments between the time I submitted this piece and it is posted.

But for now, sports fans, we have some reprieve from the drought. I would recommend you drink it in while you can.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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