MLB COVID-19 situations, violations tangential to White Sox … for now

The White Sox open a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers tonight, and PreviewBot Patrick will beep-boop the breakdown on the AL Central rivals this afternoon.

After those three games, it’s not exactly clear what the league has in store for the White Sox the rest of the week. Whatever results will count as the Sox’s first direct conflict with the reason for the shortened season.

You only have to look at the White Sox’s injured list to see that they’ve been as affected as any other team from the complications of rushing through the season’s restart, but their regular season has thus far avoided the major COVID-19 interruptions that have taken large bites out of other schedules.

That could change come Friday, because the Cardinals will have had their last four series canceled due to a outbreak that has resulted in 17 positive tests. Ten of them are players, with the most recent new case arising Sunday. One player and one member of the staff had to visit the emergency room to get IVs, and were sent home afterward. St. Louis’ leaders really have no choice to respect the threat, and that’s what they’re doing, whether it’s team president John Mozeliak…

“In terms of when we’re going to get back on the field and get back to baseball, I just don’t know,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations. “I’m not going to guess. Allow a few days to come and go and then we’ll reassess. Not having experience on how to truly isolate it and prevent it from spreading we’re learning as we go. I wish I had better answers. I wish I had something firm. But I don’t at this time.”

… or manager Mike Shildt:

“There are people that have symptoms, and have had a few visits to the ER for some IVs and a little more clarity,” Shildt told the radio station. “Nobody has had to stay. But there are people dealing with — I mean, this is real. And people are experiencing a lot of the symptoms that we hear about, that are associated with this. A variety of them. Most of them are experiencing multiple ones. Seems like they rotate with them. And again, nobody is in close to any critical shape, but people are having to deal with some things that aren’t comfortable at all. And hopefully we can get that behind them. They’re getting great care.”

It’s probably too much to use the phrase “there’s no end in sight” regarding the Cardinals’ situation, but it’s had a way of bleeding over the edges of its previous schedule alterations, so I wouldn’t count on it concluding by the weekend.

Should they manage to return in time for the White Sox series, the Sox will have played nearly 20 games, while the Cardinals will only have five to their record. If nothing else, the imbalance in records will illustrate the shaky nature of 2020’s competitive integrity. If nothing else, at least the White Sox get to stay in Chicago either way.

* * * * * * * * *

It happened a day too late to matter to the White Sox, but the Cleveland Indians sent Zach Plesac back to Ohio by car ahead of the team after he went out on the town following his victory over the Sox on Saturday.

Major League Baseball’s updated protocols state that players must notify their club’s compliance officer if they intend to leave the team hotel on the road. And Plesac can’t really say he was ignorant of new rules since he seemed to grasp the threat during training camp. A quote from July 3:

“Definitely any time you can maintain social distancing is going to be what we have to focus on,” Plesac said on July 3. “There are common sense situations, where you see things are packed, or going out to the bars and drinking — doing stuff like that isn’t stuff that’s really important to us right now and shouldn’t be important to us right now.

“We’re given this privilege to be able to come back and play and given this short window to even play. It’s a good time now just to really buckle down and focus on what’s important and work toward something greater at the end of the season and, for these couple months, lock in and focus on what we have set for us at the end of the year.”

Cleveland is considering disciplinary options, which could include a literal option of being sent to the team’s alternate training site. The White Sox wouldn’t mind if the Indians threw the book at him. At least through, say, Sept. 24.

* * * * * * * * *

Teams need to self-police, because they’re going to catch wind of such violations and can proactively address them before anybody else. That doesn’t mean the league can sit on its hands. As Sunday’s Astros-A’s game shows, some breaches of protocol will erupt out in the open, giving MLB an opportunity to remind all teams of the stakes.

During the game in Oakland, Ramon Laureano charged the Astros’ dugout after getting hit for the second time in the game, and the third time in the series.

It’s worth distinguishing the dugout from the mound, which Laureano did not charge. He needed an umpire escort to first base, and he explained the finer points of pitching to the guy who hit him along the way, but cooler heads prevailed for the first 90 feet.

Then Laureano ran the wrong way, which is on him. But he charged Houston’s dugout because Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron reportedly belched out fighting words before ducking behind a phalanx of teammates.

Laureano should and will get suspended, but Cintron should get the book thrown at him. Brawls can’t happen, but more than that, coaches can’t be the reason they explode. Staffers should know better than players when it comes to protocol, and specifically, any incumbents in Houston’s organization should be treated as though they already have two strikes on their record. Cintron’s been part of the Astros coaching staff since 2017, and the hitting coach since 2019. This isn’t his first incident with a member of another team’s dugout.

As Joe Kelly’s disproportionate eight-game suspension shows, the league is going to protect Astros players, partially due to the pandemic, but more because it just can’t have one team subjected to country justice an entire season. That’s understandable, even if it’s unsatisfying.

That said, the Astros can’t use such protective custody to their advantage by provoking another team and then hiding. Houston’s bullpen is ravaged by injuries, so maybe the HBPs of Laureano were just lumps dealt by underqualified pitchers. Astros players are going to get some benefit of the doubt just by the fact that games are unpredictable. Their coaches, and anybody else uninvolved with on-field proceedings, should get no quarter. Suspending Cintron for the rest of the month almost sounds light.

(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Greg Nix

Cintron should be gone for the season. Completely unacceptable. The fact that he’s even still on the coaching staff is a failure of Manfred’s original Astros punishments.

lil jimmy

Well said. He is supposed to be one of the people in charge.

John SF

It couldn’t be more obvious, even before this weekend, that he is part of their toxic Astros culture.

(And if you don’t believe the Astros have a toxic culture, remember that their owner has been credibly accused of running the Astros as a blatantly racist team, he made it a safe haven for domestic violence guys, and those are both in addition to the sign stealing scandal and pine tar.)

I wonder if Keuchal will get asked about any of his former coaches or teammates anytime soon?


Unsure how, but I could imagine teams gaming the cancellations system…..


I know it’s an extremely inhumane take on the Cardinals, but at what point do they have to just utilize the taxi squad and actually play? Isn’t that what all those extra “meat sacks” are for? (I’m asking for a friend, by the way)