Fennelly-Virus Ball a Serious Game for the Rays

July 17, 2020

By: Martin Fennelly

Saint Petersburg, Fla. – It is a cautionary tale, maybe for all of sports as it tries to struggle from the ashes, even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages. 

Our Tampa Bay Rays are the poster boys. Smack dab in the middle of our poster state. 

Rays 2019 All-Star outfielder and team co-MVP Austin Meadows has been placed on the injured list as a result of a positive COVID-19 test. This comes just as star pitcher Tyler Glasnow returns from quarantine after testing positive. It’s the wrong kind of revolving door

Are these coming attractions for a Rays season that could easily go off the rails? Meadows could miss the long-awaited season opener next Thursday against Toronto at the empty Tropicana Field. And who’s next after that. It would not take a lot to doom a team in this 60-game sprint of a season.

Meadows says he is feeling good, which is good. Glasnow is saying the same thing. These are big, strong, young men. Their lives are far from threatened. But anyone could get sick. This virus doesn’t know baseball from badminton, or ballplayers from you and me. Basketball star Russell Westbrook tested positive. So did tennis star, Novak Djokovic. It could happen again to the Rays, to any ballclub, from especially as baseball teams hop around the country, from empty stadium to empty stadium. There is no bubble. Leave it to baseball. COVID cases could pop up anywhere.

Mind you, the Rays don’t even have to leave home to get sick. Florida, our Florida, is just about the new epicenter for the virus, record cases every day, hospitalizations and death rates on the upswing, no end in sight, and clearly no answers from the governor. Who is that unmasked man? Ron DeSantis is following the lead of Goya national spokesperson who moonlights as our president.

The importance of sports pales in the face of this crisis. Want to worry? Think about schools reopening and all that comes with that. That’s important. These are just games.

But as games go, baseball is still right around the corner, which is more than I can say for college football. As such, it’s time to crank it up, and the Rays can crank with the best of them. And that goes for Meadows and Glasnow, who joined the Rays in July 2018, coming over in exchange for the overrated Chris Archer, among others, a deal that now passes for grand theft.

How good was the 26-year-old Glasnow to start last season? He started 2019 5-0 with a 1.75 earned-run average and was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for April before arm strain took him down.

How good was the 25-year-old Meadows last season? He led the Rays with 33 homers, 89 RBIS and a .922 OPS. He hit .291. He was also a wonderful kid, high energy, likable, the kind of guy you build a franchise around for years to come.

Two potential cornerstones, now also known as the Rays’ two positive COVID tests.

This entire season is going to be a long swing across a jungle ravine. Anything could already happen in baseball. This just takes it to the next level.

Yes, there are encouraging signs. Meadows texted the Tampa Bay Times that he was fatigued for a few days, “but feeling ready to go.” Glasnow, in his first trip back to the mound after being out, looked great Tuesday at the Trop, shutting down hitters and wowing observers.

Glasnow could be the hidden gem in a formidable starting pitching trio for the Rays, with Charlie Morton and Blake Snell. Meadows could be the heart of a Rays batting order that could help propel the Rays back into the playoffs, and beyond.

Neither Glasnow nor Meadows had a problem with the Rays going public with their positive tests. Bully for them. It might be the best thing for all of us, a stark reminder: This can happen to anyone. And it will if we’re not careful. It can do more than upend a baseball season. This virus has its own schedule, and it’s not 60 games long.

Maybe Austin Meadows will be in the lineup on Opening Day. Maybe Tyler Glasnow goes back to being who he was to start in 2019.

That’s for later.

Stay safe, guys.

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