July 30, 2020
By: Martin Fennelly
TAMPA, Fla. – Leave it to the Marlins to maybe screw the Rays again.
The Rays are off to a good start in this strange print of a post-virus baseball season, even though the Coronavirus is far from post, especially in Florida. Despite a loss to the Braves on Wednesday – Tampa Bay’s first road game – things were looking good. Stretch taking four out of six across this sprint and it translates to 40 wins in 60 games, which means the playoffs, easily,
But along came the Rays’ brethren to the south and now we don’t know if there is even going to be a rest of this season.
The Marlins could quite possibly have sunk the whole thing when a slew of Miami players tested positive for the coronavirus before, during, and after the Marlins’ weekend series against the Phillies in Philadelphia. I think the current count is 17. The Marlins are in isolation. All of professional sports might be endangered.
Miami’s season is on hold, and it caused cancellation of other games too, including the Phillies’ series with the Yankees. Then there is the rest of the sports world, which is eyeing baseball as if it is the canary in the coal mine. Hockey and basketball are about to kick in, which would include the Lightning, who looked right good in shutting out the Panthers 5-0 in an exhibition Wednesday in Toronto, their home base for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But will we ever get to those playoff games?
Will sports ever get anywhere?
Lurking in the background is the NFL, which still plans a full season and must be ready to kill baseball for fouling this up right off the bat. Think the NFL, straighten up and fly right, will let its teams decided whether to keep playing with the virus around?
It’s still hard to believe that baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and his watchdogs were asleep as the Marlins, having had four players test positive, decided to play on, and more players and staff got tested positive for COVID. It was reckless, and it should land at the feet of Marlins owner, Yankees Hall of Famer, former Tampa resident, current Tom Brady landlord and still undisputed all-time Rays tormentor: Derek Jeter.
It’s always the Marlins, isn’t it?
The expansion Marlins won/bought World Series in 1997, the year before the Rays began play. Then they bought another one in 2003, as the Rays lost and lost. Then they somehow managed to do what the Rays couldn’t do even as they won and won and made a World Series and became contenders: build a stadium. Granted, it is in the wrong part of Miami, and it draws only flies, but you get the idea.
Yes, the Marlins always seem to have the drop on the Rays. Quite clearly, two baseball teams in Florida looks like one too many as the Rays and Marlins fight awful attendance. But do you think baseball is going to have Jeter’s Marlins move? No, it’s the Rays who are eventually going to hit the road, probably to Canada, that is if Canada ever reopens to America again (see Buffalo Blue Jays).
And here were Rays fans, enjoying their lads’ auspicious start, four wins in six games and Charlie Morton doesn’t have either of them. Things can only get better. The Rays are off and winning, World Series or bust. There was even some early Rays fairy dust sprinkled in, Kevin Kiermaier’s walk-off two-run extra-innings triple to beat the Jays over the weekend.
Anything seems possible. The Rays are trying to socially distance themselves from the rest of the AL East. A 4-2 is not a bad start. And there have been surprises, too, like the early success of Japanese transplant Yoshi Tsutsugo. Give that man a Bobblehead night. Oh, what fun.
Now that is all in danger. Whether baseball will press on is up in the air. It is just one more outbreak away from having to fold the tent on 2020. All it took was a small fire to break out. And it has. And we know who it started with. Not that it is anyone’s fault down there, at least not the players. But that Jeter and the Marlins decided to play an extra game, knowing players had tested positive, knowing the possible risk of more infections, and that they even were allowed to decide in the first place, is unconscionable.
And it might just screw the Rays.
Leave it to the Marlins.
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