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The Pirates in the age of COVID

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Brett Barnett

Minnesota Twins v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

I was supposed to be writing the recap for the final game between the Pirates and Reds, but here we are. I’ve been wondering about the Pirates in relation to the current global situation. Here we go...

In my mind, we’ve reached a point where Major League Baseball and COVID-19 are inextricably linked. Sure, there are more pressing issues to be solved regarding the current pandemic, but what can I say? I’m a baseball fan, so when I hear something about MLB, I think to myself, “How long is this viable?” When I hear something about COVID, I think, “How might this affect baseball?”

We’ve reached a point where plenty of games have been postponed due to the virus. The Cardinals just got back to the field yesterday. Now, after the Pirates had a series against St. Louis postponed, they’re having another postponed. The Pirates completed two games in Cincinnati before news broke that at least one Reds’ player had tested positive for the virus. The league then decided to delay the final two games of the series.

I think the calls to end the season are going unheard by the decision makers. But it does seem like we’ve developed two factions: Those who are indignant that baseball is being played at all sans bubble and those who parade around sarcastically espousing nonsense as dense as “Oh no, some players have a cold.”

The former camp might want the world to shut it all down — all of it — and maybe they’re right. The latter camp can’t believe anything was stopped in the first place, despite the outrageous death toll in the country.

But we know the world can’t stop functioning — its gears need to be turning. Of course, there’s a smart way to do it. Unfortunately, a lot of the United States hasn’t been doing it the smart way. Obviously, it’s also true that business can’t proceed as normal. We can’t simply let people be who opt to question the validity of the claims of doctors and scientists because it affects the rest of us. This isn’t a diatribe against a particular person, but your rights freeze when it becomes detrimental to the health of another.

All that said, baseball doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. At this point, I’m not sure what it would take to prematurely end the season. At the beginning of the season, we knew there would be at least a few positive tests. We hoped that there wouldn’t be any major outbreaks within organizations and especially within the league as a whole. We speculated that might be enough to shut down the season.

But now the Marlins, Phillies, and Cardinals have all had a laundry list of games impacted and, as a result, innocent bystanders have also had games postponed. Apparently that won’t be enough for Manfred to signal an end to the 2020 campaign.

The Pirates are at a point where they’ve now had two separate series derailed for the time being. We’re fairly certain the Pirates won’t be competitive regardless, so this is more of a time for development — although some would question how well the organization is attempting to develop players right now (let’s see Ke’Bryan Hayes already, am I right?).

The Cardinals were supposed to be competitive, so it will be a struggle for them to make up games that should end up being meaningful. But for the Pirates, that’s not really the case. So, what are the Pirates in the age of COVID? It’s pretty simple: They’re a minor league team, like a team you’d go see in your hometown every now and then just to see what’s going and how their development is going.

For that reason, it doesn’t really matter that Pirates’ games are postponed or even outright cancelled. I’m pretty sure we’re all aware of that at this point. I realize this team might serve as a distraction for some, but I might argue that the Pirates as a distraction is just adding fuel to the fire. After all, can you really forget about the real world when the team you’re watching has been the worst in all of baseball?

There’s not much going on in Pittsburgh right now. The Steelers haven’t started their season yet and I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Penguins shortcomings in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which means the Bucs are the only show in town. But I would suggest even they are MIA. So the Pirates in the age of COVID are just a microcosm of 2020 as a whole. Baseball won’t be shutting down and I’m good with that, but as far as the Pirates are concerned, let’s get ‘em next year.