From Bad To Worse: How Do The Phillies Compete Moving Forward?

PHOTO CREDIT: BILL STREICHER-USA TODAY SPORTS

This is not good. On so many levels, it’s not good.

Two days of budding optimism spurred by organization-wide negative COVID-19 test results was quelled Thursday when the Phillies announced two staffers had tested positive. The results, which included one coach and one clubhouse attendant returning positive results, prompted the team to shutdown operations one day after holding staggered workouts at Citizens Bank Park.

An already uncertain situation now becomes further clouded.

The Blue Jays were scheduled to host the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park this weekend, beginning with Saturday’s doubleheader that, as of this morning, could have been abbreviated to two seven-inning games. Yes, you read that correctly.

But if the latest reports, which suggest the series has now been canceled, are true, well, then you can pretty much throw cold water on whatever little optimism was left.

While Phillies general manager Matt Klentak wouldn’t speculate on schedule modifications when he met with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the scheduled trip south to Miami for a three-game set occurring never seemed realistic. There’s just no way a team would travel there right now.

Later in the day, Yankees manager Aaron Boone indicated the Phillies and Yankees would instead open a two-game set in the Bronx on Monday, with both teams then returning to Philadelphia to play two additional games.

It remains unclear at the moment if these games will still proceed as scheduled (or speculated). It also remains unclear if these games should proceed as scheduled.

And, finally, it remains unclear how on earth the Phillies can compete in a league that continues to move forward without them.

This latest news presents two unique challenges beyond the most immediate safety concerns:

  1. How do the Phillies make up these games? With the Toronto series now off the schedule, the Phillies will go at least seven full days in between games as the rest of the sport plays almost nightly.
  2. How do Phillies players continue to get necessary in-season work as they, at least for the time being, get set to play on Monday night? Citizens Bank Park is now closed, according to the team.

This latest (and likely necessary) butcher job to the schedule puts the team at an extreme disadvantage as it remains on ice while the rest of the league (Miami Marlins aside) continues to engage in daily baseball activities.

This is Major League Baseball (sort of), after all. Preparing to play is more complicated than doing some hamstring stretches, sprints, and throwing the ball around. Players are creatures of habit that need consistent work.

Hitters need cage work, tee work, and regular swings against live pitching. Pitchers need bullpens and side sessions. Skill-maintenance aside, with each day of inertia comes a raised risk of soft tissue and orthopedic injuries.

At what point do the schedule alterations, delays, and shutdowns become too great to overcome? How does baseball alter its plans in order to accommodate this disruption?

While you will never catch me in the “cancel the season” crowd, I’m becoming increasingly skeptical about the longterm feasibility of the league reaching the finish line by its self-imposed Sept. 27 deadline with some semblance of competitive integrity left intact.

What a mess. What an absolute mess.

 

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