By Rob Rains
Veteran reliever Andrew Miller, who was part of the players union executive board that approved the health and safety protocols baseball is using to try to save its season, introduced a new element into those requirements on Sunday.
“There’s going to be a little luck in my opinion to be completely honest,” Miller said. “If guys don’t take it (responsibility) seriously I don’t think we have any chance.”
Speaking to the media after the Cardinals workout at Busch Stadium, Miller said he still believes there is some doubt that everything baseball is doing is going to be good enough for the 60-game schedule and postseason can be completed.
“I think there is still some doubt that we are going to have a season,” Miller said. “By no means is this a slam dunk. We’re trying, we’re going to give it our best effort, but for me to sit here and say 100 percent I think would be a lie.
“The onus is essentially on the players and staff to do their part, hopefully the rest of society, so we can get this thing under control and play some games and hopefully move forward in a positive direction.”
Miller was followed in the day’s zoom conferences with reporters by veterans Matt Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, who admitted they understand why there is concern among players not only on the Cardinals but around the league – and why some players are deciding to sit out the season because of coronavirus fears.
Carpenter is trying to keep his focus on what he is doing to get himself ready for the season – not wondering if it will have to be canceled at some point.
“If there’s anything that this COVID thing has taught me it’s to not worry about what tomorrow brings,” said Carpenter. “You will literally spin yourself into the ground thinking about all the different scenarios and what if’s.”
Said Wainwright, “One day at a time, not trying to get too far ahead of ourselves. We want to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to ensure that there will be a season from our end. All we can do is control what we can control.
“It’s very possible we can walk out of some door where somebody was infected and sneezed on it two seconds earlier. I don’t know how all that works. What we can control is wearing our mask when we are in public, washing our hands and using hand sanitizer. That’s the information we have, so that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Manager Mike Shildt said he knows nothing is guaranteed about what is going to happen.
“I’m in more of a day-to-day, stay present kind of mindset,” Shildt said. “I do appreciate what Andrew is saying and I tend to agree with him. There’s a lot of moving pieces to this and things that are in place that make a lot of sense and things that understandably you figure out on the fly.
“I can tell you that our group, our players and all of our staff, everybody is very dedicated here and making real sacrifices off the field for this to work. That being said, this is a very, very, very contagious viral disease. It’s really been an obvious issue for the entire world. … It’s going to require some good fortune but I think it’s possible but I can’t say it’s a guarantee.”
The Cardinals confirmed a third positive test since they opened their camp on Friday, prospect Elehuris Montero, who like Genesis Cabrera and Ricardo Sanchez was asympomatic. They also have not provided information on several players who have yet to be seen during the workouts, including Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes.
“I understand the risk that’s involved,” Carpenter said, “the commitment that it’s going to take from everybody. At the end of the day I wanted to be here. It didn’t have a lot of doubt (about playing).”
Many of those who have decided not to play this season have done so because of family concerns.
Carpenter brought his family to St. Louis from their home in Texas.
“My assumption is that some of these guys, their family’s didn’t feel comfortable traveling to the city that they were going to play in and they were going to be without them for three months, probably one of the main reasons they decided it wasn’t worth it,” Carpenter said.
“If my family for whatever reason wasn’t willing to come to St. Louis with me for fear of safety or whatever I probably wouldn’t have played either, but they’re here and supporting each other and we’re going to go through it together. That makes the decision easy for me.”
Miller’s family also traveled with him to St. Louis, in part because of the spiraling situation with the coronavirus in Florida, thinking they might be safer.
“I have two young kids,” he said. “I have parents that are older. The last thing I would ever want to do is be responsible for getting somebody sick. I certainly have had a lot of reservations about various things. I think the health and safety protocols we are taking are as good as they are going to get.
“But to say there is some perfect solution, it’s not out there. At the end of the day I’m a ballplayer, that’s what I want to do. That’s where I want to be. I want to be in the locker room with my teammates. Right now I’m absolutely comfortable with it but I appreciate guys who are having second guesses or opted out. It’s got to be very personal.”
Wainwright said his decision to play came after a conversation with his wife Jenny.
“I asked my wife right away, ‘Are you good with me playing because I really want to play,’ and she goes, ‘Of course,’” he said. “She said, ‘We’re going to continue to be careful and safe.’ I said that was part of it.”
Holding each accountable for their behavior has been a constant topic in the Cardinals’ clubhouse with veterans such as Wainwright, Carpenter, Miller, Yadier Molina and Matt Wieters being quite vocal about their expectations for their teammates.
“If this is going to work, if baseball is going to have a season, it’s because players and staff have been responsible,” Miller said. “If we want to play we’re going to have to be very bought into the protocols that the union and Major League Baseball agreed to. We’re going to be uncomfortable, things we are not going to want to do, but there’s a responsibility.”
Wainwright said that topic has been addressed repeatedly during team meetings.
“The message from Yadier and myself and others was that, ‘Listen if we see you stepping out of line, we’re going to let you know about it really quick.’ There is no room for selfishness right now,” Wainwright said. “Everything has to go just perfect for us to play. There’s a lot at stake, people who have a lot riding on what we are doing right now.
“For three months we need everybody to be good soldiers.”
As a big fan of sports in general, Carpenter knows what happens in baseball’s planned return could have an impact on what happens with other sports, particularly college football and the NFL.
“I think they are all kind of looking at us as a test case if college football and the NFL is going to happen,” Carpenter said. “As a sports fan, and as an athlete, I’m pulling for everybody to get through this. We all know the challenges it’s going to bring and it’s not going to be easy but I’m hopeful.”
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports