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Thoughts on a time without baseball

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This is a terrifying time to be alive. There’s no cute way of phrasing that or softening it. The coronavirus pandemic is completely and utterly terrifying. It’s a black cloud of dread hanging over our heads. The age of sheltering in place and social distancing has driven a stake through the hearts of our communities. It’s hard to not feel alone.

Sports were (and will be again) an excellent source of community. Whether it was in the stands, with friends at home or online, sports gave us something to bond over. It’s hard to do that with abbreviated replays of old events and Twitch streams of players challenging each other at video games. This was supposed to be the first weekend of the MLB season, the first in a long series of weekends when people would be crashing at home and yelling about infielders booting ground balls instead of a lack of ventilators.

I miss that. I miss that sense of togetherness. There’s an inherent sense of joy that togetherness. It’s missing from our lives right now. Even if we’re alone when magical moments happen, group texts and social media allow us to freak out with our friends and fellow fans. I was by myself at home when Howie Kendrick doink’d a ball off the foul pole in Houston, but the shared excitement on my Twitter feed enriched the moment in a way that wasn’t truly tangible until Opening Day came and went with nothing but old games to offer.

Obviously this concern is beyond secondary to the genuine suffering taking place right now. People are dying. That comes before everything else, end of discussion. The importance of sports as a social focal point pales in comparison to that terrible reality. People are dying and the acceleration of the number of American dead shows no sign of stopping. We can all go without sports for a long time if it means it will help curb the spread of the virus.

This is a baseball site. Baseball is on my mind, and so is the loss of the shared experience of baseball. There’s no good remedy for this. I applaud MLB for trying to fill that void as best as it can, but there won’t be an adequate substitute for the shared experience of real games until the crisis is contained and sports can begin anew.

I apologize if this post has been something of a downer. My intent isn’t to depress, but to share what’s been on my mind, and to try to spark some sort of sharing. You’re on this site because you love the game, and the game has been put on hold by a horrifying force of nature. Baseball has served as a way to get your mind off of terrible things, and now the terrible thing is front and center.

The best we can do is to be here for one another. I’m curious to hear from the readers. Have you found a way to fill the baseball-shaped void in your daily lives? Is there something you’re doing to get your sports fix? Have you been getting that sense of baseball fandom camaraderie from somewhere else? Share your thoughts in the comments, or reach out on social media if you like.

If you want to learn more about COVID-19 or think you might need to be tested, give the CDC’s site about the virus a read. Informing yourself is the most important step. Washing your hands and staying home, if possible, is the best way to protect yourself.

Stay safe and be well.

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Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”