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Umpires’ assignments will change due to pandemic baseball


We’ve spent an awful lot of time talking about how the players will deal with pandemic baseball, but the umpires are affected too. They travel more than the players do, after all. They don’t have a home park. They, also, (a) get people up in their face during arguments; and (b) have to yell and project their voices, which is itself a risky thing to do in the time of COVID-19.

Last night Jesse Rogers of ESPN reported on some of the changes in routine the umps will have to deal with in 2020. Starting with spring training, where groups of three umps each will be embedded with big league camps, will watch bullpen sessions and batting practice and stuff as a means of easing themselves back into game shape, just like the players are.

During the season things will change a good deal too. In normal times umps travel to a new city after every series and are rotated across the league so they are not seeing one team more than others, which could create creeping, unconscious biases or grudges in one direction or another. Now, to limit travel, an umpire crew may stay in a certain city across an entire homestand, for example. And in two-team cities they may just go across town to the other park as opposed to getting on a plane and heading to Cleveland or wherever.

Masks are an issue too. Rogers reports that they will be encouraged for umps but not required. Which seems to be heat/weather driven. The MLB/MLBPA guidelines have already specified that arguments between players and umps should be minimized or eliminated, but human nature may overtake that at times putting players and umps face-to-face in argument. Even if they avoid that, though, I’m wondering how much spit flies from a mask-free ump standing behind a catcher and a batter in the normal course of a game. When you’re bellowing out “strike!” and “out!” scores of times a game, you have to imagine it’s a non-trivial amount.

Just another complicating factor in what will already be a complicated season.

Doubleheader between Cardinals and Tigers postponed

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A doubleheader between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers this week is being postponed to allow more time for additional COVID-19 testing.

MLB opted to postpone Thursday’s doubleheader to continue additional testing while players and staff are quarantined before the team returns to play. More details about the Cardinals’ resumption of play will be announced later this week.

The Cardinals had a series against Pittsburgh set to start on Monday postponed after a weekend series against the Cubs was scrapped due to three positive coronavirus tests.

St. Louis had two more players and a staff member test positive for the virus on Friday and have had eight positive players overall, including star catcher Yadier Molina.

There have now been 29 games postponed by Major League Baseball because of coronavirus concerns. The Cardinals have not played since July 30 and have had 15 games scrapped.

Miami and Philadelphia each had seven games postponed earlier and have returned to the field since the disruptions.


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