In a week where a glimmer of hope for a 2020 MLB season arose, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler expressed some very real skepticism.
Selfishly, I hope that the Philadelphia Phillies and the rest of MLB get the 2020 season going as soon as possible, no matter what it takes to make things happen. But I’m not the one playing the games, and the concerns of the players and everyone else directly involved have to be taken into account. Recently, offseason acquisition Zack Wheeler made it known he’s not a fan, and I can’t criticize him for it.
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It’s easy to just look at this whole thing through the eyes of an impatient fan and yell “Play ball!” regardless of when, where, or how a potential 2020 MLB season might happen. But there are loads of logistical hurdles to clear before we get to that point. And even then, after all of the details have been ironed out, you really can’t account for the final, most essential part of everything: the human element.
Zack Wheeler is a good pitcher, and the Phillies gave him a huge contract this offseason for a reason. But, even before that, he’s a husband. And he’s soon to be a father, with his first child due in July. This week, he made it known that, regardless of what lengths baseball might go to in order to have a season, he’s not on board with anything that would keep him away from the birth of his daughter.
Can you blame him? I know I can’t.
Regardless of whatever quarantine-bubble situation MLB might institute, Wheeler doesn’t care how long he’ll be “ineligible” for if he leaves the team for personal reasons. Maybe he won’t be allowed back for two weeks, maybe a month, maybe even the remainder of whatever season MLB manages to cobble together. Or perhaps baseball doesn’t happen at all this year, and this just becomes a moot point. Right now, it’s anybody’s guess.
At the very least, Wheeler deserves credit for coming out and saying this, because it’s no doubt on the minds of many other players as well. I’m sure that some have children due this year, and there will be a few who will have to leave a quarantine situation for personal reasons at some point, including bereavement. With hundreds of players, these are things that just naturally happen every year. And I have no idea if they would be allowed to rejoin their teams if they leave MLB’s bubble. These are things that need to be figured out.
What a mess.
Still, we should all be on board with Wheeler’s point of view, and we have to accept that he’ll miss what could be a very large chunk of a shortened season this year. I know I’d feel the same way as him. We all want baseball, and these guys don’t want to lose a whole year of their careers (and the accompanying salaries). But some things are more important. I hope he doesn’t get any kind of criticism for it.