The Arizona Diamondbacks will presumably return to the field for real, actual baseball games a month from today.
There’s going to be a lot that needs to happen between then and now to have the Snakes ready for the 60-game sprint season.
For general manager Mike Hazen, it’s going to be a busy month of strategizing for a shortened season, making sure his players and coaches are healthy on and off the field during a pandemic and condensing a summer training into just three weeks.
He met with media over Zoom on Wednesday to discuss some of these topics and here are a few key things he touched on.
Where the team is at in terms of testing
Over the last two months, two Diamondback minor league players tested positive for the coronavirus, but both players were not training at team facilities and in contact with any other team members. Hazen also said about 100 members of the organization have been tested in recent days and are awaiting results.
He’s just happy to be back
The season may have been cut short due to COVID-19 and extended labor disputes, but professional baseball is back for this season. Hazen knows the role the sport can play for the nation. Despite a shortened season, no fans in the stands (for now at least) and playing teams just on the West Coast, he’s thankful to have baseball back.
“I’m glad that we’re going to bring baseball to a lot of people. I’m glad for our players that are able to get back to the field and glad that we’re going to be running out on the field with Arizona Diamondbacks across our chest.”
How the team will try to limit the virus’ spread on and off the field
The Diamondbacks, like every Major League team, will adhere to the protocols set forth by the league, continue to test regularly and make adjustments as the season goes. The team will also constantly remind everyone in the organization that they need to be just as cautious, if not more, when they aren’t together.
“It is going to be all day, every day and we are going to pound it home for all of us that are going to be involved in this to make it work. High-risk behavior is going to impact you and the person standing next to you and the person standing next to them. We are going to be extremely mindful of it. The protocols are going to answer some of those things for us but away from the field, I believe we are going to have to make sure that everybody understands what we mean by ‘high-risk behavior. Things are going to have to change temporarily in our lives to be able to do this. I just think everyone is going to have to be on-board with that.”
A World Series title is still a World Series title in a shortened season
There has been debate as to whether an asterisk would need to be put on this year’s championship because the team will not have to endure a full 162-game season. There have been arguments this World Series would mean less, and there have been arguments that it would mean more given the adversity faced includes a global pandemic.
Regardless of what history may say 20 years from now, Hazen believes this year’s champion deserves the reverence and respect any other World Series team receives.
“You put the bats and balls out there on the field and tell us we’re competing, everything matters. It matters just as much as any other (season) does. If you want to minimize it after the fact, I would be very hard-pressed to think the team that’s standing at the end of this is not extremely happy with what they accomplished. It will be different, but it will be a pretty significant accomplishment in my mind.”
Things are going to get crazy
A smaller sample size means an individual game means more. This season also won’t have the usual grind of 162 games and having a dominant stretch could weigh more than in previous years. Essentially, bring on the chaos.
“In any run of baseball in a short season, good chaos can ensue. You look back over 60 game runs in any season, I’m excited for it. It will be fantastic. Would it be better if we were playing 162? Yeah, but that sailed a long time ago. I think it’s going to be high intensity for 60 games. I think there’s going to be a lot at stake. I think that translates into, for me, great for competitiveness.”
There’s still plenty of strategy to figure out
There won’t be as much leeway for players to “figure it out” if they’re struggling this year. There’s the tightrope Hazen and Lovullo will have to walk between not having to save guys for the full-season grind but also being cognizant of a shorter ramp up period leading into the season. There’s also a new position the Diamondbacks get to tinker with: the designated hitter.
“I would think there would be an emphasis on bullpen usage early on in games where every game is going to matter that much more. With the (designated hitter), it will take some of Torey’s strategy with pinch-hitting and things like that but how our roster is constructed over a short window is going to be important. Every game is going to matter that much more and I think it’s going to be exciting for fans to watch.”
A lot can change in a month, but, for now, professional baseball is happening this summer.
Like Mike Hazen, let’s all embrace the chaos of this 60-game charge.