MLB has tough decisions to make with Cardinals stuck in limbo

The Cubs have already felt the ripple effects of the Cardinals’ coronavirus outbreak. Four of the five NL Central teams have had their schedules altered because of the postponements.

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‘‘I think it’s really important for our sport that we [play], but you can’t do that if it’s not safe, and public safety and player safety are the most important things,’’ Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said.

‘‘I think it’s really important for our sport that we [play], but you can’t do that if it’s not safe, and public safety and player safety are the most important things,’’ Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Major League Baseball has a challenge on its hands. Not only is it trying to keep its 30 teams safe amid a global pandemic, but it also must try to maintain competitive balance in the wake of what is happening with one of its franchises.

Baseball continues to move forward despite the Cardinals being stuck in no man’s land. The Cardinals have had 17 people (10 players, seven staff members) test positive for the coronavirus in the last 10 days and haven’t played a game since July 29.

The Cardinals have had their last four series postponed, including one last weekend against the Cubs, and had a makeup doubleheader scheduled for Thursday against the Tigers postponed after another confirmed positive test Sunday. In all, the Cardinals have had 15 games postponed.

Even with the new agreement on seven-inning doubleheaders, it becomes harder with each passing day to imagine they can complete their schedule.

‘‘I think those are the questions that the Cardinals, MLB and the union will have to answer,’’ Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘‘How many games is safe to play in how many days? How much of a ramp-up period do they now need? What is the appropriate number of doubleheaders? Those are all the questions that we’re going to have to answer.

‘‘It feels almost premature to ask those questions now because I think we need to get to a place where everyone’s healthy and no one’s testing positive. But once it is appropriate to ask all those questions, I don’t envy anyone making those decisions because they’re really difficult. You don’t want to put anyone at risk of injury by ramping up too quickly or overexerting yourself. I think we’ve already seen a ton of injuries, so those are really difficult questions, and there’s not really much of a blueprint for how to answer them.’’

Hoyer is right: Someone does have to make those tough decisions, and that should be commissioner Rob Manfred.

Is it right to ask a team to continually play at a competitive disadvantage? The Cardinals now have to play 55 games in just 45 days, with more games this week in limbo. Teams such as the Cubs also have felt the ripple effects, with four of the five National League Central teams having had their schedules altered because of the postponements.

‘‘We’re all trying to do what’s best,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘Is this hard? Yeah, I’ve been saying that a lot. It’s hard on the players. It’s not easy. None of this is easy.’’

It’s no secret fighting through this season despite its challenges will benefit MLB financially. Before MLB and the players’ union agreed to health-and-safety protocols or a return in 2020, MLB reportedly signed a multibillion-dollar agreement with Turner Sports to air playoff games. The postseason revenue would be welcomed after the financial losses incurred from the shutdown.

The quality of baseball has been better than expected through the first 2œ weeks, which has been a positive amid the other issues. But it would be difficult for MLB to sustain another outbreak among its teams. One more might be the final straw.

‘‘I think it’s really important for our sport that we [play], but you can’t do that if it’s not safe, and public safety and player safety are the most important things,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘I can’t speculate about another outbreak, but I can say that there’s so much for us to play for. I think so many things are going well that I hope we can avoid it.’’

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