The day had finally arrived. More than a year had passed since the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series, and following a disappointing shortened season in 2020, the Nats were gearing up for their first series of the 2021 season. Fans would be in the stands, the two best pitchers in the National League would be squaring off, and the game would be broadcasted at primetime on ESPN – the whole country would be able to watch the last full season champions face the flashy, new-look Mets.
In true 2021 fashion, a positive Covid-19 case canceled the series. We’re going to have to wait a few more days for Nationals baseball. Ironically, the 2020 season started the same way. Before the Nats’ opener against the Yankees, Juan Soto tested positive for Covid-19 hours before first pitch, and then the game was cancelled due to a major thunderstorm. This Nationals team seriously can’t catch a break!
So often it feels like we’re turning the page on what was a truly devastating and frightening 2020. The rollout of new vaccines means that we are nearing the end of lockdowns and social distancing measures uprooting our lives. Events like this, however, humble us and remind us that the pandemic is still ongoing and killing thousands of Americans daily. There will be a time, in the near future, where 40,000 fans will be able to attend Opening Day at Nationals Park, even on a cold and dreary April night. Now is not that time, however, and we must not let our guard down, which would make us susceptible to a “fourth wave” of this pandemic.
Mike Rizzo understands this, and he has done an excellent job to try and prevent the virus from spreading further among the team. Rizzo is a baseball executive, who undoubtedly wants to see his team play in front of the Nationals Park faithful once again. He also understands that the safety of his players is more important than the game. By mandating that all players quarantine at their homes while the team sorts out the positive cases, the Nationals will return to the field quicker. It’s even more promising that Rizzo told reporters yesterday that he does not believe any of the players contracted Covid-19 after breaking MLB protocols, meaning that no player will face team or league-imposed fines or suspensions and will be able to take the field once they are cleared to do so.
Across the league, yesterday was a very strange day in the baseball world. Two games were postponed, after rain in Boston postponed the Orioles and Red Sox. Miguel Cabrera hit the first home run of the new season, yet slid into second base; Cabrera couldn’t see whether or not he had hit a home run due to heavy snowfall in Detroit. On the other coast, Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers hit a two run home run, but Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought the Rockies’ outfielder had robbed the home run and sprinted back to first. Bellinger was called out because he passed Turner on the bases, and the Rockies eventually won the game. You can watch it for yourself here – the confusion on the bases reminds me of Michael Morse’s phantom grand slam in 2012, one of the most memorable bloopers in Nationals history. And the Mariners won the last game of the day on a walk-off wild pitch with the bases loaded after they came back with six runs in the bottom of the 8th. I can’t recall a more chaotic start to the season in recent years, but it seems fitting for this decade.
It’s disappointing to see the Nats-Mets series get cancelled, but baseball is just a game, and it won’t be too long until Nationals baseball returns. Barring any new cases, the season should start on Monday when the Nats take on the Atlanta Braves. Even though the season was delayed a few days, it’ll be worth it to see Max Scherzer take on our biggest and most hated rival to kick off the chase for the NL East championship. And we’ll be able to take care of the Mets later this month when the Nats take a road trip to New York. If there’s one thing we learned from the 2019 World Series run, it’s that this team is resilient and will defeat any challenge it faces. I’m confident that the 2021 Nationals will use this challenge as motivation to redeem their title as World Champions and hopefully bring another World Series back to the Nation’s Capital.