Professional sports leagues do everything in their power to make sure every team in their respective leagues play the same number of regular-season games. It creates equity and ensures that whoever reaches the postseason has earned that right accurately.
But the 2020 Major League Baseball season might throw that theory off considerably. A quick look at the standings shows that entering Wednesday's games, 18 of the 30 clubs have played either 11 or 12 games. Three clubs have played either four or five games and three others have played eight games. Even if every team winds up playing the full 60-game schedule, it means several clubs will be bogged down with multiple doubleheaders, which always challenge pitching staffs, as well as potential in-and-out travel to a city to make up a game here or there.
The St. Louis Cardinals, hit with a coronavirus outbreak that severely affected their schedule during the past week, haven't played since July 29 and aren't scheduled to play again until Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, who have played uninterrupted and will have played 13 games in 14 days when they take the field at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have played five games.
"You can say it isn't fair in our game, in our society," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "It's definitely not what we're used to. That being said, nobody said it was going to be fair or it was going to be easy. Nobody said you had to have it in a manner that was always equitable. The one thing you would like in a league is equality, but the fact of the matter is the integrity of getting through the season is first and foremost, and there are just going to be situations that come up that impact the ability for it to be fair, and that's just inherent.
"So if you know that it's going to have some imbalance to it and you accept that mentally and emotionally and don't give in to it and appreciate the fact that it's just the way it is, then you've created a mindset of the right way of how to compete with the different variables that are going to take place, and the challenges that are going to come with it.
"This is a tough, dedicated group. We welcome the competition, we welcome the challenge. And fair, unfair, whatever, that's the world we live in right now. No one is going to feel sorry for us."
The Cardinals have had six players and seven other members of their traveling party test positive for COVID-19. Shildt, the 2019 National League manager of the year, said the virus was brought into their group from the outside via an asymptomatic source. All-Star catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong are among the six players to test positive.
The remaining players, who had been quarantined in their Milwaukee hotel since July 30, were finally allowed to fly back to St. Louis on Wednesday. Though Shildt has been in professional baseball for decades, many of his players have not and those are the ones he had to make understand the circumstances they're now facing.
"It's not a sell," Shildt said of his message to his players. "Candidly, that's the blessing of this team. I can tell you this group is really dedicated to each other and to figure out a way to get through this with the right mindset. We've got good leadership on this team. We've got a lot of quality guys. We've got high character people. We have good, good leadership, veteran experienced leadership. It's not only coming into play about, hey man let's think about your routine or deciding about taking a bat or about setting up a hitter. We have that too. But it's more about, hey, we got you.
"We're going to be OK. We're going to get through this. Let's continue to make sure we're together. Let's continue to make sure we're following the protocols, we're being smart. Let's continue to understand the sacrifice that continues to take place here."