Five Astros players were placed on the COVID-19 injured list last Wednesday afternoon. The Astros would go on to play their scheduled game against the Detroit Tigers later that night. Major League Baseball seemingly showed no signs of hesitation in regard to a postponement.
The Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels were supposed to play over the weekend, but due to two Twins players testing positive for COVID on Saturday, both games on Saturday and Sunday were postponed. MLB has also postponed the Twins’ series opener against the Oakland A’s that was slated for Monday.
MLB has the authority to select which games should or shouldn’t be postponed due to COVID. The Twins had two players test positive one day, and not only postponed that day’s game, but the next day’s as well. While we only know that one Astros player tested positive, it was apparently necessary for five players to be placed on the COVID injured list, and yet they still played a game hours later. There’s not much sense to be made from this.
Granted, this isn’t entirely apples and apples, as Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons had tested positive on Wednesday, three days before two of his teammates would test positive. That would indicate that the spread of COVID had not been totally contained. It’s understandable that MLB would take precautions by postponing Minnesota’s next two contests.
What is downright flabbergasting is the fact that the Astros did not have a single game postponed despite a relatively large number of players potentially being exposed to COVID. The bare minimum would have been to postpone Wednesday’s game out of caution, and not even that much was done.
Four of the five players who have been sidelined, Alex Bregman, José Altuve, Yordan Álvarez and Martín Maldonado, are key contributors. Coincidence or not, the optics are shady for MLB.
It could be a reach to presume this is MLB’s way of further punishing the Astros for the sign-stealing scandal, but it is especially strange how the league has acted here, considering they proceeded with an abundance of caution at the season’s outset by postponing the opening series between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets after four Nationals players tested positive.
Lance McCullers Jr., who started Wednesday’s game against the Tigers, believes there could be more than what MLB is letting on regarding their criteria for postponing games.
Lance McCullers Jr, who is the Astros' MLBPA rep: "I don’t really understand why we played tonight, quite honestly. Seems like the rules are different for different teams based off of who it is and the COVID issues.”— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) April 15, 2021
At best, this is an unfortunate stroke of bad luck for the Astros, as they’ve now played four games without multiple cornerstone players — whose return dates are yet to be determined but will not happen during the current road trip — and have received no help of any kind from MLB when other teams in similar situations have.
At worst, this is, in fact, MLB exacting further repercussions on the Astros for the sign-stealing scandal, surely to the delight of other teams and unquestionably to their fan bases. What’s more, it’d be patent vindictiveness.
Either way, it’s reasonable to claim negligence or at least apathy on MLB’s part. What remains to be seen is exactly how and why this all transpired. In any case, MLB’s future COVID-related postponements should be put under the microscope and carefully compared to this scenario they willfully accepted.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that the five players placed on the Astros’ COVID IL had tested positive for the virus. In fact, only one player has tested positive while the other four were placed on the IL due to health and safety protocols. The article has been updated to reflect that.