The only thing Taylor Rogers knows for certain about the Twins’ 2020 season is that it won’t open on Thursday in Oakland. That had been the plan but that was before the coronavirus shut down sports in the country (and world) as well as just about everything else.
Rogers, the Twins closer and new player representative, has returned to his Colorado home and said Monday he is simply now “getting comfortable with the uncomfortable,” because in this time of uncertainty that “is probably the best move right now, and the best way to stay optimistic.”
Rogers took part in a conference call, along with teammate Nelson Cruz, to provide as much of an update as they could on what they are doing and where, in Rogers’ case, things stood in discussions between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. The issue is that no one knows when it might be safe to start the season, or if the season might be lost entirely because of concerns about the spread of the virus. Rogers said he has had some communication with the union but the lack of certainty makes it difficult to have any plan.
“This is uncharted waters and nobody knows exactly what to do,” he said. “There’s nothing to draw back on. And at the same time, it’s hard to have discussions when there’s nothing that we’re looking towards, meaning like a timetable or a start date. So it’s difficult to have those discussions when you don’t really have any of those facts in place. It’s more so just making sure all the teammates are taken care of, making sure they’re in a good place, that their families are going to be OK. Basically, the well-being of the players is a lot of the discussion.”
As far as the schedule is concerned, Rogers acknowledged there is potential of playing baseball in October as part of a shortened regular season. A postseason that goes well into the fall could impact a team like the Twins, who are the favorites to win the American League Central but play in an outdoor ballpark in a cold-weather city. There already has been speculation about neutral-site postseason games being played in warm weather cities.
“There would be some baseball in October,” Rogers said. “Obviously, when we get down to that point I think we are going to have to look at some stuff because we all know what baseball in Minnesota could look like in November. The discussions have been going to maybe be prepared for something like that, but it’s difficult to talk about things like that because you don’t know if that’s really going to come to fruition or not.”
With no hope for a 162-game schedule, but a desire to play as many games as possible, if and when the season can start, one solution that has been mentioned is having frequent doubleheaders.
“I think it’s easy because both sides are going to want to get in as many games as possible,” Rogers said. “It’s in both of our best interests to do that and it’s in the fans’ best interest. I think whatever thing we can put together to get the most games in, everybody is going to win on that account. We still have to look at how many doubleheaders we are playing. Will there be some roster help with that? You’re taking the players’ health into consideration. That’s why those certain (roster expansion) rules are in place with doubleheaders because you’re talking a lot of baseball.”
One thing that could potentially happen is for games to be played in empty stadiums to open the season, although if there are concerns about the virus being spread that could be an issue with so many players, coaches and potentially team officials in attendance.
Cruz, who will turn 40 on July 1 and said he remains on his normal workout schedule, realizes that playing in empty stadiums might be an option but is hoping that doesn’t happen. “Hopefully, when that time comes we’re more clear and have a better idea of what to do,” he said. “We want the players and I think the fans and the owners, everybody, on the same page, we want to play and (put on) a show for the fans. … We don’t want to play with empty stadiums. We play for the fans, that’s who we play for, so hopefully that’s not the case.”
Rogers said his understanding is that MLB and the union are open to playing games without fans in attendance but added, “I just don’t see any situation where we can have 200 players and staff in a stadium and not have fans there. … That’s just a personal opinion.”
So what is Rogers’ opinion about whether there will be a 2020 baseball season?
“We’re all holding out hope that there will be some type of season this year,” he said. “I don’t think anybody wants to get into that doomsday scenario where there is no season. But if that is the case, we just know that it’s for the greater good. We want people to be healthy. This is bigger than baseball, and if we cannot play baseball because of this, that’s just one we’ll have to take because this is more important than baseball.”