Ron Darling will take an entire summer without baseball over a scenario in which players and those connected to the sport are placed at risk.
The former Mets pitcher and current SNY analyst says his optimism has begun to wane that there will be a season, following his initial strong belief the shutdown from the COVID-19 outbreak would be manageable for the sports world.
“I would always try to err that all of our people are taken care of and protected before I decide to play any sport,” Darling said Thursday in a phone conversation. “That’s not baseball or basketball or hockey, that’s all the sports. Have we taken care of citizens and made sure they are on the right track? When they are on the right track, then we will give them something to watch.”
Darling has spent the past several weeks with family in Jupiter, Fla., in virtual self-quarantine. Other than taking an occasional walk outdoors, Darling — who has respiratory issues that could complicate his condition if he were to contract the coronavirus — said he has probably left the house “a half-dozen” times since mid-March, usually to pick up food.
The challenge of conducting a season will be great, Darling said, regardless of how many games are missed.
“What happens if one of the 26 players tests positive two weeks after you have started the season?” Darling said. “What are you going to do in [places] where games aren’t going to be played? There’s just so many challenges and I would say I was very optimistic when this thing started that at some point we would find a lane to play a season that would be representative of a baseball season, but as each day goes on I get less and less optimistic.
“There are so many obstacles and I just think it takes a village to put on a baseball game, and that is without people in the crowd. At some point you are putting a lot of people together. You’re in locker rooms that couldn’t be any closer space for guys to be together in and let’s use whatever energies, resources, let’s do whatever we can to take care of the people that love baseball and once we have got them taken care of and on the mend and protected, then let’s think about throwing a pitch and hitting the ball.”
Darling noted that the fallout from the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme and the coronavirus outbreak have been a 1-2 punch like maybe no other the game has seen.
“When Rob [Manfred] got the job as commissioner, and he’s as smart as anyone who has done the job, I am sure he was prepared for 98 of 100 things that have come his way,” Darling said. “It seems like the two he wasn’t prepared for have come, but this is something that baffles even the smartest people.”
If teams are given the go-ahead to resume spring training at some point, Darling has little doubt players could be prepared for a season in short order.
“For the most part they will be keeping in shape and you will be surprised how quickly they will be ready to go,” Darling said. “I will be very surprised that you couldn’t have a two-week, get ready for the season for these guys. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’re probably going to sustain some in-season injuries that are going to be the result of that.”
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