The rolling cancellations and postponements of Major League Baseball's season due to the rising coronavirus crisis finally reached the jewel event of the Cardinals' goal to broaden their international presence.
The Cardinals series against the Cubs in London has been canceled, Major League Baseball announced on Twitter on Wednesday morning.
The series had long been in jeopardy, dating back to early March and the opening concerns about international travel and the spread of COVID0-19 in Europe. The Cardinals had lobbied Major League Baseball to wait on a decision until closer to the scheduled date of the series, June 13-14. When the coronavirus became a global pandemic and began its rapid spread through North America, baseball shuttered spring training and delayed by at least 10 weeks the start of its own regular season. The focus shifted to larger issues than a series abroad for the Cardinals.
At a website set up for questions about the decision, Major League Baseball affirms that the London Series 2020 has been canceled and "will not take place" at any point this season.
“It just appeared that (the series) was not going to be a possibility,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., told the Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel from DeWitt's spring home in Florida. “I’ve assumed that for a little bit here but that’s just part of what’s going on in the world.
“Hopefully, whether it’s next year or some future year we can do it again. It’s good for the game to have the rivalries like ours (with the Cubs) to go over there and expand interest in baseball internationally.’’
The Cardinals’ series with the Cubs was not the only British sporting casualty on Wednesday. The time-honored Wimbledon tennis championships were postponed until next June and July.
DeWitt said “a ton of tickets” had been sold for the baseball series. "It really was a great event so it’s disappointing in that regard. The Red Sox and Yankees did so well last year and I think we were on pace to do equally well.
“We had a lot of Cardinal fans, whether they were season ticket holders or were outside the area that were interested in going, so I think we would have had a pretty good contingent over there.”
The Cardinals gave up two home games in order to be considered for the series.
The possible start date for baseball's regular season continues to creep back as the virus takes hold in the nation, and teams are now braced for there to be no baseball in April and May. A recent agreement forged between the owners and the players' union even accommodates what will happen in the event of a complete cancellation of the 2020 season. If the two games planned for London are indeed played, they can be done at Busch Stadium — the alternate site for the games.
Similar to individual states and cities in the United States, Britain has responded to a spread of coronavirus with "stay at home" policies and closing some non-essential business and severely limiting gatherings.
Major League Baseball two weeks ago canceled April games scheduled for Mexico City and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The visit to London Stadium, home of the West Ham football club, would have been the Cardinals' second international series in as many years. The team played the Reds in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2019, and the Cardinals have in recent years before more aggressive in pursuing events beyond the borders.
Major League Baseball set up a webite to also address all ticket questions, including how to get refunds for travel packages and experiences purchased for the London Series 2020. All tickets purchased through London Stadium or Ticketmaster will be refunded automatically in full, the official site states. That refund will include service charges.
Cardinals Quick Hits
Quick Hits: Commish on the Cardinals
DEWITT'S 25TH SEASON: EVALUATING THE CARDS' OWNER
QUESTION: Nobody seems to talk about it, but this is Bill DeWitt Jr.'s 25th season as owner of the Cardinals. Given all you've seen across your decades of baseball coverage, how does he rate as an owner? In what areas has he been the most impactful? What aspects of this unique "job" — owning a pro sports franchise in the 21 century — have been most difficult for him?
COMMISH: Bill DeWitt Jr., has been among the best baseball owners I've been around in large part because he comes from a baseball background. His father also owned teams, including the Browns.
He is a hands-on owner in trade discussions, always having the final say. He and his front office, headed up by Mo and son Bill DeWitt III on the business side, always have tried to put together a contending team and create a friendly atmosphere at the ballpark. And those three million-plus attendance figures seem to authenticate that.
I suspect the skyrocketing payrolls are daunting and cause questions as to where to draw the line on salary.
Follow-up: I agree with your high opinion of Bill DeWitt Jr. as being among baseball’s best owners. I don’t think I would ask him or any owner to bet $300M-plus on the delicate arm of a pitcher, even Jack Flaherty. Am I out of touch with MLB’s financial realities?
COMMISH: I don't think I'm ready to give Jack Flaherty $300 million just yet. But that's going to happen someday in the next four to five years if he becomes as good as many think. Financial realities may change this year, though, depending on how long the season is or if there is one, at all.
HOW LATE IS TOO LATE TO START THE SEASON?
COMMENT: Some reports have the social distancing deadline being extended until the end of May. That is perilously close to a July 1 start and is probably a best-case scenario. Don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but another bump in the road and the season may be gone.
COMMISH: If the season started by mid-July, baseball still could have a 100-game season if it played through October. That would be representative and rival the 105 games or so that were played in 1981, which was a strike year.
I could also see a lost season entirely.
Follow-up: If MLB decides to come back June 1 (arbitrary date), and the teams want a 2-week or so second spring training, will the Cactus league teams still do that in the 110-degree heat of Phoenix?
COMMISH: The spring -- or summer -- trainings might even take place at the home ballparks, if the training camps are going to last only a couple of weeks. At the end of that period, maybe clubs could schedule some exhibition games with nearby teams. I don't see camps taking place in the dead of summer, either in Phoenix or Jupiter.
How much will the short season impact trade values since the players don't lose any service time?
COMMISH: I think a short season will have a big impact, not just because of the service time issue, but the fact that there will be more of a sprint than a marathon to the finish line. The trading deadline would have to moved off July 31, though. You could see a number of deals made involving players at the end of their contracts.
Photo: The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales trot around the track at Busch Stadium during the Cardinals' home opener in 2019. (Post-Dispatch photo by Christian Gooden)
IS IT OVER FOR WAINO?
QUESTION: If the season is cancelled, could that be it for Waino? He said something as he was leaving Jupiter about how this hurts younger players rather than him, as he could quit and go on living his life. Plus, wouldn’t he need a new contract from the Cards?
COMMISH: Somehow, I think Waino might want to go out on his own terms, but he will be 39 going on 40 next season. He would need a new contract and it might not be for as much as he could have made this year. So, yes, this could be it, particularly after a long layoff.
HOW DOES A LOST SEASON IMPACT YADI?
QUESTION: How does a lost season impact Yadier Molina? Would he want to play through 2023 or would he accept 2 fully guaranteed seasons through 2022?
COMMISH: I would think Molina is in the market for only two seasons. But he will be playing those seasons at ages 38 and 39, not necessarily the numbers at which regular catchers play. Two more seasons, though, would enhance his Hall of Fame resumé for games caught, innings caught, etc.
OUTFIELDERS ON NOTICE?
COMMENT: I hope if the season does start, the Cards will bring up Carlson. I'd rather have the young outfielder here experiencing the big-league game than watching Fowler bat .087.
COMMISH: Carlson almost certainly will start the season in Memphis, whenever that might be. But the outfielders on the big-league club already should feel they are on notice that Carlson isn't far behind.
Follow-up: From what you saw of Harrison Bader this spring, do you think he has made enough changes to his swing to be a regular in CF?
COMMISH: He looked more disciplined and had a good start to his spring but didn't finish it strongly. There will be another camp and the center-field job is still his, but he will have to create some offense.
TYLER O'NEILL ... WHY?
QUESTION: Can you explain what it is that the Cardinals see in Tyler O'Neill that would make them commit to him? He seems to be a bodybuilder who thinks he can also be a baseball player. So many strikeouts, so much of a lack of production, very average outfielder ... I don't get it.
COMMISH: He has that quick-strike power that not everybody has, and he has more speed and is a better outfielder than you would suspect. But, can he put enough balls in play and, more significant, can he stay off the injured list? He has done neither so far here.
Follow-up: Were the constant injuries to O'Neill caused by his muscle-bound body? Now that he has laid off a bit and lost some weight, he could remain healthy without losing much power. Plus, his hand-eye coordination and reaction might improve.
COMMISH: Some of O'Neill's injuries were weight-training influenced, but others weren't. Still, he lost some weight and restructured his body and that should help. But can he put enough balls in play or get on base enough? Early in camp, he was doing that. Later, he was not.
THE MUNOZ MYSTERY (CONTINUED)
COMMENT: I think Yairo Munoz was frustrated because of Matt Carpenter getting to play no matter what he hit or fielded. We got rid of Martinez, Adams, Voit, maybe others, and benched Wong, to let Carpenter play.
COMMISH: Munoz likely was more frustrated that it seemed he had fallen behind Tommy Edman already, and then when lefthanded-hitting Brad Miller was signed, Munoz was on the outside looking in at the two utililty jobs that were available. But Munoz had played well this spring and Mike Shildt liked him as a player and a person.
Munoz landed on his feet, sort of, with a minor league deal with the Red Sox. But he cost himself a lot of money because he would have landed on the injured list at the start of the season due to his hamstring injury and would have had to be paid as a big leaguer.
DID THE PLAYERS TAKE A GAMBLE?
QUESTION: If I understand this correctly, the players valued service time over getting paid this year if the season is cancelled? That’s millions of dollars for some players. What was the calculation by the players, that they will get to free agency quicker and make up the difference? What about players like Goldy, who are likely on their last contract? Sounds like a big gamble.
COMMISH: More players are younger, like Jack Flaherty, and not on big contracts yet and in his case, as is the case with many others, the quicker they can get to salary arbitration (three years' service), the better off they are. Goldschmidt still would have four more years, so he'll be all right.
COMPARING SHILDT AND MATHENY
QUESTION: I was a Matheny fan, and now I'm a Shildt fan. How do you rate each in terms of ... Daily lineup decisions? Day in and day out bullpen moves? Handling of young players? Handling of all players and any clubhouse issues? Relations with the front office? Relations with media? Assembling a coaching staff?
COMMISH: I would think Shildt would have the edge in the final several parts of your question, such as handling of players, relationships with the front office and relations with the media although I, personally, did not have any problems with Mike Matheny. And this year, I an anxious to see how Matheny does in Kansas City because he has spent considerable time in the past year or so trying to improve some of his interpersonal skills.
As to lineup decisions and bullpen use, I don't see any appreciable difference between the two.
WOULD A SHORT SEASON IMPACT STRATEGY?
QUESTION: Assuming a 100-game season, what tactical changes do you see coming from managers? Quicker hook on pitchers in trouble? Managing almost every game like it's the playoffs?
COMMISH: First, I would assume that rosters will be closer to 30 than 26, so you might have 15 pitchers available and there will be many quicker hooks because pitchers won't be able to get up to speed for more than five innings at the beginning of a shortened season.
Baseball can't afford to waste whatever days it has available with another regulation training camp so that part will be no more than two weeks.
The managers will manage every game as if it is the final game, especially if the playoff field is expanded to include the also-rans, too.
IMPACT ON ROSTER MANAGEMENT?
QUESTION: How would a significantly shorter season potentially impact the front office and Shildt's roster management? Specifically, making a change if someone isn’t producing (Carp, Fowler, Bader, LF, etc.). Think they would pull the trigger quicker?
COMMISH: Patience will be less, with more emphasis on immediate production. Front offices must move more quickly if the season is 100 games or under and lineups won't be very static either if a team starts poorly.
COMMENT: If there's no baseball, that means some of the bad contracts will be off the books, like Cecil and Andrew Miller and Waino. No more paying for Leake's contract. Then, the Cards could afford an Arenado contract.
COMMISH: Yes, some of those contracts will be done. But the Cardinals can only afford Arenado if a player or two making some significant money goes to Colorado so that the Cardinals aren't taking on all $33 million per year. The contracts you describe don't begin to add up to that figure.
TRADING WITH THE YANKEES?
QUESTION: A recent report proposed a Yankees trade of OF Clint Frazier to St. Louis for LHP Genesis Cabrera (above). I don’t know about trading for another OF, but it seems like the Yanks and Cards would match up, as they need another arm and we need a bat. What about Cabrera for 3B Miguel Andujar, for example?
COMMISH: Both of the players you mention are righthanded hitters and the Cardinals are looking for a lefthanded-hitting player primarily. Good young lefthanded pitching is hard to find and the Cardinals have a couple now in Cabrera and Liberatore. Both came from Tampa Bay, which has developed young pitching as well as anybody.
I think Cabrera would do the Cardinals more good than either of the other two Yankees players you mention, but that is now. If or when the offense stumbles, we might have to revisit this.
WILL PLAYERS' READINESS BE IMPACTED?
QUESTION: How much will the coronavirus situation impact the physical readiness of the players, since most gyms are closed in a lot of states?
COMMISH: Players are going to have to be very creative. And, I fear, the longer this lasts, the more their enthusiasm will wane for working out. They then would try to ramp it up when there is some sort of starting date announced. I also fear that there will be many early-season injuries because of a shortened training period and anxiety to start playing.
QUESTION: Usually it works the other way, but do you think Tim McCarver's playing career gets overlooked because he played so long? You could make a case he was the best catcher the Cards ever had. He was a 5-tool player and debuted in the big leagues at 17! Guy was an amazing athlete.
COMMISH: I think even Tim McCarver would say he ranks behind Yadier Molina and Ted Simmons. I say he ranks third, notably because he was here for a decade, just as the other two were here that long and more.
Follow-up: Who is the best ballplayer you have ever seen in your career and why? Don’t just include Cardinals — anybody.
COMMISH: When I started out, I thought Dave Parker was the best player I had seen for a five-year span because he could hit for average and power, had a strong throwing arm and could run. I thought Mike Schmidt was the best I had seen for 10 years because of his power-defense combination at third base. Albert Pujols was the best hitter I saw — for five years or 10, whichever span you pick.
Some of the other greats — I didn't see them at their best, such as Bob Gibson and Johnny Bench and even Lou Brock.