WASHINGTON — Even if the initial disappointment about the Mets’ Opening Day delay has waned, the unlucky reality remains.
Because four Nationals players tested positive for COVID-19, and five others were quarantined after being deemed close contacts, Major League Baseball postponed the entire season-opening series — a bad break for the coincidentally involved Mets, who periodically will need to deal with the ripple effects of Washington’s outbreak throughout the season.
"Everyone here has done a good job just to shift gears to what we need to do," manager Luis Rojas said Saturday. "We’ve got to have the ability of doing that. [With a] 162-game season and all the ups and downs that you see in baseball, this game teaches us a lot of things."
The Mets adjusted by working out all weekend at Nationals Park, including an eight-inning scrimmage Saturday. But there are variables in play beyond having their weekend and routine disrupted, and their Opening Day pushed to Monday in Philadelphia (the Phillies’ fourth game of the season).
Consider this: Atlanta, the three-time defending division champions and probably the biggest challenge in the Mets’ quest for NL East supremacy, gets to play three games this week against a shorthanded Nationals team. The Nats will be without nine of 26 players, more than one-third of its previously expected roster, and will use fill-ins from their taxi squad and alternate training site versus one of the top teams in the league.
Why couldn’t Washington do that against the Mets? MLB wanted to ensure that the COVID-19 spread was contained before allowing the Nationals to gather as a team. As of Saturday, they haven’t so much as worked out since this all started.
Meanwhile, the Mets are going a week between games — their Grapefruit League finale last Monday and their season opener this Monday — and ace Jacob deGrom is going 10 days between starts.
Plus, the Mets and Nationals will need to make up these three games, which means doubleheaders, missed off days or both. (A silver lining for the Mets: By then, the injured Seth Lugo, Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard might be back.)
The Mets, at least, seem to be taking it in stride.
"It’s easy to sit back and look at that and talk about how maybe it’s not fair. But at the same time, life’s not fair," James McCann said. "You also have to have an understanding. It’s 2021. We’re amid a pandemic. It is what it is. You deal with the cards that are dealt."
J.D. Davis laughed at the idea that the Nationals should have forfeited all three Mets games.
"It would be nice to walk out of here with three wins right then and there. That would be pretty cool," Davis said. "But no . . . it could’ve happened to anybody. It could’ve happened to us. It could’ve happened to another team. I feel for the Nationals over there."
Rojas admitted that it was "weird" to be working out at a major-league ballpark, for several days in a row, with no game to play, while 28 other teams get their seasons started. McCann called the situation "odd" and "strange."
"But at the same time, this is a situation that’s been happening since last year," said Rojas, whose Mets dealt with a five-day shutdown last year when they had two people test positive for COVID-19. "It’s just really tough to control once it happens, so what can you do? . . . We’re doing our best, even though the circumstances are not the desired ones."
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