This was the rare day of this soggy, sopping summer when from the start you clicked on the weather app on your phone and all you saw was one thing: the sun. Alone. Glorious. Unambiguous. Unblocked by clouds, unimpeded by rain droplets, or lightning. The rest of the weekend, of course, looks sketchy and spotty. Par for the course this summer.
Just not this day. Just sun in the sky, and in the forecast, on this day. All day. In The Bronx, the forecast for 7:05 p.m. was sunshine and 86 degrees. A light breeze, perhaps, but no storm clouds looming. No thunderstorms brewing.
At 7:05, Domingo German was going to throw a baseball in the direction of Kiké Hernandez, there would be a full house buzzing at Yankee Stadium, the scent of beer and hot dogs in the air, and even Yankees fans seized by uncharacteristic pessimism the past few weeks could feel, in that moment, that everything might really turn out all right.
For once across this sodden, soaking summer, we would have a perfect night for a baseball game, and the only one in town, the only one on the whole baseball schedule, was a good one, maybe the best one.
Red Sox versus Yankees.
Perfect. Just perfect.
Except it turned out not so perfect after all. Except at 7:05 p.m., there were no Yankees on the field, no Red Sox on the field, no umpires. There were no fans in the stands. The doors never opened. The sun went to waste. One more time, even amid the bright sunshine, a shadow descended.
On account of COVID.
“We are still vulnerable,” Brian Cashman said.
And we are still at a time when the headlines can overwhelm us. Earlier in the day came a statement from USA Basketball that Bradley Beal, undergoing contact tracing, will not be allowed to play in the Olympics in Tokyo. NFL Network announcer Rich Eisen, double-vaccinated, announced he’d tested positive. Los Angeles County, biggest county in the country, said it will reinstitute mandatory masks inside public spaces this weekend.
Yankees-Red Sox, PPD, COVID.
Yes. We are still vulnerable, not only to the virus itself but to the soul-sucking gut punch each of these news items delivers. Our world is better for the vaccines, and at the least they seem to have dulled the deadliness of the disease. But it still roams among us. It can still dim the sun on the very brightest day of summer.
The Yankees have three confirmed cases — pitchers Nester Cortes Jr., Wandy Peralta and Jonathan Loaisiga. They have three everyday players who are in COVID protocol, awaiting lab results: Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela, Kyle Higashioka. None of that is good news.
But it is Judge’s name that raises the largest concern, because Judge spent the early portion of the week at the MLB All-Star Game, an event that, if you didn’t know any better, could have taken place in 2019. Full house at Coors Field. Glad-handing teammates, all of them interacting freely with each other. Not a care in the mile-high air.
Not all of them vaccinated.
And so baseball enters into its most nervous period of the year, its most curious phase since last summer when teams such as the Cardinals and Marlins spent extended periods of time inactive because of virus breakouts.
The Red Sox announced that all five of their All-Stars were undergoing immediate testing — and conceded that at least one of them has not been vaccinated. Surely similar protocols will take over the 28 teams whose seasons are set to resume Friday night. And one more time the sport holds its breath.
“Disappointing and frustrating,” is how Yankees manager Aaron Boone put it. “Nobody wants to be talking about this. We want to go back to normal. But some things are out of our control. We have to do the best we can with the circumstances and the hands we are dealt.”
We’ve been dealing with the same lousy cards for 16 months now. Things are better, much better. But they are not normal. Every so often we get a few blissful weeks where we are allowed to forget that. We resume our lives. We plug back in. We get ready to spend a beautiful night at the ballpark, Yankees versus Sox, two ancient rivals and a perfect night for baseball. Until it turns out not so perfect after all.