With Joe Maddon switching leagues and Bruce Bochy retiring, Bud Black is suddenly one of the seniors in the Senior Circuit. The Rockies skipper turns 63 on Tuesday, making him the second oldest-manager in the National League behind Atlanta’s Brian Snitker, who’s 64.
“I still feel 25, most of the time,” the Rockies manager cracked Monday, lifting a lyric from George Strait’s Troubadour. “I plan on going everywhere.”
As we’ve learned the hard way, COVID-19 doesn’t give a flying glycoprotein about your plans. Or your pitching staff. Black? Charlie Blackmon? Ian Desmond? They’re all guinea pigs now. Millionaire guinea pigs, but guinea pigs nonetheless.
According to CDC data from a few days back, the COVID-19 fatality rate was just 0.1% among patients aged 18-29 and 0.3% among those 30-49 — comparable with the death rate of the flu among the young and (presumably) hardy.
But it’s for those over 50 where things start to diverge, statistically, in all the wrong ways. While the fatality rate of the flu among the ages of 50-64 was .06%, the rate for those with COVID in that same age group was 2.9%, or roughly five times as deadly. Among those 65-74, the coronavirus death rate shoots to 10.4% and to 20.8% among those 75-84.
COVID hotspots are mushrooming in Texas, Arizona and California. The kids are hitting the bars and beaches again, and damn the torpedoes. Cases keep spiking among the vernal and virile.
Meanwhile, Black is about to go to work in close quarters and eventually hit the road — primarily in Texas, Arizona and California — for the next three months with a bunch of guys half his age.
“I think it’s an effort by all of us, individually, to watch out,” Black said. “I’m going to be fine. I think that’s the case for most people.”
True. But with no bubble, every town— hell, every day — is a roll of the dice. Desmond is sitting this one out, and his Instagram post on Monday explaining why was as eloquent as it was raw. The Twins earlier in the day said they were asking coaches Bill Evers and Bob McClure, aged 66 and 68, respectively, to skip the shortened 2020 campaign as a health precaution.
In spite of the disconcerting numbers out of Arizona and Texas, Black said he trusts that hotels for visiting teams will follow MLB safety protocols. But even a regional schedule comes with inherent risks and the usual temptations. If you’re asking dudes in the primes of their lives to lock themselves in their respective rooms on the road and not sample the nightly social scene, you’re asking for small miracles.
“I think it comes down to practicing the guidelines that have been put in front of us,” Black continued. “And obviously, there’s a great deal and amount of respect in our organization for each other.”
That’ll be tested. Daily. Hourly. I’ve been in and out of active journo duty this month. During one off week, I drove back to my hometown in western Iowa to attend the funeral of a family friend. There wasn’t a facial covering in sight.
Not outdoors. Not indoors. Restaurants were just opening up. Some of the dives followed local guidelines for 50% capacity. Others shrugged it off.
It was only nine hours and change away from the Front Range, but it felt like a completely different planet. A land where the coronavirus was somebody else’s problem.
It’s everybody’s problem. Still. And it’s not going away.
“Obviously, the virus is in control here,” Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. “But this isn’t business as usual.”
We sheltered. The spread slowed. We got out to try and enjoy the summer, and the bugger picked right back up again. It’s science, just not of the rocket variety. The best birthday gift the Rockies can give Black is a fast start. The next best is simply being available. Which means using your head. And a mask.