The St. Louis Cardinals believed all winter, and reinforced this spring, they had the talent and character to win the World Series this year.
Now, they have no idea when they will play another game.
The Cardinals will have gone at least 12 days without playing a game after their three-game series beginning Friday night against the Chicago Cubs was officially postponed with two more players and a staff member testing positive for COVID-19.
The outbreak, believed to start with a person who was employed by a Cardinals player, has left nine players and seven staff members infected with the virus, leaving their team in disarray.
They have played only five games this season, and not a single inning since July 29, and are now faced with the daunting task of playing 55 games in 49 days just to complete their 2020 season.
It will be the first time in 45 years, according to ESPN STATS, that a team will have played that many games in such a short span since the Minnesota Twins in 1975, who went 20-35 in that stretch.
Forget trying to realistically compete for another World Series title.
How about just praying they can get back on the field to even play games?
“‘Nobody said it was going to be fair,’’ Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said this week. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. No one’s going to feel sorry for us. …
“Fair is relative. The fact of the matter is that a lot of what’s going on isn’t fair in our game, in our society. It’s definitely not what we’re used to.’’
It’s like having three All-Star breaks at once while everyone else has been playing.
The Cardinals already went through spring training and summer camp, and with this layoff, they might have to call it a fall sleepover.
The Cardinals are facing at least six doubleheaders on the schedule while missing at least four of their pitchers.
Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson might be 84 years old, but the boys could sure use you, with 64-year-old shortstop Ozzie Smith already telling the Cardinals that he has a few innings left in him.
Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
This a team that just lost their future Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina, All-Star shortstop Paul DeJong, starting pitcher Carlos Martinez, three relievers, their backup shortstop and their top right-handed pinch-hitter.
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The Cardinals, after being marooned in Milwaukee for a week when they couldn’t even leave their hotel room, at least are home now in St. Louis, but team workouts Wednesday and Thursday at Busch Stadium might have only spread the virus.
Three of the same players who tested positive in back-to-back days in Milwaukee, turned out positive with Thursday’s tests, sharing not only the same field, but the same clubhouse with their teammates.
Who knows who else might test positive this weekend?
The Cardinals had just been informed of the makeup dates for their three doubleheaders with the Milwaukee Brewers (Sept. 14, 16 and 25) and two with the Detroit Tigers (Aug. 13 and Sept. 10) this week with now three more being placed on the calendar.
So, they have eight scheduled doubleheaders in the next seven weeks after playing only five games in the first 19 days of this season.
“The more we play baseball,’’ Shildt says, “the better. That’s what we’re here for.
“Fact of the matter is, guys need to get on the field and play.’’
The cold reality is that they have no choice, and when they do finally play, the schedule won’t even be close to being equitable in their quest to land a playoff berth.
“I do think that is a concern,’’ Cubs GM Jed Hoyer recently said. “You sort of assume we don’t play the same schedule, but roughly the same schedule and this is a competitive business. We’re all looking to make the playoffs and looking to win a championship, and you want people to be competing in the same way.’’
It just can’t happen.
Not this year.
“We are,” Shildt says, “in uncharted territory.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale.