One thing is already very clear about this baseball season: Successful teams will be the ones to master multitasking, starting now and extending through September and through October.
(Assuming, of course, that the virus doesn't just play its trump card that ends the game at no point between now and then.)
Everyone's brains (owners, general managers, field managers, players) will be divided into duel halves, one occupied with health and safety protocols, one reserved for executing the work for which they are normally paid. It is not an easy rhythm to master, it is not a nice balance to hit, because these are men who reached the peak of their careers by being determined and dedicated, obsessed with the craft and the process.
Baseball is, in normal times, a hymn to concentration, to blocking everything that gets in the way of painting black with a slider, connecting with 99 mph gas, trying to outwit and beat the other manager. in the other canoe, about building the perfect rosters of 26 and 40 men and acquiring talent on the go.
But you may have noticed: these are not normal times.
"It is difficult to separate or distinguish between the two," Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen admitted Monday afternoon in his first public comments since baseball was resumed last week. "We have spent a lot of time and effort preparing for the opportunity that is now before us.
“John Ricco (senior vice president and one of Wilpons' top lieutenants) has been taking a leadership role in managing the process, preparing our facilities. We have to make sure that we have our facilities ready to handle ourselves, and the protocols in place, and also an acceptance of every part of it. ”
Until now, Van Wagenen's task has not been as murky as others in the sport that have the same job. Only one member of the Mets '40-man roster has tested positive for COVID-19 (declined to identify who), and at this time all players in the Mets' developing group of players for summer camp have indicated that I will report.
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Still, once those players start arriving at Citi Field on Wednesday and begin participating in full team practice on Friday, they will be asked to do much more than stretch their arms or tune their swings in the cage.
Once rookie manager Luis Rojas welcomes his team, he'll need to have a lot more on his plate than just solving a batting order, ending his rotation, maximizing his bench and his bullpen. The work is quite difficult; Now the hardest part of that job is only half the job, and it may not actually be the hardest part.
Always optimistic, Van Wagenen said: “This season will be new for everyone. Luis can benefit from all his colleagues going through a situation that they have never been through themselves. "
And once all of this becomes reality: the 60-game glory run, the resumption of baseball activity, and ultimately (and hopefully) the sprint through October, Van Wagenen will be accused not only of maximizing the Mets' expectations for 2020 when performing daily GM tasks. He will also be the most outstanding director in charge of keeping everyone online. There are other leaders in the cast, the owners above him, Rojas below, veteran players, but putting all this work on the shoulders of a second-year general manager who already had a lot to prove.
"Leadership," he said, "is all here."
This time, that word is loaded with more meaning than ever. For everyone.
"He is making sure that we are helping to prepare our players for practice and what life in the clubhouse will be like," he said. "He is creating a roster and putting the team in a position to succeed every day and night and never leave that behind." That work environment is symbiotic with what we are trying to do here. "
It is part of the narrative of any spring training to easily talk about how "laser focused" Player X is, or how "blocked" Player Z is. We wrote sonnets on managers' determined devotions, iambic pentameter about GMs with heads down, fixated on finding missing pieces and secret weapons. At summer camp, everyone will try to be all of that, of course.
But also more. Much more.