2020 St. Louis Cardinals
2020 St. Louis Cardinals / Franchise: St. Louis Cardinals / BR Team Page
Managed by Mike Shildt
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2020 St. Louis Cardinals headed into spring training with confidence brimming after winning an unexpected division title in 2019, then upsetting the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series. Even being handed a beatdown by the Washington Nationals in the NLCS didn't dampen their enthusiasm, as they clearly saw themselves as the team to beat in the NL Central. There was only a couple of small changes to the team over the off-season, with LF Marcell Ozuna leaving as a free agent, and OF/1B Jose Martinez being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in return for two prospects. The only significant addition was P Kwang-Hyun Kim, signed from the Korea Baseball Organization. With the COVID-19 pandemic upending plans for the season, most observers saw the division as up for grabs in the shortened 60-game season.
The Cardinals won their first two games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, picked by everyone as the weakest team in the division, with Adam Wainwright flashing some of his old form in winning the second game, after young ace Jack Flaherty had gotten them off to a good start in the season opener on July 24th. However, they lost the final game of the series, and then both of the games against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on July 28-29. That's when disaster struck, as two members of the team tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the postponement of their scheduled week-end series with the Milwaukee Brewers. Then the news got worse, as they became the second MLB team after the Miami Marlins to deal with a full-blown outbreak of the disease, as the number of positive tests jumped over the next few days to reach 13 on August 3rd, including 7 players and 6 members of the traveling party. As in the Marlins case, stories quickly emerged that the health and safety protocols put in place to prevent such an occurrence had been largely ignored when the team was at home for its opening series, contributing to the spread. This led to the postponement of another series, this one against the Detroit Tigers. The only good side of this was that none of those who had tested positive had needed to be hospitalized. The hope was that the spread would be contained and that the team would be able to resume playing on August 7th, albeit with a shuffled roster given all the positive tests.
The team did not initially release the names of the players testing positive, but it was revealed that they included key members of the team, such as C Yadier Molina and SS Paul DeJong, as well as IFs Edmundo Sosa and Rangel Ravelo, and Ps Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley. P Carlos Martinez was placed on the injured list at the same time with an unspecified ailment, leading to speculation he was the seventh player affected. For their part, Molina and DeJong stated that they had no idea how they had become infected, as they had followed all recommendations, which just highlighted how difficult it was to contain the virus once it began spreading among a group of persons. On August 7th, the team announced that two more players and one staff members had tested positive. That forced the postponement of their week-end series against the Chicago Cubs. The players were OF Austin Dean and P Ryan Helsley. On August 9th, another player tested positive, OF Lane Adams, forcing the postponement of another three-game series, that one against the Pirates. That made it 13 postponed games, and even the healthy players on the team had not been authorized to work out in the meantime, making it uncertain how the team would be able to resume its schedule, while playing it to its completion was getting more unlikely by the day. On August 13th, it was announced that - if the situation remained stable - the Cardinals would return to the field to play a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox on August 15th, while that same day Commissioner Rob Manfred admitted that MLB was unlikely to push the Cards to play a full schedule, but would try to have them play at least 50 games and then determine their place in the standings based on winning percentage.
The Cards did not show any rust when they finally got back on the field as they swept their initial doubleheader against the White Sox, 5-1 and 6-3. They had had to make changes to their roster, with OF Dylan Carlson and 2B Max Schrock both making their big league debut as starters, and second game starter Jake Woodford also making his maiden start. Three more pitchers made their first major league appearance the next day, as well as one position player. The compromise was that they would play 58 games - necessitating a bunch of doubleheaders - by the scheduled end of the regular season on September 27th, with the possibility of playing one or both games of a doubleheader against the Tigers the next day if required to determine participation in the postseason. This turned out to be all the more likely when they headed into the final week-end of the season as one of six teams competing for four remaining postseason slots in the National League, all six of them within two games of .500. At 28-26, the Cardinals had the best record among these six teams and even had an outside chance at catching the Chicago Cubs for first place in the division - but could also miss the postseason altogether if their next four games, including a doubleheader, against the Brewers who were also gunning for a postseason slot, did not go well. They ended up not needing the extra doubleheader, as they finished in second place in the NL Central, by percentage points.
Awards and Honors
- Bob Nightengale: "'A lot of frustration': Cardinals' COVID-19 outbreak has left nine players, seven staff members infected", mlb.com, August 7, 2020. 
- Bob Nightengale: "53 games in 44 days: St. Louis Cardinals hit the road (in 41 rental cars)", USA Today, August 14, 2020. 
- Lorenzo Reyes: "Cardinals manager Mike Shildt says COVID-19 outbreak has caused 'a few visits to the ER'", USA Today, August 9, 2020. 
- Anne Rogers: "Cards report 7 players, 6 staffers with COVID", mlb.com, August 3, 2020. 
- Anne Rogers: "Molina, DeJong among Cards' positive tests", mlb.com, August 4, 2020. 
- Anne Rogers: "Cubs-Cards weekend series postponed", mlb.com, August 7, 2020. 
- Anne Rogers: "Cards defy odds to clinch postseason berth: 5th-seed St. Louis heads to San Diego for Wild Card Series", mlb.com, September 27, 2020.