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The Cardinals COVID Outbreak Demonstrates the Necessity of the Expanded Playoffs

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Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

With the Cardinals season paused due to an outbreak of COVID among the players and staff, it is unknown when the team will continue playing. The weekend series against the Cubs was postponed, and the next series against the Pirates is in doubt as well. With as many games as the Cardinals have already missed, it is questionable if they will play a full 60 games, if the season even continues at all. Additionally, if/when the Cardinals get back to playing, they will need to play a large amount of doubleheaders, which means each of those games will only last seven innings. Additionally, there is a good chance that a large amount of key Cardinals players will miss more than a few games due to the virus.

The Cardinals are also the second team to have a COVID outbreak as the Marlins have already gone through a similar experience. This led to the Marlins giving a large number of minor league players their debuts as they needed to fill out the roster. Depending on how the Cardinals outbreak continues to develop, this could also happen in St. Louis. In addition, this could happen to any other team in league as well if they experience an outbreak. This brings into question whether the results of this regular season would have been the same if there was a normal, 162 game season.

This is why the expanded playoff is necessary for this season. By letting more teams in, more teams will get the chance to prove that they were better than their regular season results demonstrated. Clearly, 60 games is not enough to prove who is the best team in the league. Additionally, there have been things like COVID outbreaks, and a larger playoff format may allow the Cardinals to make the postseason and participate with a full strength roster, instead of a roster filled with minor leaugers to play seven inning doubleheaders. This system will allow more teams to compete against each other in better circumstances than the regular season and that should allow there to be a high degree of validity to this season.

Also, this COVID outbreak demonstrates why it is unlikely that the Cardinals will promote Dylan Carlson this season. There is plenty of uncertainty around the team right now due to this the Cardinals will not want to create more by creating a 40-man roster crunch. Carlson must be added to the 40-man roster in order to be promoted, but with just one 40-man roster spot open (two when Mikolas is transferred to the 60-day IL), the Cardinals will not want to create a situation where they need to DFA another player because they wanted to see how Carlson would play in a 60-game season full of doubleheaders. It may be frustrating to not see him on the field, but the Cardinals are clearly looking past this season, and towards the future where each season will be more regular. Additionally, the Cardinals want to see what they have in the outfield and it is difficult to make decisions based on five games.

This COVID outbreak emphasizes the irregularity of the 2020 season, but it also demonstrates that the league got the new rules right when it comes to the expanded roster and the expanded playoff. It also gives the Cardinals an explanation for why their top prospect, who appears MLB-ready, is still in the minor leagues.