Cubs Again Set Example When No One Can Touch El Mago After Walk-Off Win

If the Cubs can practice social distancing while celebrating a walk-off win, surely you can wear a mask at the grocery store.

Walk-off celebrations are a big deal in baseball at any level, with festivities including — but not limited to — ripping off the hitter’s jersey, dousing them with all manner of substances from the dugout, and crushing them under a heap of bodies. It’s one of the few times when it’s totally acceptable to not act like you’ve been there before.

That was easy enough for the Cubs and Javy Báez Sunday afternoon because they really hadn’t been there before. This was the first extra-inning game they’d played under the new rule that starts a runner on second base after the 9th, and the Cubs had stopped Pittsburgh from scoring in two consecutive frames before finally capitalizing themselves.

With one out and David Bote on third in the bottom of the 11th, Javy laced a hanging 2-0 slider back up the middle that nearly put another hole in righty Cody Ponce’s backside. Bote trotted home easily and the socially-distanced party was on.

“Stay away!” the game’s hero appeared to be saying, raising his hands as if to repel would-be revelers.

So the teammates that had streamed onto the field from the dugout all stood around waving their hands in the air like some new-fangled YMCA dance craze or a Doom Paul reenactment. I’m not sure it’ll catch on, but it’s a helluva lot better than the wave.

“I wanted to bring out the masks and just everyone jump on him,” Kyle Schwarber told the media after the game. “Everyone wanted to dogpile Javy, but then we were like, ‘You know what? Let’s keep it down a little bit. Let’s be cool. Be sure that we’re being responsible.'”

Carrying that hype into a home-and-home with the Royals over the next four days shouldn’t be difficult, but things could get dicey when the Cubs are slated to travel to St. Louis to play the team with Missouri’s longest professional title drought. The Cardinals are still quarantining in Milwaukee after receiving one more positive and four inconclusive results Sunday, Their Monday game in Detroit has been postponed, but they’re still scheduled to play the rest of that series as of now.

Given the nature of transmission and testing, it’s not at all inconceivable that more positive results could prompt additional postponements, including the games against the Cubs. Jon Lester addressed that possibility Sunday, expressing frustration with the situation in general and how it could stymie the momentum the Cubs have built so far.

“It sucks that we’re dealing with this, but it’s the nature of the beast right now,” Lester said. “[The league], I’m sure, will ultimately alter the plans going forward. You know, if we’re in St. Louis on Friday, we’re in St. Louis on Friday. We’ll figure it out. We’ll try to beat the Cardinals and move on to the next day. But as of today, I don’t see that happening.’’

Cardinals exec John Mozeliak said the team has not yet determined the source(s) of any of their infections and called rampant speculation about the matter “sickening and annoying.” Perhaps not as sickening as the possibility that, like the Marlins, this latest outbreak was caused by incredibly irresponsible behavior on the part of one or more Cardinals players or staff members.

But since the entire organization does everything the right way, surely it’s not possible that a lapse in judgment could be to blame. After all, that might cause MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to turn his words into actions when it comes to shutting down the season. Then again, it might now.

“We are playing,” Manfred told ESPN’s Karl Ravech. “The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general, and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”

Cool, cool.

In the meantime, all the Cubs can do is keep playing the games in front of them that remain on the schedule as they try to extend their lead in the Central. Perhaps the competitors looking up at the Cubs in the standings can also look up to them when it comes to adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols. After all, the only way the season gets finished is if everyone is in it together.

At a proper distance from one another, of course.

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