ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals have not played a baseball game since July 29.
COVID-19 quarantined the team in Milwaukee, has infected 10 players and seven staff members and has created an absolute scheduling nightmare for the team to complete its 60-game season.
But over the course of the past nearly two weeks, much of the focus has been on one question. Why did this happen?
The speculation has run rampant on social media with various people from former players to reporters placing the blame for the outbreak among the team on some questionable decision making. The loudest of those theories was that some members of the team visited a casino, and spread the virus to their other teammates.
Both Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak and manager Mike Shildt have refuted that claim, but now we're hearing from a prominent player.
Cardinals veteran starter Adam Wainwright chatted with 5 On Your Side sports Director Frank Cusumano on Frank's radio show on 590 The Fan, KFNS on Monday, and had a clear message: 'It just didn't happen'.
Wainwright's first reaction when he heard the rumors? Get to the bottom of them.
"(I reacted) The same way the public reacted at first. The first second that I heard it, I was one of the first people to talk about it. Myself and Yadier Molina got on our team chat that has every single player on it, and just start blasting guys. 'Hey, who is it? Is this true? Who did this?' And I can't sit here and tell you with 1000% certainty that nobody did that, but I trust my teammates, and nobody says they did that," Wainwright said. "And when we heard the news that somebody had gone to a casino in Potawatomi. The Potawatomi casino, they looked at all the tapes and nobody came in there. There was a lot of speculation."
Wainwright said while he doesn't feel it's his place to discuss specifics of how the team believes the virus did infiltrate the team, but that the speculation has been tough to see.
"I think if you saw my tweets over the last week, there's a little bit of frustration in there because the whole team gets thrown under the bus sometimes when and accusation gets thrown out there and that can be tough to deal with. But when you look at our team from the outside in, and you don't really have knowledge of what's going on in our clubhouse... If you see 29 teams playing baseball and see one team that's not, you go, 'Well, what did they do different? They obviously did something to warrant what's happening right now. And I'm not going to talk about how it happened, because I don't know if that's my platform, but I can tell you what did happen was an honest mistake. Nobody went out gallivanting around. First of all, I'm pretty sure everything is shut down, otherwise I'm naive. The bars and stuff, the casinos we heard, the strip clubs or whatever, that did not happen," Wainwright said."
"Nobody went to a casino and gambled all night with a bunch of people they don't know in close proximity. Nobody went to the bars and hung out with friends all night long. It just didn't happen. That's all I can really say about it."
Wainwright did say he understands why people on the outside may be grasping, looking for a reason, when the Cardinals are the only team currently not playing games.
"But from the outside looking in, I understand how people could think that. Because we're the only team not playing right now. And the other team that did have a bunch of positives, they potentially did something like that. But that's not how we did it," Wainwright said.
"It's a tough deal. I'll be honest, it's a tough thing to stop once it gets in the clubhouse. I just keep telling guys around the league you can't let this get in your clubhouse."
As for the rest of the season? Wainwright said he and his teammates are ready for whatever kind of plan is available for the Cardinals to play out their schedule, even if it means an ample amount of doubleheaders.
"We've been conditioned for that since we grew up playing baseball. In summer ball, you played three games a day. You started at 8 in the morning, you had a bout a 12 or 1 o'clock game and then you had a 6 or a 7 o'clock game at the end of the day. You had orange slices and fruit snacks and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and just did what you had to do to win the tournament. And that's what we have to do, we're going to do what we have to do to win the tournament," Wainwright said.
More than anything, Wainwright expressed the desire to return to the field. With the most recent cancellations, the Cardinals won't hit the field for a game until Friday at the earliest, which would be 16 days since they last played a game.
Wainwright said he knows the schedule is setting up to be grueling and unique, but the team remains hungry to fight for a playoff spot.
"I think guys are ready to play baseball enough, that there's not a whole lot of situation out there that could keep guys from wanting to play. If they say, 'Well you know you've got to play 55 games in 46 days', nobody on our team is going to say 'Well, I'm not doing that. That's ridiculous'. What we've been doing, sitting around watching everybody else play...," Wainwright said. "We know that this is a crazy season, we know this is going to be a unique situation, and we know that we have a chance to do something cool, something special if we can just get back onto the field and play some baseball games. It's going to be tough. There's going to be guys really really tired. But we're going to have to dig deep, and we're going to have to win games and we're going to have to perform no matter what."
You can listen to Cusumano's entire interview with Wainwright on KFNS by clicking here.