After Initial Trepidation About Playing, Yu Darvish Says Teammates ‘Doing the Right Thing’ Made Tough Decision Easier

Yu Darvish was so serious about staying in shape during baseball’s shutdown, even going so far as to invent a new pitch, but that doesn’t mean he was supremely confident about rejoining the Cubs once the season got started again. As he told members of the media during his availability on Sunday, he was perfectly willing to opt out if he felt his teammates weren’t taking safety protocols seriously.

“I came here to make sure everybody was doing the right thing,” Yu Darvish admitted. “And then I had it in my mind that, if they’re not, I was ready to go home.”

Oh man, can you imagine the toxicity of the replies had the righty ace opted out of the 2020 season? Even the universally admired Buster Posey caught flak for taking a pass after adopting twin babies born almost two months premature, so things would have gotten really ugly for a guy who a lot of Cubs fans still choose to denigrate even when he’s doing well.

Not that he based his decision on what the fans may or may not have said, or even on the team’s increased reliance on him now that their rotation is a little more shallow than they’d like. While replacing José Quintana with Alec Mills potentially makes the Cubs better in the interim, it will stress their depth and could have them looking to South Bend with more frequency.

Darvish didn’t offer an ironclad commitment to playing in 2020, however, saying only that he didn’t think he’d opt out. Rather than a sign of his indecision, that’s an honest assessment of how the fluid situation with COVID-19 continues to develop. Even if there is a point of no return on the choice to play, Darvish and his colleagues haven’t reached it yet.

“It was a tough decision, but everyone’s doing it,” Darvish explained. “All the teammates have families. Everybody has concerns, but everybody decided to play. So, it makes it a little bit easier for me to make the decision to play.”

Though it’s more than a little disingenuous to suggest that the Cubs are significantly more unified or galvanized in their adherence to the rules and keeping one another safe, it’s at least mildly interesting to note that no players have tested positive. Yet.

“At some point, I think everyone is going to get it,” Darvish said.

That resignation may have factored into his decision to play as well, whether it’s deciding not to postpone the inevitable or the belief that it’s better to get it doing what he loves than to acquire it in a more passive manner. Mind you, that is purely speculation on my part as I read into what Darvish shared through an interpreter.

Then again, it could simply be a matter of Darvish being more comfortable — both physically and conceptually — with wearing a mask from growing up in Japan. When everyone accepts something as a basic safety measure for the greater good rather than an affront to the ideals of the Gadsden flag, you don’t really have to think twice. But if half the team is aligned with Joe West and can’t really be trusted to take things seriously, well, that’s a different story.

As for how this story will play out over the remainder of the season, assuming there is one, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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