The Phillies should be six days away from opening their season. They should be making their final cuts in Clearwater, clearing out lockers at Spectrum Field, and getting ready for Monday’s short flight to Miami before starting 2020 with four games against the Marlins.

Instead, Joe Girardi is watching old college football games and Bryce Harper is working out in Las Vegas. The season is on hold and most of the Phillies — just like the rest of us — are bunkering down at home.

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Joe Girardi smiled after exchanging lineup cards before the Phillies played the Atlanta Braves in a spring training game early this month.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Joe Girardi smiled after exchanging lineup cards before the Phillies played the Atlanta Braves in a spring training game early this month.

You can be Joe Girardi with Strat-O-Matic

You waited all winter to get to opening day to finally see how Joe Girardi would manage the Phillies. You wondered what kind of impact Didi Gregorius would have in the lineup and how Bryce Harper would play in Year No. 2. You cringed about the bullpen’s ability to protect a late lead and quizzed your friends to name all five starters in the rotation. Finally, the offseason would be over.

Instead, you’ll spend next Thursday watching Netflix. Well, how about Strat-O-Matic and chill?

The classic baseball game will run a daily simulation each day during the regular season, helping fans see what might have happened had baseball not been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Strat-O-Matic will allow fans, media, and former players to select the day’s pitchers and lineup on their website. The results of each game will then be posted daily at 2 p.m. along with updated standings, statistics, and game highlights. You won’t have to stay up late to see how the Phillies did on the West Coast.

“Like all baseball fans, we are disappointed that the season won’t be starting on time, but we hope this day-by-day simulation will provide a fun, viable substitute for the time being,” said Hal Richman, the founder of Strat-O-Matic. “And since fans have always enjoyed the control that playing Strat-O-Matic gives them, we are enlisting their help in picking the lineups and pitchers we use in the simulation. Although we don’t know how the year will unfold, there is no other game that fans trust more than Strat-O-Matic for the most accurate and realistic action, and we can’t wait to get the games started next week.”

Richman invented Strat-O-Matic when he was 11 years old and sold his first game for the 1961 season. The game, which is still printed each year, gives each major-league player a card that has values printed on it based on the player’s stats from the previous season. The outcome of each at-bat is decided by the roll of dice.

Strat-O-Matic was the precursor to the ever-popular fantasy baseball, in which many leagues have already drafted for this season but will be unable to play without the real games going on as scheduled. And that’s where Strat-O-Matic steps in. We’ll find out next week if Aaron Nola can shut down the Marlins and begin to see if the Phillies did enough this winter to reach the playoffs.

It’ll be a nice break from Netflix. The best part is that you’ll be one day closer to the start of the real baseball season, whenever that is.

The rundown

Bob Brookover, Scott Lauber, and I practiced good social distancing Thursday by recording a Phillies podcast remotely from our homes. We talked about when baseball could return this season, what effect a shortened season could have on service time, how minor-league players have been affected by the shutdown, and even some actual baseball news, such as what’s going on with Seranthony Dominguez.

Phillies minor leaguers are scrambling to make ends meet during the coronavirus shutdown, Lauber writes after he talks to one minor leaguer who is hoping to find part-time work at a Lululemon store. The minor leaguers received some good news Thursday when Major League Baseball said it will provide financial assistance for the remainder of spring training.

Girardi does not know when the season will resume, but he’s pretty sure that his roster will look a lot different on the actual opening day than it would have next week in Miami, Brookover writes. The Phillies should have Andrew McCutchen, Tommy Hunter, and Victor Arano on their roster when the season does continue.

Important dates

Today: Phillies at Blue Jays, canceled

Tomorrow: Rays at Phillies, canceled.

Sunday: Phillies at Orioles, canceled.

Monday: Rays at Phillies, canceled.

Tuesday: Phillies off-day, not canceled.

Bryce Harper got a water bath from teammates after hitting a walkoff grand slam against the Cubs last August.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Bryce Harper got a water bath from teammates after hitting a walkoff grand slam against the Cubs last August.

Stat of the day

Assuming Harper starts for the Phillies on opening day, he will be the first player since Jayson Werth (2008-10) to start consecutive seasons in right field. Harper’s 35 homers last season are seven more than the previous four right fielders — Nick Williams, Michael Saunders, Peter Bourjos, and Grady Sizemore — combined to hit.

Could you have named those four right fielders? Didn’t think so.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: I know you have mentioned no baseball possibly until June. But I also heard that we may not be out of the woods regarding the coronavirus until July/August and if that is the case could there be no baseball. Hope not, but just wondering. — Bernie H. via email.

Answer: Thanks, Bernie. It’s hard to say right now when baseball will return, as there always seems to be an update about coronavirus. Right now, I would say the earliest baseball can return is June since it can’t start another “spring training” until at least the middle of May.

But if the virus does not go away until July or August, like you said, I think the season could be in serious danger. Major League Baseball will want to do whatever it can to hold a 2020 season, even if it’s just 80 games. But that decision is not really in MLB’s hands right now.