As if the interplay between sports and the COVID-19 pandemic weren’t complicated enough, we now have a situation that threatens to make players NOT want to report when they have symptoms of the illness. That would be a huge problem.
The story actually comes out of Cincinnati, where the Cubs are playing the Reds, who are missing two of their best bats:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 29, 2020
As you may recall, the Reds had a positive test on Friday (Matt Davidson), and then had two players report symptoms on Sunday (Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel). To be sure, “symptoms” can be a really wide range of things when it comes to COVID-19, but we want players to be overly aggressive in checking their own body sense. It’s a very good thing that Moustakas and Senzel took themselves out of the mix.
The issue is that, per the report, the two players have since tested negative for the virus, but a player cannot actually return to play until “He tests negative for the virus on both expedited diagnostic and league-approved saliva tests; he no longer exhibits symptoms associated with the virus; and he receives approval from a team physician to return to club facilities, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and after first obtaining approval from the panel of league and union representatives known as the Joint Committee.”
It’s that last part that is holding things up, apparently, because of MLB’s obvious nervousness about what happened with the Marlins. Now knowing how quickly the virus can explode on a team, and knowing that the Reds DID have a positive test, it’s not hard to connect the dots that the league would want anyone feeling ill to stay out extra, extra long, just in case.
But for those players and a competitive team, you’re now creating a situation where maybe they feel like they made a mistake saying they didn’t feel well in the first place (especially if they’ve tested negative). And it’s not like this stuff doesn’t get around among players – indeed, the Cubs and Reds have been in constant communication about the state of things so that they could feel safe to play. Suddenly, some players will have a disincentive to say they have a headache or a cough or nasal congestion or whatever. That is not a situation anyone wants to create.
These are not things you want players to have a reason to say publicly: “If you look at our lineup, unfortunately with some of these f—–g protocols, you know, Moose and Senzel both have negative tests, but they are unable to play until Thursday,” teammate Nick Castellanos said, per The Athletic. There’s much more to take in there at the report.
It’s just another human layer to this whole thing, and the Reds got caught up in the (justifiable!) concern created by the Marlins outbreak. On the whole, you want the league and its teams and its players to be overly cautious, but you also have to be careful not to inadvertently create situations where players start doing the exact opposite of what you want.
I’m thinking that everyone, including MLB, should be hoping they can figure out how to safely clear Moustakas and Senzel to play as soon as possible. The Reds and Cubs play again tonight at 5:40pm CT.