It would be very easy to look at the latest from Jeff Passan and presume the worst. And let’s not mince words here, things are *bad* if they’ve already gotten to this point one week into the regular season: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB Players Association Director Tony Clark spoke today about shutting the season down – reportedly as soon as Monday – if the sport doesn’t do a better job of managing the virus.
Indeed, so far, it’s been a disaster: 18 players (and two coaches) on the Marlins tested positive this week, two Cardinals tested positive last night, and 15+ games have already been impacted.
According to Passan, Manfred has the power to shut down the season if need be, and multiple players briefed on the call fear that could happen “as soon as Monday if positive tests jump or if players continue not to strictly abide by the league’s protocols.”
Now what does that mean, exactly? Well, that’s a layered question. In terms of more positive tests, that’s not much of a surprise and not too hard to discern. MLB was barely prepared to handle even one breakout as large as the Marlins (which ultimately impacted a handful of teams), so if just one other organization comes anywhere close to that level of concern, it’s pretty easy to see how and why the season would shut down.
But if things break right for MLB and the Cardinals/Twins/Brewers (or any other unexpected team, for that matter) manage NOT to test positive in the coming days, that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods.
According to Passan, state and local governments have been pressured about players not following the rules in the 113-page protocol document, including spitting and high-fiving in the dugout, and at least one “high-ranking official” noted that there are some bad decisions being made off the field.
For example, what apparently happened with the Marlins:
#MLB internal investigation found the #Marlins were very lapse in following protocols during Atlanta trip last weekend, players going out, players in hotel bar, etc. Lots of MLB people very unhappy with Miami
— Scott Miller (@ScottMillerBbl) July 31, 2020
In terms of high-fiving and spitting, I think there are no arguments to be made in the players’ favor. We’ve seen every single team periodically engage in this sort of activity in the dugout, and while we can argue whether it’s considerably adding to the risk they’re already taking, it certainly isn’t a good look. And more simply, it’s against the protocols they all discussed and agreed to before the season. Even still, those choices are a drop in the bucket if players are still making bad decisions off the field. That, in my opinion, is the greater issue here.
If players aren’t going to take this virus seriously by not isolating as best as possible for … JUST TWO MORE MONTHS … then this season will never be completed. No matter how strong the protocols or how often the testing, it takes just one player skirting the rules to spoil an entire industry. I’m sorry that it falls so disproportionately on the players, but that’s the reality of a virus that uses humans to spread.
So let’s hope for a few things here. First, and most importantly, there is not another significant outbreak across MLB over the next few days/weeks/months. Second, this is a wakeup call for everyone involved who didn’t think the season could actually be shut down. And finally, we start seeing more strict adherence to the protocols both on camera and behind the scenes. If all three conditions are not met, this season is going to be over long before we reach a postseason.
The latest report from the league and union on coronavirus testing:
– 29 positive tests through Thursday
– 21 from the Marlins
– The other eight include two players, one player at an alternate site and five staff members pic.twitter.com/g3itSdXG2D
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2020
BREAKING: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told MLBPA executive director Tony Clark on Friday that if the sport doesn’t do a better job of managing the coronavirus, it could shut down for the season, sources tell ESPN.
Story at ESPN: https://t.co/o0OL7JzowN
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2020