Back when MLB teams reported for the start of Summer Camp, going through their first set of COVID-19 screening tests, the expectation was that there would be a whole lot of positives around the league. That was, and is, the nature of the virus: so many people who are carrying it don’t realize they have it. If we tested the whole country right at this moment, there would likely be millions of additional infections we had no idea about. We all do the best we can to avoid getting and transmitting the virus, but let’s be realistic: even people who do very well might still get the thing.
So, then, it wasn’t a surprise that most teams had at least one active infection at the time of arrival to camp, or that many teams saw infections pop up throughout the course of the season. Again, with regular prophylactic testing, you’re just gonna see a lot more positives than you would if you were testing only people who became symptomatic.
And yet the total volume of people who tested positive in MLB throughout the season remained exceedingly low, and progressively lower as the season went on. Clearly, the efforts of those players and their families, together with the protocols put in place by MLB, did work. We can debate whether there were mistakes along the way – there were – but the result was pretty clearly a success. Playing this season safely was possible.
That, I think, can fairly be celebrated in a year like this. There was a time when playing a professional team sport looked irresponsible at best, and impossible at worst. But the teams and the players made it happen during a pandemic.
Of note, just one of those 30 MLB teams did not have a single positive test during the whole year, intake or monitoring:
The Chicago Cubs will finish the 60-game regular season as the only team in MLB without a single player testing positive for COVID-19. That's a pretty remarkable feat.
— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) September 27, 2020
As I’ve said, even the careful among us can still catch this disease. It’s too transmissible. No individual should be torn to shreds over a positive test, because it truly isn’t always their fault.
The flip side of that, however, can be held out as a credit to a group’s efforts. For the Cubs organization to have avoided a single positive test among their players – and for guys like Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward and Cameron Maybin to be proactive when they started to sense the possibility of symptoms – is something they deserve to feel good about. It takes tremendous discipline and efforts from the players and their families. And, yes, some good luck.
I suspect having pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s story about his rough experience during the layoff really helped drive home the focus, but I also suspect this was a team that understood immediately the responsibility they held for each other. One slip up could not only put yourself at risk, but your teammates. I think the Cubs understood that from day one, and took it as seriously as you’d hope anyone would. I also think the coaching staff, including rookie manager David Ross, must have done a very good job reinforcing the importance of sticking to the protocols on a daily basis.
I think the players, the coaches, and the organization deserve some praise for what they accomplished this year.