With an outbreak already putting an entire team at risk, MLB has to step in and show that they truly put their players’ safety over all else.
When news broke Sunday that the Marlins had four players with COVID-19 most put it off. It was an unfortunate, but a natural part of playing during a pandemic. When news broke Monday that nine more players and two coaches had tested positive for COVID-19 it became an entirely different story for MLB.
It’s clear that the Miami Marlins are MLB’s first outbreak of COVID-19. They likely won’t be the last. Most of the players who tested positive on Monday played against the Philadelphia Phillies that weekend. It’s highly unlikely that the Phillies got away without a single-player contracting the disease. So far, no Phillies have tested positive, but that’s not as great as it sounds.
To know for sure, the Phillies would have to be quarantined for two weeks and then tested. Those two weeks are the incubation period for COVID-19. Testing before the incubation time is over could yield false negatives. That means players who have COVID-19 playing and potentially spreading it to their teammates and opponents. That leads to another outbreak and another.
This may seem like a defeatist mindset, but it’s the truth. This virus has spread across the world. It’s the worst pandemic the world has seen since the Spanish Flu over 100 years ago. It never made sense to bring sports back, as much as you or I wanted them to.
Since baseball was brought back, I was optimistic. I wanted so badly to believe that this season would be played out with minimal issues. That was never going to be the case though.
Even if fans want to ignore the obvious risk here then just look at the scheduling issue this causes. Due to the outbreak, the Marlins, Phillies, New York Yankees, and Baltimore Orioles won’t play for two days. This season was supposed to be 60 games in 66 days, there’s no time to make up games later in a season. This already screwed up the schedule of those four teams.
This was just the first weekend in MLB’s COVID-19 shortened season. There’s no telling what could and will happen as the season progresses, especially in hot spots like Florida, California, and Texas.
Players from around the league are also taking the virus less seriously. Despite specific rules in place to discourage high fives, hugging, and any other physical form of celebration players continue to do it.
Take the New York Mets for example. When Yoenis Cespedes hit a home run on Opening Day the team couldn’t help themselves. They didn’t just celebrate with their returning star, they were jumping on top of him, high diving, hugging, and breaking every social distancing rule MLB had established. That’s just one of many examples from around the league.
The Mets have even admitted to players breaking quarantine. Instead of staying in the hotel like they’re supposed to, many players admitted to leaving the hotel to get breakfast, for example. Then they come back and meet up with teammates and play with their opponents.
This blatant disregard for MLB’s rules and MLB’s lack of enforcement isn’t new. Just look at the pace-of-play rules for an example. One of the most prominent pace-of-play rules was that batters would no longer be able to leave the batter’s box. It would speed up at-bats and therefore games. Except, that the players ignored the rule and MLB has done nothing to enforce it.
So, instead of addressing and enforcing the rules in place, MLB added new more drastic rules. That seems to be the route they’re going to take here.
According to multiple reports, MLB has no plans to shut down the season. Instead, they plan to treat the Marlins as an isolated incident and deal with them accordingly. They plan to play in Baltimore on Wednesday, just two days after 13 players tested positive for COVID-19, to pick up game one of what would have been the second series in a back-to-back for the two teams.
The league has said for months now that player safety is paramount to them. Well, now they have the chance to prove it. Shut down the season before something catastrophic happens. If they don’t, all their doing is proving that they care more about the money gained from television revenue and merchandise sales then they do about the health of their players.
Nobody wants to see a player lose their career due to the after-effects of the disease. Nobody wants to see a player’s family member sick or dead because of COVID-19. Most coaches are considered at-risk, yet they’re out there every day.
MLB has the chance to stop this before something happens. They should take it and never look back. As much as it would suck to not have baseball for a year, it’s better than the potential alternative that is already beginning to play out.