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Can baseball stay safe from COVID-19 and continue its season?

This is a legitimate question and unfortunately, no one knows the answer.

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Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Monday, the Miami Marlins had their season “paused.” They’ll go through Sunday without playing again, and thus through the first 10 days of the shortened 2020 season, they’ll have played just three games. And:

The Phillies, who were supposed to play the Yankees this week, will instead also be idle, as they might have been exposed to the virus in their series against the Marlins over the weekend. Fortunately, the Phillies have this in their favor:

The Phillies were supposed to resume their season Friday against the Blue Jays in Philadelphia, but now that's been pushed back:

Also, the Phillies will be the “road” team in their own ballpark, because that series was originally supposed to be in Toronto. It got moved to Philadelphia because the Canadian government did not grant permission for the Jays to play there, and their alternate park in Buffalo won’t be ready at that time.

Meanwhile, the Yankees will play the Orioles, who were supposed to play the Marlins. That could create this issue:

That worked out so well in the 1972 and 1981 strike seasons. What could possibly go wrong?

Confused yet? Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark of The Athletic note Commissioner Rob Manfred’s quote that baseball isn’t in a “nightmare” yet — but then ask what would constitute said nightmare:

But the league has yet to explain what defines a “nightmare category,” probably because it cannot identify the circumstances that would compel a total shutdown.

Would it take an outbreak on more than one team to constitute a nightmare? Would smaller outbreaks on multiple clubs qualify? If 11 or even 15 players testing positive on one team don’t fit the definition of a nightmare, how large would that number have to be? Suppose a large number of players became seriously ill? Or if a serious outbreak occurred with just one high-profile club?

Several people around the game speculated Tuesday that the game would have shut down if the Yankees or Dodgers had experienced an outbreak break similar to the Marlins’. The league routinely faces questions about such double standards with regard to discipline and other matters, and says the facts of each case determine its actions.

Yeah, that Yankees or Dodgers thing... MLB can deny all it wants that things wouldn’t have been any different if those teams had been involved, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case. Meanwhile, none of us here is much of a fan of Ryan Braun, but I’m reasonably certain you’ll agree with his take on things, via Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:

In Milwaukee, Ryan Braun shared the vulnerability felt by his peers. He is a baseball player, and a six-time All-Star at that, but he also is a husband and father.

“I don’t feel comfortable with where we’re at,” Braun said. “There’s real fear and anxiety for all of us.”

Braun said the Brewers had taken tests in one city, then got on a plane to fly to another city, where the test results would be available.

“The plane felt really dangerous,” Braun said.

Braun used the words “disturbing” and “upsetting” to describe his emotional response to the Marlins’ outbreak, in addition to fear and anxiety.

I can only imagine how many other players feel that way, but haven’t said anything to reporters about it.

Meanwhile, the Cubs’ two wins over the Reds have come with two of Cincinnati’s starting players, Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel, held out due to COVID-19 concerns. Both players are now appealing that decision:

Neither Moustakas nor Senzel has tested positive for COVID-19 despite multiple tests, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, nor have either exhibited symptoms since Sunday. The league’s operation manual for the 2020 season says a player who reports symptoms can return after meeting three requirements: 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.

Moustakas was placed on the Injured List on Sunday, but Senzel was not. Moustakas, according to sources, believes he had food poisoning, while Senzel was dealing with more of a head cold. Both repeatedly have tested negative for the virus through saliva tests administered by the league, sources say.

So is the league following the proper protocols regarding these two players, or not? It’s not clear, and an appeal by Moustakas and Senzel was supposed to be heard by representatives from both MLB and the MLBPA sometime Wednesday morning. It wasn’t clear whether any decision could be made before game time tonight.

It’s a mess. So far, at least, the Cubs appear to have avoided any COVID-19 infections, but I still see too many Cubs players high-fiving and not properly social distancing in the dugout. I get it, players want to support their teammates and can get caught up in the emotion of a game situation, but they really ought to be more cautious. A better sort of celebration is shown at the end of this video.

Sure, it’d be great if MLB and all 30 of its teams could get through the next eight weeks without health issues and play 60 games and head to a postseason tournament. But the outbreak among the Marlins, and other players on various teams contracting COVID-19, still puts the rest of this season at risk.

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