COVID-19 outbreaks among the Marlins and Cardinals forced quite a few games to be postponed over the first two weeks of the 60-game MLB season, some of those involving other teams just because they had been around those two clubs.
The Marlins resumed play Tuesday after having made a flurry of roster moves and immediately took three straight from the Orioles, leading to this comment:
It does prove something I've thought for a bit now, you can get a dozen random guys off the street and beat the Orioles.— Bluebird Banter (@bluebirdbanter) August 6, 2020
Humor aside, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association realized that the health protocols agreed to in a 113-page document earlier this summer likely weren’t enough to prevent new outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. Thus, late Wednesday the parties agreed on stricter protocols. Among them:
MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to changes to the operations manual. Starting tomorrow, staff and players must wear face coverings over their nose/mouth at all times and in all places in the stadium except for players on the field. This includes the dugout and bullpen. Everywhere.— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) August 6, 2020
During Wednesday’s Cubs game, I didn’t see anyone but the coaches wearing face coverings in the dugouts. That will be very different tonight — watch for it. MLB sounds like they’re very serious about this:
2) The refusal to wear face covering when required to and reminded to do so qualifies for prohibition. The league will send written warnings prior to any action taking place.— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) August 6, 2020
Teams are required to provide outdoor, covered spaces for the visiting team to minimize time spent indoors. Both teams must also have dedicated spaces where they can observe social distancing during rain delays.— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) August 6, 2020
You’ve seen the tents at Wrigley Field near the dugouts. This was supposed to provide covered outdoor space for this purpose, but rarely did I see it used. You’ll no doubt see more of these tents going forward.
Teams must reduce their traveling parties to only personnel who are absolutely essential to playing games. All staff and players must wear face coverings at all times in hotels in the road except for when alone in their rooms.— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) August 6, 2020
This is a good practice in general for everyone, in my opinion, when going out.
4) When at home, players are prohibited from going to bars, malls or any large gatherings.— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) August 6, 2020
-Players must get permission from their compliance officer before leaving the hotel
-Clubs must reduce the numbers in their traveling parties to personnel 'essential' to playing the game
It seems to me that MLB and the MLBPA should have done this sort of thing before “Summer Camp” even began. They must have thought voluntary compliance would work; obviously it didn’t. These new protocols should help. It’s not going to be easy for players on the road; this Jeff Passan article at ESPN.com has details on how players have had to adapt to the “new normal” even before these new rules were set down.
MLB rejected the idea of playing in a bubble (or multiple bubbles) before the 60-game season was imposed by Commissioner Rob Manfred. This article by Evan Drellich in The Athletic suggests that MLB might be considering a bubble situation for the postseason:
Sources said that MLB is indeed considering its options for the postseason, but that right now, it is too early to know what the league will do. Naturally, the decision will be informed by developments over the coming days and weeks. It is unclear how far in advance MLB would need to decide its playoff plans: two weeks before the regular season would end? Four?
Ultimately, it is hard to imagine that the general environment in the U.S. would change in that time to the point that MLB would be wise to do anything but move the playoffs to a neutral site, and exert greater control over the teams’ environments. Less travel would be an inherent plus.
A bubble for the postseason would be a great idea, in my view. Without fans in the stands, it doesn’t really matter where postseason games are played. Southern California might be a good place, as there are three stadiums (Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, Petco Park) within a couple hours drive. It would not surprise me if something like this happens, at least past the eight first-round series that are to be played among the 16 clubs that will qualify for this year’s postseason, presuming we get that far. And with the new protocols, the chances of completing this season increased, as long as players follow them.
I want to conclude this overview of the current situation in baseball with a few words about the Cardinals. There were accusations that the Cardinals traveling party had contracted COVID-19 from a visit to a casino, but per Derrick Goold in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that’s not the case:
The Cardinals have traced the infection back to contact at least one member of the team had with an associate, who was asymptomatic, outside of the club’s testing and perimeter. Team officials said they believe the virus crept onto the roster before leaving St. Louis and spread as a result of interactions that couldn’t be avoided and some clusters of conduct around and on the field that could.
The Cardinals are our rivals on the field. But they are human beings just like everyone else, and it appears the outbreak within the St. Louis clubhouse happened just about the way it could happen to anyone else — through contact with a person who had the virus but was asymptomatic. Save your rivalry comments about the Cardinals for on-field action. Beyond that, like any other human being, they deserve our sympathy and support during the pandemic.
The article linked above also notes that the Cardinals were cleared to practice Wednesday and Thursday, and so the Cubs’ series against them beginning Friday evening in St. Louis will apparently go on as scheduled. With the new protocols, players and others around the game should remain safer from COVID-19 infection, at least as safe as is possible.
Hope everyone reading this is safe and healthy, too.