Just four days into its attempt to play 66 games over 60 days, there may be cracks in the construct of Major League Baseball’s pandemic plan.
A coronavirus outbreak on the Miami Marlins forced postponement of two games today, calling into question the viability of MLB’s season just one weekend into its long-delayed start.
The Marlins home opener against the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees’ game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia had both been slated to a start a little after 7 p.m. tonight.
But by late this morning, both contests were listed as “postponed” by MLB.
“Tonight’s scheduled games between the Miami Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles at Marlins Park and the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees at Citizens Bank Park have been postponed while Major League Baseball conducts additional COVID-19 testing,” MLB said in a statement.
Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said his entire team underwent another round of testing today and cancellation of the Orioles game was their only reasonable option.
“The health of our players and staff has been and will continue to be our primary focus,” the former Yankees shortstop Jeter said in a statement.
News of a coronavirus outbreak among the Miami Marlins put players and staffers across Major League Baseball on high alert, with many expressing concern and a level of fear not typically associated with professional athletics.
The Washington Nationals are scheduled to visit Miami – one of the country’s biggest COVID-19 hot spots – next weekend, and manager Dave Martinez hopes that the league “does the right thing” and does not compel his team to travel there.
Martinez has plenty of cause for concern: He missed three games in September 2019 after undergoing a cardiac catheterization, and became emotional during a video call with reporters Monday.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m scared,” said Martinez, who says he washes his hands “99 times a day” and expressed worry for the many friends he has on the Marlins.
“My level of concern went from an eight to a 12.”
Martinez also said he’d certainly discuss opt-out options with his players; The defending World Series champions already had three players – Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross and Welington Castillo – opt out.
But the 14 positive tests among Marlins players and staff, prompting the postponement of their home opener Monday at Baltimore, reverberated among multiple teams.
“When something like that happens,” says Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, “it makes everyone a tick more nervous than they already are.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon said it is “really important to trace how it occurred…and draw up your plan to try to solve it.” Given the incubation period of the coronavirus, experts believe it is highly likely the first Marlin in the cluster contracted it in Florida.
How it spread is the question everyone’s wondering. The Marlins’ two exhibition games in Atlanta included a rain delay, and players who typically would have been seated in the stands under MLB’s health and safety protocols waited out the weather in the dugout.
Meanwhile, once games began, curbing emotion proved more difficult. The Tampa Bay Rays’ 10-inning walk-off win over Toronto on Sunday featured the usual players and staff spilling out of the dugout for a socially tight celebration.
“We probably need to do a better job of recognizing that. It is tough,” says Rays manager Kevin Cash, who joined the celebration. “But it’s better to be tough (on it) than have an outbreak.
“I need to do a better job of holding everyone accountable during those celebrations.