In the aftermath of the Miami Marlin’s recent clubhouse outbreak, which led to at least 17 players & 2 coaches positive tests for the Coronavirus, Major League Baseball has FINALLY begun to take necessary action. Is it a matter of too little too late? Perhaps. Is it an opportunity to salvage a shortened 60-game season? Hopefully. Here’s the latest of what commissioner Rob Manfred & members of the MLB office is implementing going forward.
Some elements of the protocol are unlikely to change, including testing. Currently, on-field personnel, including players, are tested every other day via a saliva sample. The sample is sent to MLB’s Utah lab, where it is typically processed within 36 hours. In the case of an outbreak, the lag in testing could be problematic. It’s also not something likely to be solved, sources said, with the more rapid point-of-care testing. The sensitivity — or how often a lab test generates a positive that accurately reflects the presence of the virus — is higher in the saliva test than the point of care.
Larger changes in MLB’s protocol could be near. With the league now having postponed games, there is precedent, sources said, for pausing play at the first sign of an outbreak. If it’s evident a cluster could be forming, one official said, the league could stop play for one team to get a better sense of how penetrative the virus has been. Of course, with the virus’ incubation period lasting up to 14 days, according to the CDC, it remains possible that even a stop in play could be too late to keep the virus from spreading in the clubhouse.
The first extension of protocols in the memo tighten them anyway. While the league won’t mandate an on-the-road quarantine, players and team staff will be highly discouraged from even going into common areas of the hotel. On buses, the compliance officer will arrange seating charts- and, in some cases, separate groups of friends likelier to run afoul of the 6-foot rule, which the league is treating as sacrosanct along with the adoption of surgical mask use for all. Each team will be assigned a compliance person, who will be designated with rare Tier 1 credential status given to essential personnel such as players, managers, coaches, and training staff, will submit reports and monitor hotels. The adherence to protocol around baseball has been a point of contention, particularly whether all of its elements matter. Players have spent the first week of play spitting, high-fiving, and in the case of the Astros-Dodgers altercation Tuesday, ignoring social distancing — and, at least to this point, have stayed coronavirus-free.
MLB is investigating a wide range of factors, from the team’s in-stadium behavior — mask wearing, social distancing and other protocol-suggested factors — to the off-field activities of players and staff, according to sources. The league will especially look into the players going out at night in Atlanta during the Marlins’ time in the city for preseason games against the Braves.
However much the actions of those in the Marlins’ organization might have tested the protocol by not adhering to it, what happened Sunday highlights warrants more attention.
Nowhere does the 113-page protocol that governs the 2020 season explicitly address how the league would handle a coronavirus outbreak, let alone one the magnitude of the Marlins’. It offers neither a threshold of cases to shut down a team nor a scenario that would cause a pause in the season. For a document as detailed and pedantic as MLB’s operations manual, the lack of specificity on literally the entire reason for its existence — the presence of a global pandemic — has been a glaring omission, multiple general managers said leading up to the season.
The Miami Marlin’s 2020 season was put on hold for one week (7-games) after their recent COVID-19 outbreak. Outfielder Harold Ramirez was one of the players who tested positive. Ramirez, 25, told a Spanish television program on Wednesday, that he’s the only person on the Marlins currently experiencing symptoms, including a cough and body aches. In his interview, Ramirez advocated for the idea of a one-location “bubble” for the 2020 MLB season, saying that could help an outbreak.
I happen to agree with Ramirez. The NBA agrees with him and so does the NHL who both are restarting their seasons in a bubble. The NBA is currently stationed in Orlando Florida while the NHL is in two areas of Toronto Canada. Major League Baseball had every opportunity to follow the same path. Two months ago, all 3 commissioners of the respective leagues had a conference call to discuss their ideas about moving forward during the pandemic, and I’m sorry to say but MLB commissioner Manfred got it all wrong by not following the NBA & NHL’s lead.
Photo Credit: By Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA –