As Major League Baseball’s season grows more precarious by the day amid a slow but steady stream of new cases of coronavirus among teamsleague commissioner Rob Manfred issued a rallying cry of sorts.
“We play”, Manfred told ESPN SATURDAY. “The players need to be better, but I’m not a quitter in general and there’s no reason to stop now. We’ve had to be fluid, but it’s manageable.
These comments disturbed some sports players and some health experts outside of sport. Two outbreaks – 20 cases among the Miami Marlins and six among the St. Louis CardinalsSunday afternoon — less than two weeks after the start of the season wreaked havoc on eight teams’ schedules and raised questions about MLB protocols and the role of individual player responsibilities in stopping the virus.
Saying the games would continue, Manfred placed the blame on the players.
“I don’t know Rob’s situation and I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth about it,” Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said. told reporters SATURDAY. “But I know that we – not only the players, but also the families – make sacrifices day in and day out. I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth. I guess I’ll stop there.
MLB’s 113-page operations manual for the 2020 season, which was written with input from the players’ union, contains details on everything from how a team should move to proper spacing in the dugout until what to do if a player tests positive. But it does not explicitly state what should happen after an outbreak or what the threshold is for postponing games.
Kathleen Bachynski, assistant professor of public health at Muhlenberg College, took into consideration with Manfred’s comments, writing on Twitter that the virus thrives “when people insist on sticking to a bad plan until the end.”
Bachynski said in a telephone interview that his biggest concerns were with the plan itself. She said she was shocked when she read that MLB’s handbook did not detail the steps the league and players should take after an outbreak.
“You can certainly say that you want to encourage safe personal behaviors,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But that doesn’t make up for the lack of a written policy. And it is the league’s responsibility to provide safe conditions for playing.
“I just don’t think it makes sense to put the burden of all this on the players.”
MLB stopped the Cardinals, who recorded their first two positive cases Friday, from playing the Brewers, and shut down the Phillies, who have had no players test positive, for seven days because of their exposure to the Marlins.
But on July 26, the fourth day of the season, the Marlins played against the Phillies even though they knew four players had tested positive, a decision that was questioned by some non-Marlins players and health experts.
“It doesn’t matter how fast the test turnaround is if you don’t take appropriate action based on the results of those tests,” Bachynski said.
Since their series against the Marlins a week ago, the Phillies have had three personnel test positive. But MLB said Saturday that it appeared two of those tests were false positives, and “it is unclear whether the third individual contracted Covid-19 from Marlins players and staff based on timing.” of the positive test”. The Phillies are expected to return to action Monday against the Yankees.
“Protocols are a series of little things that people have to do,” Manfred said. The Associated Press SATURDAY. “We had some problems. To be better, it’s another series of little things. I think it’s peer pressure. I think it’s the players who take personal responsibility.
He said he also had a “constructive conversation” with players’ union head Tony Clark on Friday.
Several players decided to opt out of the season after seeing the virus infiltrate team rosters. Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes on Sunday became the fourth player to opt out since the Marlins’ outbreak, joining more than a dozen who made the decision before Opening Day.
After news of the Marlins’ outbreak surfaced, David Price, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who opted out of the season before it started, tweeted: “Part of the reason for which I am at home right now is that the health of the players has not been put in place. First of all. I see that hasn’t changed.
Among those still playing, some recognize that protocols and personal behavior can improve.
“Everyone can do better. It’s a learning process,” Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton said Sunday. “We are learning things every day about how to do better on both sides. Both sides can be better. And once the season is over, there can still be improvements on what we could have done better.
From the beginning, MLB and the players’ union recognized that season-long policies would evolve. The first page of the manual states that it does not cover all aspects of season operations and that additional guidance may be provided throughout the year. Last week, MLB informed teams of tightening regulations, including designating a compliance officer for each club. More changes could be coming.
The Marlins were found to have been lax in following protocols: at least some of them did not strictly follow all the rules. But players on many teams have been spotted patting each other on the back, spitting or getting too close in the dugout — all in violation of the playbook.
Even hard-working teams and conscientious players worry about unknowingly contracting the virus while in their community or traveling. The Dodgers went beyond MLB rules, deciding as a team to require all players to wear face coverings in the dugout and limiting the presence of coaches during games. according to third baseman Justin Turner.
While high-fives or fist bumps are lower-risk activities and health experts believe players and staff members are more likely to be infected outside the stadium, Bachynski said that she worried that these small lapses suggested a broader culture of ignorance of the rules, even outside the stadium. field.
“If your leadership shows how important this is and you have a front office, like we have here, that takes this very seriously, then that will trickle down to the players who take it seriously,” said Yankees pitcher James Paxton, who serves on the players’ union executive subcommittee.
Mike Zunino, a Tampa Bay Rays catcher who has two young children, said he often thought about not continuing to play this season after the Marlins and Cardinals outbreaks.
“I’d be lying if I told you it doesn’t cross your mind every day when you see positive tests coming out,” he said, later adding: “I have a lot of confidence in the team here, guys, we you’re doing things the right way. It’s a real conversation that I have every day just to see how the dynamics of the league are going.
Even if he doesn’t retire, the Boston Red Sox’s best pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, I will not play this season as he is still recovering from myocarditis, the inflammation of his heart, which he developed after contracting the virus before the season.
“I hope that if someone tests positive, we don’t immediately point the finger at them that they’re doing something wrong,” Lester told reporters Saturday. “They could have gone to Target and needed soap and gotten it there. Hopefully we can avoid immediately pointing the finger at the bad side of things. Hopefully the real stories will come out, and maybe they’ll be good. And if they’re bad, then that sucks – it’s a shame the guys made bad decisions on that.