MLB Versus COVID-19…

The last time the Phillies and the Marlins took the field in an MLB game was last Sunday.  The Marlins did so with 4 known COVID-19 cases on the team and subsequent testing has shown that almost 20 players, coaches and staff personnel have contracted the virus.  Meanwhile, the Phillies have not reported any positive tests for players but in the middle of the week the club revealed that a coach and a team staff member did test positive.  Last night the Phillies made these announcements:

  • The team has discontinued all baseball operations until further notice.
  • The weekend series between the Phillies and the Blue Jays will not happen.

There needs to be some perspective here.  The Phillies have already postponed a series with the Yankees; combined with this series, the Phillies will have postponed 6 games; in the truncated 2020 season, that represents 10% of the entire season.  For comparison purposes, imagine a situation where a team had 16 rainouts on the books sometime in late April of a normal season; the scheduling gymnastics to pull together a full season would be daunting.

MLB has reacted to this situation with what appears to be a band-aid.  From here forward, each team must take a “coronavirus compliance officer” with them on road trips.  The duties for this haute fonctionnaire is to assure that the rules laid out in the MLB COVID-19 protocol are followed notwithstanding a few elephants that are still in the room:

  • Elephant #1:  The tracing for the source of the Marlins’ outbreak is either not yet done or is inconclusive on THE most important question here – – how did the virus get in the clubhouse and spread so rapidly??
  • Elephant #2:  What evidence is there that the MLB protocol was violated in significant ways by the Marlins leading to the introduction of the virus and then the subsequent outbreak?
  • Elephant #3:  Is there actually a “Patient Zero” within the Marlins’ organization?

There are other unanswered questions remaining, but those will do for the moment because with those questions in focus, the key question now is more transcendent:

  • Does the MLB protocol – notwithstanding its 100+ pages in length – have any value with regard to the playing of MLB games in 2020?

That is the question that must be answered first.  If someone can indeed answer that in the affirmative with some basis other than arm-waving and wishful thinking, then we can move on to asking what the coronavirus compliance officer is supposed to do and what authorities he/she will have.  It seems obvious to me that even if every coronavirus compliance officer is a member of the Justice League of America, they will be less than successful in keeping COVID-19 away from MLB if in fact the protocol itself is flawed.

As they say in the infomercials, “But wait; there’s more!”

One might think that the MLBPA would be outraged by this outbreak at the start of the season.  After all, more than half of the expanded active roster for one of its teams is now COVID-19 positive; those union members were not protected by the protocol; the safety of workers and of working conditions has normally been a foundational piece in the reason for unions to exist in the first place.  So naturally, I assumed that the MLBPA would have their knickers in a knot over this and would be demanding new and better protective measures for its union brethren.  Let me put it this way; if indeed there is going to be a union outcry over this, it is more likely to be a whisper than a tirade.  According to reports, this is what the union has had to say about the outbreak:

  1. MLB has proposed changing necessary double headers to either a pair of 7-inning games or a 9-inning game followed by a 7-inning game.  The MLBPA has endorsed the pair of 7-inning games and has urged the members to back that option too.
  2. The expanded 30-man roster is set to be reduced to 28 players at the end of next week.  The MLBPA wants to extend the date of that roster contraction.

Player safety?  I guess they will get to that one of these weeks…

The reason that baseball officials – management and labor – ought to be focused on safety is that it now appears as if the Marlins’ “issues” may be a bit more commonplace that anyone would wish for.  John Heyman Tweeted this morning that today’s game between the Brewers and the Cardinals has been postponed because two Cards’ players have tested positive.  The firewall has been breeched again and in a different place.  So, is that misfortune or are the ramparts insufficient to meet the threat?

I think I have counted correctly.  There are 15 games in MLB that have been postponed due to coronavirus that will need to be made up.  There has been 1 postponement due to rain.

Enough gloom and doom for today…  There is a positive story out this week related to the NFL.  Alex Smith has been cleared by his doctors to go back to the Washington WTFs after almost 2 years away from football.  You may recall in the middle of the 2018 season, Smith suffered a grotesque injury in a game.  Since that time, he has undergone 17 separate surgeries to put his leg/ankle back together and to fight off a massive staph infection that he contracted somewhere along the line.   Coach Ron Rivera says that Smith will have a shot at the starting QB job once training camp begins IF Smith can pass the team’s “football physical”.

Frankly, if Alex Smith can simply take a snap from center, drop back and throw a pass in a practice environment, it will be a positive moment.  By all accounts, Alex Smith is one of the “good guys” in the sports world.  It is nice when something good happens to one of the good guys.

Finally, this comes from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Pentagon team tasked with studying UFOs — the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force — plans to publicly release information on its findings.

“So maybe we’ll finally get our answer: Did Otis Sistrunk really graduate from the University of Mars?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………