Major league baseball commenced its season just four days ago. Most teams started a day later. Now, the season is in jeopardy.
The Miami Marlins’ home game against the Baltimore Orioles, scheduled for tonight, has been postponed because eight players and two coaches very recently tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus. This brings the number of positive tests for the team to at least 14. Tonight’s game between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies apparently will also be postponed because the Phillies played the Marlins over the weekend.
MLB is holding an emergency meeting. The season seems to be in jeopardy.
This news comes just after the English Premier League completed its regular season yesterday. Germany and Spain have completed their soccer seasons, although a post-season game in Spain was postponed due to the virus. Italy is about to complete its season.
If MLB has to abort its season after just a few days, the narrative that the U.S. badly bungled its response to the virus will be strengthened, and the country might well be demoralized.
I will update the MLB story as I get more information.
HERE’S A QUESTION: Why did the Marlins play their game yesterday? According to this report in The Athletic (subscription required):
Multiple sources confirmed that the Marlins played despite having three players learn Sunday that they’d tested positive for COVID-19, just two days after a fourth player learned of a positive test on Friday. Two infectious-disease specialists told The Athletic on Sunday that those positive tests fit the definition of a “clear outbreak” of the virus within their team. But sources said those tests were not enough for either Major League Baseball or the club itself to give serious consideration to postponing this game.
It’s easy to second guess all manner of decisions made regarding this novel virus. In my view, there has been too much such second guessing on both sides of the political spectrum.
However, considering the stakes, I would have expected MLB and the Miami organization to err on the side of caution in this instance.
Miguel Rojas, the Marlins’ respected veteran shortstop, told the media that all 30 players discussed the situation Sunday morning, but that not playing was “never our mentality.” Naturally. Players want to play. But perhaps wiser heads should have overruled them.
What was problematic about letting everyone who tested negative participate? Two things, according to an epidemiologist who spoke with The Athletic:
No. 1 is, if I get a negative result back today, that doesn’t mean that I’m negative and not infectious right now. It means I was negative or not infectious when I got that test. If that was yesterday, it means I wasn’t infectious yesterday.
The other thing is that this disease can take several days to show itself – by which I mean you don’t test positive immediately after you’ve been exposed. You test positive three, five, seven days after you’ve been exposed. So it’s possible that some of these players or staff are incubating the infection right now and could turn up positive when they get the results back from another round of testing, say, in a couple of days.
Another epidemiologist added: “They’ve got 10 percent or more of their entire (traveling) group positive. That suggests that there’s a high probability that more people are going to end up testing positive.”
More people did.
WILL ANY MARLIN BECOME SERIOUSLY ILL? We don’t know. Players are in a very low risk age group. Coaches and other team personnel may not be.
But even players can become seriously ill due to this virus. Allahpundit at Hot Air reminds us that Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves became so sick he thought he might die. And Eduardo Rodriguez of the Boston Red Sox reportedly suffers from an inflammation of his heart muscle stemming from his Wuhan coronavirus infection. Didi Gregorious of the Phillies has been identified as high risk due to a chronic kidney disease.
The comparatively low risk to players from the virus should be taken into account in MLB’s decision about whether to continue the season, but only as one factor.
Some players have already opted out of the season. If the season continues after what happened with the Marlins, I expect more players to join them.
DID THE MARLINS BEHAVE RESPONSIBLY? According to this report, some Philadelphia Phillies players were alarmed all weekend by the conduct of the Miami Marlins during the three game series between the two teams. The alarm centered on players not staggering their arrivals and workouts, and on how few people in the Marlins dugout were wearing masks.
I don’t know whether the report is accurate. However, if the baseball season continues, I hope that teams and individual players will closely adhere to the coronavirus protocols established by MLB.
FINAL UPDATE (FOR THIS POST): As I’m writing this, the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres are about to start their game. I think MLB can work around the outbreak among the Marlins and the implications for a few other teams.
The Marlins can call on its large reserve squad to fill in for quarantined players. However, few of these players are of major league quality.
There are limits, though, to how many of these outbreaks MLB can work around. Baseball needs to tighten up its anti-infection efforts and then pray for good luck.