Major League Baseball’s bad news got even worse on Friday, as more positive tests lead to more postponements. Now, according to a report, commissioner Rob Manfred admitted that the already belated and brief season may be in jeopardy if MLB cannot get its COVID-19 outbreaks under control.
The St. Louis Cardinals postponed games on Friday after positive coronavirus tests, adding to the growing list of teams that have experienced positive tests while attempting to play the season in home cities without a so-called bubble like the NHL, NBA, WNBA, MLS, and NWSL have instituted in recent months. Serious concerns about outbreaks have impacted teams’ abilities to field full MLB rosters, which have seen the Miami Marlins postpone a slate of games and the league institute new rules on the fly, such as the ability to make up games later in the year with 7-inning doubleheaders.
Despite these adjustments, the bad news keeps coming for baseball. More teams are undergoing contact tracing and testing as they hope they have not been exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic which has killed more than 150,000 Americans.
#StlCards are in process of contact tracing and that is no small thing here. They played #MNTwins at Target Field on Wednesday — and then Cleveland played there Thursday, presumably using same visitors' clubhouse. That's three teams in the same vicinity. https://t.co/XZy35YmAP9
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) July 31, 2020
On Friday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that even Manfred has admitted to officials that the coming days are crucial to baseball’s future in 2020, and canceling the season altogether is a real possibility.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark on Friday that if the sport doesn’t do a better job of managing the coronavirus, it could shut down for the season, sources familiar with the conversation told ESPN.
The story cited some “bad decisions” being made by players off the field, which would imply that players are exposing themselves to risk of exposure by going into public places. There’s also concern expressed from local health officials about congregating on the field, a lack of mask use, and players spitting and touching hands, which have been shown on camera during games — one rule the league instituted to try and prevent pitchers from doing this was letting them take a wet rag onto the mound with them. As the story notes, with more test results due back in the coming days, it could be a simple numbers game that would require Manfred to pull the plug on the season.
Should another outbreak materialize, Manfred, who has the power to shut down the season, could move in that direction. Multiple players briefed on the call fear the season could be shut down as soon as Monday if positive tests jump or if players continue not to strictly abide by the league’s protocols.
It would be an embarrassing debacle for baseball to struggle with its Players Association to get a season together in the first place, only to have it fall apart in less than a fortnight. But it also speaks to the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and its uncontrollable spread in America. MLB clearly didn’t put in place enough safety measures to keep its players from bringing the virus to baseball. And now it seems possible that it will end the season well before a champion is crowned for 2020.