The Miami Marlins started the season by winning two out of three games versus the Phillies, giving their fans a bit of hope for a playoff run for the first time in a while. They then immediately preceded to take away the hope of fans across MLB, providing the first strong evidence that this season may not last the full 60 scheduled games. If you haven’t yet heard, SIXTEEN Marlins players and two more staff members have tested positive for Covid-19. Below is everything currently known about the situation, what remains unknown, and possibilities for the rest of the season.
What We Know (As of 12 PM EST on 7/29):
- On Sunday, four Marlins starters tested positive for Covid-19. These four were Jorge Alfaro, Jose Urena (the scheduled starting pitcher), Harold Ramirez, and Garrett Cooper. All four players were scratched, but the Marlins still played anyway.
- On Monday, a report came out that seven more players and two Marlins staff members contracted the virus. On Tuesday, four more players were announced to have tested positive, including Miguel Rojas, who essentially made the decision for the Marlins to play Sunday’s game despite the outbreak. Ken Rosenthal reported Wednesday morning that the team’s most recent round of testing revealed one more positive case, bringing the team’s total to 16 players and two team staff members.
- The Marlins-Orioles games in Miami were postponed Monday afternoon. On Tuesday it was announced that the Marlins season has been put on pause until Sunday. This includes their series against the Nationals this upcoming weekend after Nationals players voted against going to play Miami due to virus concerns.
- The Phillies initially saw the first two games of their series versus the Yankees postponed. That series has now been entirely cancelled.
- Through the initial round of testing, zero Phillies have tested positive for Covid-19. The Phillies will be off until their series versus the Blue Jays this weekend.
- The Yankees and Orioles will play each other on Wednesday and Thursday instead of the Phillies and Marlins, respectively.
- The rest of Major League Baseball will continue as planned
What We Don’t Know:
- Whether this is the end to the outbreak in Miami. The number of cases has increased over the past three days.
- How long the Marlins season will be paused. Currently, it is through Sunday, but I highly doubt the Marlins will be playing until at least next weekend. The only way would be if the Marlins quarantine these 15 players until all get two consecutive negative tests, while using fifteen members of their taxi squad in the meantime.
- Whether there are other outbreaks that have started. The big one to monitor here is the Braves, as both of their top catchers are currently missing time due to Covid-19. The Marlins played two exhibition games in Atlanta before the season started. Interesting to note, Buster Olney reported on ESPN that the Marlins may have started contracting the virus in Atlanta. The Reds and Royals are also teams to watch, with several Reds currently out with symptoms and Royals catcher Cam Gallagher having played in a team scrimmage immediately before testing positive.
- If the games missed by the Marlins/Orioles/Phillies/Yankees/Nationals will be made up or just cancelled. The latter will be talked about in the possibilities for the rest of the season section.
- If there will be repercussions for the Marlins/Don Mattingly. Mattingly knew there was an outbreak (four players is a lot) and still played Sunday. He left it up to the players to decide, which arguably makes things worse. The MLB said they would put player safety first, and this lack of responsibility goes against that, so some punishment or fine seems imminent.
Possibilities for the rest of the Season:
- The biggest question for the rest of the season will be how MLB determines the playoffs. Assuming that these games are cancelled and not just postponed (which is likely with the extremely tight schedule), one scenario mentioned by a lot of people would be using win percentage, rather than win-loss record (as was done in the 1981 strike season), to determine playoff teams.
- All teams move to a bubble. Rob Manfred has said he doesn’t want to do this, and it is unlikely. However, it may help lower the risk of another outbreak. If this is the decision, my guess would be teams continue playing as normal for two weeks until the bubble is setup.
- The MLB making the social distance and mask rules more stringent. To me, this makes sense. Players should have to wear masks at all time, especially in the dugouts. Dugouts should be extended so players can spread out more, and if that is not possible, use the empty stadiums so players can spread out. Add fines for players breaking these rules to try preventing another outbreak. Additionally, more frequent testing may be implemented, though this alone will not prevent the spread of the virus; Nationals star Juan Soto has had six negative tests each with a positive test in between, indicating that the testing procedures are still highly imperfect. As the Marlins situation has demonstrated, even positive tests that reveal cases of the virus don’t necessarily preclude the spread of the virus.
- The Marlins play their entire season on the road/in another city. This may happen because part of why the Nationals series was cancelled was because they don’t want to travel to Miami, which is one of the epicenters of COVID-19. It makes sense for teams not to travel there if Major League Baseball truly wants to keep players safe. This can also act as the punishment for the Marlins irresponsibility, albeit a minor punishment. They can ask for advice from outsourced health and safety services for UK businesses.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that the baseball season will continue. Whether or not this is the right the decision is up for debate. I hope that the Marlins debacle hasn’t derailed the season, and I am sure many of you do too. However, the health of the players and staff should be the top priority, and Major League Baseball should do everything in their power to ensure that, even if it means ending the season.
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