What I’m Hearing: After 14 Marlins players and employees tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, how will MLB move forward.
The Miami Marlins' season was suspended by Major League Baseball amid an outbreak of COVID-19 cases that resulted in 15 players and two staff members testing positive from Friday to Tuesday, the league announced Tuesday afternoon.
The action is a remarkable but pragmatic pause, sidelining one of the 30 MLB teams attempting to play a 60-game schedule through a pandemic, with one potential outcome being that the Marlins – and their upcoming opponents – may not play the season in full.
“The health and safety protocols were designed with a challenging circumstance like the one facing the Marlins in mind,” MLB said in a statement. “The response outlined in the joint MLB-MLBPA Operations Manual was triggered immediately upon learning of the cluster of positive cases, including contact tracing and the quarantining and testing of all of the identified close contacts.
“The Marlins’ personnel who tested positive remain in isolation and are receiving care.”
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MLB noted that no other club has had a positive COVID-19 test in the week beginning Friday; in the previous seven-day cycle, four players and two staffers tested positive out of more than 10,000 samples, a positivity rate of 0.05%.
The Marlins' outbreak had already resulted in a handful of postponements Monday and Tuesday: Two Marlins games against the Baltimore Orioles in Miami, and a pair of Phillies-New York Yankees games in Philadelphia, site of the Marlins' three-game weekend series.
Now, the Marlins will have up to seven games to make up: Four against the Orioles and three against the Washington Nationals, their weekend opponents in Miami.
Meanwhile, more pieces began moving to accommodate teams jamming as many games in a 66-day calendar as possible.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly walks to the mound during a pitching change. (Photo: James Lang, USA TODAY Sports)
The Yankees, also marooned in Philadelphia since Monday, will now travel south and play two games against the Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday and Thursday. That leaves the Phillies without an opponent until Friday, and with four games against the Yankees to make up.
Monday is an off day for the Marlins, Nationals and Phillies, while the Orioles and Yankees were scheduled to play in Baltimore. Conceivably, the Marlins could use Monday to play a makeup game (or doubleheader) against the Nationals or Orioles, freeing the Phillies and Yankees to make up one or two of their four postponed games this week.
Of course, all this flexibility is greatly aided by the fact games are being played without fans in attendance, rendering such key factors as site and opponent virtually moot.
That's important, as the Marlins may not have a home in which they can return.
Hours before the Marlins' season suspension, the Nationals' players voted not to travel to Miami for the weekend games, expressing the level of concern among players and manager Dave Martinez that he said “went from an eight to a 12” in the wake of the Marlins' outbreak.
That point now appears moot, as the Marlins won't have a scheduled game until next Tuesday at home against the Phillies, although they could use Monday's off day as a makeup date.
It may be with an entirely new team, in essence.
Fifteen Marlins will be sidelined for a period likely no less than two weeks and probably longer, given the return times of the more than 100 hundred MLB players who have tested positive for COVID-19. Each player will have to test negative twice in a span of more than 24 hours in order to return.
The Marlins reportedly testing positive include their top position player, Miguel Rojas, starting catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitcher Jose Urena, designated hitter Garrett Cooper and outfielder Harold Ramirez.
Miami mayor Carlos Gimenez recommended in a Tuesday press conference that all Marlins players quarantine for 14 days upon their return to South Florida, although the ultimate authority may reside with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Either way, these Marlins will bear little resemblance to the club that won two of its first three games of the year.
They'll need to dip significantly into their reserve player pool; as part of MLB's protocols for the 2020 season, teams are allowed 60 eligible players, with the 27 not with the major league team headquartered at an alternate training site.
Mixing ostensibly quarantined players from their alternate site with players who were just around a spreading event in the big league clubhouse could have been a recipe for disaster, as negative tests for the coronavirus is no guarantee the person has been infected.
Whether MLB and the Marlins opt for an aggressive but probably appropriate approach of quarantining the remaining major league players for 10 to 14 days, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, remains to be seen.
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