Cubs' Bryant, Other Players Raise Concerns About MLB's Testing Issues
Cubs 3B Kris Bryant became the latest player to voice his concerns about MLB's testing protocols as it attempts to return to play, saying it is "not guaranteed that we’re going to play or we’re going to finish a season," according to Mark Gonzales of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. He added, "Everybody involved kind of knows that, is aware of that, and it would be foolish not to because there’s something out there that’s tough to control." Bryant and Cubs CF Albert Almora in separate conference calls yesterday both said that they were "tested June 30 and weren’t tested again until [yesterday], six days later." Bryant: "It could just be one day where it just ruins everything, so we've really got to be on top of this thing and hopefully we figure it out." Cubs manager David Ross said that the "lack of frequency in testing 'bothered' him and raised a 'red flag.'" He said that he contacted MLB "about the delays." Ross: "(MLB) has assured me they’re working as diligently as they can and understand they’re falling short in some areas, but they’ve assured me they’re cleaning things up." Bryant said, "I know there’s going to be hiccups, but you just can’t hiccup with this" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/7).
PLAYERS HAVE DOUBTS: Bryant further raised concerns about the timing of testing, saying, "We have had guys here that showed up on Sunday and hadn’t gotten tested again seven days later. And then you don’t get the results for two days, either, so that’s nine days without knowing. And I think if we really want this to succeed, we’re going to have to figure this out." Bryant said a cancellation of the season "wouldn’t surprise me at all" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/7). As of this morning, the Cubs were the lone MLB team to not have a player test positive, and in Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer wondered, "If Cubs players and staff are seeing problems that raise concerns, what does that mean for the rest of baseball, where players have tested positive and others have opted out? What does that say about even the slim chances baseball had at the outset of even starting a season -- never mind finishing one?" (NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 7/6). In Houston, Chandler Rome notes Astros C Martin Maldonado is wondering if the 60-game season "is even viable." Maldonado said, "If it goes like the way we've started, I'd say no. They have a lot of stuff that they have to improve for the safety of everybody" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/7).
YOUR EXPERIENCE MAY VARY: In Seattle, Ryan Divish notes the Mariners have "yet to deal with" testing difficulties experienced by other teams. The club was able to get "through their two scheduled group workouts" yesterday at T-Mobile Park. Mariners Exec VP & GM Jerry Dipoto issued a statement saying that his team had "not dealt with any unexpected problems with the testing, including the collection of samples or getting the results back." Divish writes the Mariners took a "proactive approach to the process, encouraging players to arrive in Seattle before the July 3 MLB reporting date to get the intake tests early and MLB clearance done in advance." Dipoto said that he "felt that by initiating the process early, it might have helped them avoid any delays" (SEATTLE TIMES, 7/7). However, in Atlanta, Mark Bradley writes just four days into their restart, the Braves have had "four players, two of them All-Stars, test positive for COVID-19; have seen two players, both former All-Stars, and one coach opt out of the rescheduled season, and have heard their 64-year-old manager concede that he has concerns about ... well, himself." Bradley: "I can’t say I’m shocked. I am, however, surprised that MLB’s plan appears to be falling apart so soon. A week ago, I wondered if baseball could make it past September. As of this minute, I’m not sure it’ll get past July" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 7/7).
PROBLEMATIC BEGINNINGS: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes the "first few days" of MLB's reopening "have been a disaster." Brewers manager Craig Counsell on his priorities for this year said, "The season, it’s not on my radar, really. This is on my radar: It’s keeping everybody healthy and safe and doing the best we can at that job." Kepner: "Mistakes were inevitable. But failing to properly plan around holiday weekend delivery issues is hard to excuse, and it has given the players yet another reason to distrust Commissioner Rob Manfred" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/7). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes five days after major league teams "returned to work in anticipation of a sprinting season, the sport had become a third base coach frantically holding up runners." On a day when baseball "boldly announced its 60-game schedule, baseball boorishly botched enough coronavirus tests to threaten the existence of even one opening day." Plaschke: "If the players can’t even trust the owners with a swab, how can they trust them with their lives? The answer is, right now, they can’t" (L.A. TIMES, 7/7). YAHOO SPORTS’ Mike Oz: "We’re not even a week in, but this already proved what baseball is up against. It won’t be easy" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/6). ESPN's Clinton Yates said, “When you’ve got the best player in the game, Mike Trout, possibly walking away it doesn’t matter the reason. If people look at this as odious and they’re the ones who are supposed to be playing the games, you’ve got a huge problem on your hands" ("Get Up," ESPN, 7/7). ESPN's Jeff Passan said of whether or not MLB saw some of these issues coming, “If they didn’t forecast issues at the beginning, then they are far more naïve than any of us realized. They are inveterate planners. This plan just fell through. It was a mistake, and it came back to bite them" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/6). NBC Sports Chicago's Gordon Wittenmyer said, "This is the easy part. If they can’t nail the easy part when it’s all the teams self-contained and its testing and everyone is staying in one place, how are they going to pull this off?” ("SportsTalk Live," NBC Sports Chicago, 7/6).
COMING APART AT THE SEAMS: In Pittsburgh, Mark Madden writes, “MLB set itself up to fail. It got tangled up in an absurd labor negotiation that featured bad optics and achieved no amicable resolution, and is now testing its health and safety protocol on the fly as the season quickly approaches." Many of MLB’s players "don’t want to play." The protocol "failing so evidently and so early ultimately might convince many not to." MLB "needed a longer training camp." Not to "make sure players are game-ready but to have more leeway to iron out the protocol." Now, MLB is "painted into a corner" (TRIBLIVE.com, 7/7). In New Jersey, Justin Toscano writes MLB’s return-to-play plan had "one constant." In an "unpredictable pandemic, this constant seemed to be the most reliable part of the sport’s return." Toscano: "But the testing -- that one constant -- has proven faulty less than a week into summer camp." What "seemed to be the most sure component of the 2020 season might be something that instead undoes it" (Bergen RECORD, 7/7). ESPN's Mina Kimes said, "So many things have to go right for MLB to pull this off, many things outside of their control, external factors, luck. … All of that is predicated on the idea that the testing will work, that they have the information, because otherwise you’re just building a house on quicksand" ("Get Up," ESPN, 7/7). In Austin, Cedric Golden: "The games are coming. Whether it’s smart to play them, that’s another question entirely" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 7/7).