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Volume 26 No. 225
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Manfred Says MLB Protocols Working; No Plans To Cancel Season

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the league’s 30 owners during a regularly scheduled conference call yesterday, and said there "really wasn't" ever a discussion about canceling the season following the virus outbreak with the Marlins. Manfred: "Most of the owners realize that we built protocols anticipating that we would have positive tests at some point during the season, that the protocols were built to allow us to continue to play through those positives. There was support for the notion that we believe the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe.” Manfred also noted he would not "put this in the nightmare category." Manfred: "We don’t want any player to get exposed. It’s not a positive thing, but I don’t see it as a nightmare. We built the protocols to allow us to continue to play. ... We think we can keep people safe and continue to play" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 7/27). Multiple reports this morning said four additional Marlins players tested positive, while tonight's Yankees-Phillies game was also reportedly postponed (THE DAILY). 

FOSTERING POSITIVE CHANGE? THE ATHLETIC's Rosenthal & Stark reported MLB officials are "confident the overall numbers will remain low, which is one reason they did not enact greater shutdown measures throughout the sport." They also "believed they prepared for such a moment, creating 60-man player pools for each team to provide substitute talent in the event of an outbreak." Some team execs insist that the "shock value of the Marlins’ news actually might prompt positive behavior if the league can continue pressing forward, reinforcing to players the importance of practicing social distancing and adhering to other measures designed to keep them safe." As one exec said, "If we can get through this it will scare the s--- out of everyone" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/27).

EXPERT'S EYE: One noted epidemiologist said that the Marlins "need to shut down for the next two weeks while they quarantine everyone who was in the club's traveling party to Philadelphia." Dr. Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College at Emory Univ., said, "You have over a dozen people in your organization sick with a potentially very serious virus that they could spread around to teammates, staff members or, if you send them back home, to their families. I think we need to take a moment to deal with this on a human level, not just trying to push forward as business as usual. I guess you can fill in those spots, but I think you can assume every Marlin that was a member of the traveling party is potentially infected right now" (Eric Prisbell, SBJ Unpacks). ESPN’s Jeff Passan noted if the Phillies "have any spread that came from their games against the Miami Marlins, that’s going to show transfer between teams during games potentially." That is the "sort of thing that is the greatest threat to the season, even greater than spread on a single team that we’ve seen already" ("Get Up," ESPN, 7/28).

AT A CROSSROADS: ESPN.com's Bradford Doolittle wrote the Marlins outbreak looms as an "inflection point with ramifications not only across the rest of this season, but across all the major team sports endeavoring to attempt what MLB already is trying to pull off." Baseball "couldn't get through its first weekend without a possible nightmare scenario emerging." Doolittle wrote, "When we know whether the Marlins can keep playing, we'll know a lot more about the viability of continuing the season" (ESPN.com, 7/27). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes this is MLB's "worst nightmare." The "litmus test was always going to be how healthy teams could stay once [they] started to travel." Nightengale: "Well, after just three days, the answer is ominous" (USA TODAY, 7/28). ESPN.com's David Schoenfield: "I don't blame baseball -- and by baseball, I refer to the owners, to league and team officials, and to the players -- for wanting to try to make this work. I want it to work. But it feels like a tightrope walk in the middle of a hurricane" (ESPN.com, 7/28).

TOO MUCH TO WITHSTAND? In L.A., Helene Elliott asks, "How many more positive tests will be enough for Manfred and owners to concede it wasn’t smart to play outside a bubble and to travel?" It would be "tragic if the answer comes at the expense of the immediate or long-term health of players, coaches and other personnel, but that seems the most likely outcome" (L.A. TIMES, 7/28). In Boston, Tara Sullivan: "From those sincere feelings of joy upon the baseball’s return Thursday night to these similarly heartfelt expressions of concern about the threat the game is under now, the only thing certain is uncertainty" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/28). On Long Island, David Lennon wonders, "If a team-wide outbreak involving roughly 30% of the Marlins’ traveling party ... wasn’t enough to push the pause button on the entire league, what is?" (NEWSDAY, 7/28). In Miami, Greg Cote writes one has to "wonder now if the Marlins will be a tipping point, a reason for sports to rethink the whole restart, amid a pandemic not nearly contained, and one that could continue or even worsen in the second half of the year as science raises to develop a vaccine" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/28).

NOW WHAT? In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato writes the "question is where the league goes from here." Traveling is "the big test," and it "failed for the Marlins this weekend." After just one weekend, MLB already is "looking down the barrel of canceling its season entirely" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/28). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown: "This is bad, really bad, and so wholly predictable." He continued, "This is bad, really bad, because now it’s a 29-team league for at least the short term, and a 29-stadium league, and after exactly one weekend and a handful of very optimistic press releases we’re just now confronting the possibility that a baseball season flung to the corners of the country might not work" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/27). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes this is "either a cautionary tale for all other sports to take heed or it’s the first in what will become a growing list of teams -- and full leagues -- overrun by the virus." It "brings into question if sports can go on at all against the coronavirus" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 7/28). ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, on where MLB should go from here: “Let’s just stop. … I’m not saying cancel the season. I’m not saying stop and eject. I’m saying stop and rewind. Give us a chance to figure out how serious this is" ("Around the Horn," ESPN, 7/27).