MLB's Schedule Seemingly Stretched To Limits After Marlins Outbreak
The viability of the '20 MLB season as a "fair, safe and competitive endeavor in the midst of a pandemic was stretched to the limit" yesterday -- the sixth day of the regular season -- as the league "sorted through the many messy ramifications" of the Marlins' coronavirus outbreak and ultimately altered the schedules of five teams, according to Dave Sheinin of the WASHINGTON POST. With a total of 11 postponements so far, and with an "already-compressed schedule that makes it difficult if not impossible to make them all up, it appears increasingly [probable] some teams could play fewer than 60 games -- in which case MLB would determine division standings and playoff spots by winning percentage" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/29).
ISOLATED INCIDENT FOR NOW: THE ATHLETIC's Rosenthal & Stark wrote the question that hung over the abbreviated '20 season was how would MLB "push forward if one team suffered an outbreak of COVID-19?" The league yesterday "provided an answer" by reconfiguring the schedule. Rosenthal & Stark: "Left unanswered were a series of other significant questions: What if additional teams suffer outbreaks? How much improvisation will be necessary? How long can this dance last?" To MLB, "none of this is particularly unexpected." The league in a statement said that among the 6,400 tests for the virus conducted since last Friday, "none of the other 29 clubs had a positive result from its on-field personnel." So, "at least for now, this is a Marlins issue." If this "remains a Marlins issue, and if the rest of the teams are scared straight, perhaps the league will complete the season without further interruption" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/28).
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: ESPN's Jesse Rogers said the “level of concern” from around the league is “they want to know how it happened, where the breakdown was and how it could be fixed. They'll feel better once they get those answers” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/28). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said MLB has to “hope this is confined." Wilbon: “If you’ve confined it to one team then you can figure out policy and how to adapt it to that team … and if baseball can continue along that route, then you don’t have to start considering cancellation of the season" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/28). On Long Island, David Lennon writes this Marlins' reshuffling "can't be a regular occurrence, however, or this season is kaput." MLB was "flexible enough to do it this one time, presumably without doing irreparable damage to the schedule" (NEWSDAY, 7/29).
SHAKY GROUND? In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes under the header, "As More Players Test Positive For Coronavirus, Can MLB Be Trusted To Protect Them?" As MLB "plows on through a pandemic, the players' perennial distrust of the owners surfaced with regard not to money, but to life." The Marlins and Phillies "should have been shut down on Monday," not yesterday, and the 24 hours in between "left room for some players to wonder whether MLB made the right call only after epidemiologists from coast to coast called out the league on what appeared to be its dangerous ways" (L.A. TIMES, 7/29). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote the "fact is, the game is day to day." That was the "agreement from the start." If MLB was "going to put 30 teams on the field most nights, then the chaos was going to come." The "gaps in protocols were going to be exposed" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/28).