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MLB Forced to Postpone Two Games Due to COVID-19 Outbreak on Marlins

The return of major league baseball last week brought about plenty of optimism as fans rejoiced about its return, nearly four months after Opening Day was expected to take place. Of course, the season was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic that also paused the NBA and NHL seasons, along with pretty much everything else going on in the sports world.

Now, less than a week after the season began, things have started to unravel.

Major League Baseball postponed a pair of games on the schedule for Monday as the contests between the Orioles and Marlins, along with the one between the Yankees and Phillies in Philadelphia. This came about after seven players and two coaches tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. That ran the total of positive test results for the Marlins to 13, including Sunday’s expected starting pitcher Jose Urena, forcing the team to switch to Robert Duggar in an emergency starting role.

In addition, the game between Baltimore and Miami for Tuesday is also off the books according to Jeff Passan, as the Orioles are heading back to Baltimore. As it stands, 11 of the 33 players traveling with the Marlins have tested positive. The two teams were slated to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Baltimore to conclude the four meetings between the teams this season. It’s unclear if those contests will be played with the healthy Miami players along with players from the taxi squad or not. In addition, the Tuesday game for New York and Philadelphia is likely off, allowing the Yankees a chance to return home ahead of the scheduled Wednesday and Thursday games between the teams in the Bronx. That also will give the Phillies more time to try and sanitize the visiting clubhouse and dugout, among other places, in preparation for their next homestand.

Derek Jeter, the CEO of the Marlins, released the following statement about the postponement, as well as the situation surrounding the team. “The health of our players and staff has been and will continue to be our primary focus as we navigate through these uncharted waters. After a successful Spring 2.0, we now have experienced challenges once we went on the road and left Miami. Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation. We have conducted another round of testing for our players and staff, and our team will all remain in Philadelphia pending the results of those tests, which we expect later today. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

The biggest part of this entire scenario, beyond what it may do to the rest of the season as it stands, is the fact that the 113-page handbook that was designed by MLB about operations under the pandemic was wholly ignored. Instead, the choice to play the game, even after Urena and two other players tested positive was made by a group text among the players, with shortstop Miguel Rojas, the unofficial team captain, making the final decision. When asked about that choice after the game, Rojas said: “We made the decision that we’re going to continue to do this and we’re going to continue to be responsible and just play the game as hard as we can.”

What makes things worse is that manager Don Mattingly is the one that is out at the proverbial tip of the spear at this stage of things. We haven’t heard much of anything from Rob Manfred, the commissioner of the sport, or Tony Clark, who is in charge of the MLBPA. The only statement from the Marlins was Jeter’s rather self-serving statement that looked like it was lifted from a form letter. Mattingly, for good or bad, has been transparent about how things were decided and the choices that were made over the last 48 hours.

MLB is at their first crossroads less than a week into the season. The decisions that Manfred makes in the coming day or two is going to go a long way toward determining how the season is going to play out in any form or fashion. There has been increasing talk that he needs to step down as commissioner but that seems unlikely. After all, the bubble idea was presented back in the early stages of the season’s delay only to be gunned down rather quickly by the players. Meanwhile, that concept has seemed to be beneficial for the NBA and NHL as they ramp up for their restarts this week. We’ll see what happens going forward but the fact remains that this is a sobering reminder that things aren’t back to normal, as much as everyone wants to push that narrative.

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Chris Kubala

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