MLB commissioner season closure, Will new stricter protocols save the season.
Rob Manfred sat in an MLB Network studio Monday night — with 13 members of the Miami Marlins’ traveling party infected by COVID-19 and holed up in a Rittenhouse Square hotel, but no recent positive tests involving any of the other 29 teams — and stated with confidence that the situation didn’t represent a “nightmare” scenario for Major League Baseball.
The commissioner was right. In pandemic baseball, things can always get worse.
On cue, over the ensuing days, the Marlins’ coronavirus contagion spread to 20 people, including 18 of the 33 players on the roster last weekend in Philadelphia. Three Phillies employees (one coach and two clubhouse attendants, one in each locker room) tested positive, prompting the closure of Citizens Bank Park. Fifteen games were postponed, including Friday night in Milwaukee, after test results came back positive for two players with the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.
If this still isn’t a nightmare, Manfred must at least be sleeping with one eye open.
Manfred realizes he may have to suspend the season, if not cancel it altogether, especially if there’s increased spread of the virus among the Phillies and Cardinals. And according to ESPN, he told Players Association executive director Tony Clark as much on Friday.
Scheduling issues alone are enough to keep Manfred up at night. Can the Phillies, for instance, reasonably be expected to play Monday night at Yankee Stadium after holding one organized practice in five days? If so, they would still have to play 57 games in 56 days to complete a 60-game schedule. That seems far-fetched even with a slew of doubleheaders featuring seven-inning games, a rule agreed to Thursday by MLB and the players’ union.
(Side note: Seven-inning games would be one way for the Phillies to minimize the impact of a bullpen that went from a training-camp concern to a train wreck in the first weekend of the season.)