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Rob Manfred: ‘We believe the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe’

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The same day that ten members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for COVID-19 — days after four others were sidelined as well — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said that he believed that MLB’s anti-COVID-19 system is working and that “We believe the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe.”

In an interview with Tom Verducci, he pushed back on the notion that the Marlins situation — which caused two postponements yesterday, at least one today, and the quarantining of the entire Miami club — is a “nightmare scenario.” Manfred:

“I don’t put this in the nightmare category. It’s not a positive thing, but I don’t see it as a nightmare . . . that’s why we have the expanded rosters. That’s why we have the pool of additional players . . . I remain optimistic the protocols are strong enough that it will allow us to continue to play even through an outbreak like this and complete our season.”

Manfred did not talk about the reason Miami was allowed to play the Phillies on Sunday despite four positive tests then and unknown results pending. Results which, as we learned yesterday, ended up containing a rash of positives. As was reported yesterday, that decision was not coordinated with Major League Baseball, the MLBPA or with public health experts or doctors. Rather, the decision to play was left up to the Marlins players who engaged in a group text in which shortstop Miguel Rojas made the call.

Earlier in the month Manfred was interviewed by Dan Patrick about what may lead the league to shut things down. Here’s what he said:

“I don’t have a firm number of days in mind (to pause the season). I think the way that I think about it, Dan, is in the vein of competitive integrity, in a 60-game season. If we have a team or two that’s really decimated with a number of people who had the virus and can’t play for any significant period of time, it could have a real impact on the competition and we’d have to think very, very hard about what we’re doing.”

One would think that would describe the Marlins situation, but apparently not. In the absence of Manfred explaining the specific thought process of Sunday and Monday, one gets the distinct impression that he’s doing all of this on a reactive, ad-hoc basis.

The most immediate result of that ad-hoc approach: Manfred’s suggestion that the Marlins might play games in Baltimore as early as tomorrow, with all of those reserves from the 60-man player pool he spoke of stepping up to fill holes. Here’s what an epidemiologist Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark of The Athletic spoke to thought of that:

This is absolutely insane .  . . if possible, the literal stupidest possible plan. You have a raging outbreak, anyone in the Marlins traveling party could be infected regardless of how their tests come back. So by all means, just bring that on the road to Baltimore! . . . At a minimum, you have to shut down for at least five days to see if more cases uncover. And you need to wait because you could have ongoing transmission from cases that are newly discovered tomorrow or the next day. You could still have more come from chains of transmission from those people after that. So there’s no cure but time here, unfortunately.”

Time, however, is not something it seems Rob Manfred is willing to give when there are games to be broadcast.

Brewers have 3 positive COVID tests at alternate site

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — The Brewers had two players and a staff member test positive for the coronavirus at their alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns confirmed the positive results Saturday and said they shouldn’t impact the major league team. Teams are using alternate training sites this season to keep reserve players sharp because the minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Stearns said the positive tests came Monday and did not name the two players or the staff member. Players must give their permission for their names to be revealed after positive tests.

The entire camp was placed in quarantine.

“We have gone through contact tracing,” Stearns said. “We do not believe it will have any impact at all on our major league team. We’ve been fortunate to get through this season relatively unscathed in this area. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get all the way there at our alternate site.”

Milwaukee entered Saturday one game behind the Reds and Cardinals for second place in the NL Central, with the top two teams qualifying for the postseason.

The Brewers still will be able to take taxi squad players with them on the team’s trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis in the final week of the season. He said those players have had repeated negative tests and the team is “confident” there would be no possible spread of the virus.

“Because of the nature of who these individuals were, it’s really not going to affect the quarantine group at all,” Stearns said. “We’re very fortunate that the group of players who could potentially be on a postseason roster for us aren’t interacting all that much with the individuals that tested positive.”