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.