4 Nationals players, 8 staffers test positive, game vs. Phillies postponed

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PHILADELPHIA — Four Washington Nationals players and eight staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing Major League Baseball to postpone their game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The postponement came one day after Nationals star Trea Turner exited the game against Philadelphia in the first inning following his positive test for the virus.

Washington manager Dave Martinez said Turner was among four players who tested positive. He didn’t identify the others.

“I’m just worried about the guys, I really am,” Martinez said. “It’s been a tough go; this doesn’t make it any easier.”

Martinez said all but one of those who tested positive have been vaccinated. Those who tested positive have either no symptoms or minor symptoms, such as a head cold, the manager said. Martinez believes the fact they are vaccinated has prevented or limited symptoms.

“I encourage people to get vaccinated,” Martinez said. “It does help. I’m seeing it first-hand. It’s basically a small head cold, but they’re doing fine.”

The Nationals-Phillies matchup was scheduled to be made up as part of a straight doubleheader on Thursday starting at 12:05 p.m.

Martinez is planning as if those games will be played on Thursday, but he indicated that everyone who tested negative on Wednesday will have another round of tests for confirmation. At best, Washington will be calling up several players from Triple-A Rochester to be able to field a full roster on Thursday.

“We’re going to have to add, I’m sure,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be talking to (GM Mike Rizzo) all night long.”

Washington left-hander Patrick Corbin was scheduled to pitch Wednesday night’s contest, and right-hander Max Scherzer was slated to take the mound in the finale of the four-game series on Thursday afternoon. Martinez said he’s not sure who will pitch Thursday, if the games are played as scheduled.

“I haven’t even thought about who’s going to pitch,” he said. “My concern is the health of everybody. Hopefully no one else will test positive.”

This was the ninth MLB game called off this year because of coronavirus concerns. Most recently, the July 15 Yankees-Red Sox game was postponed due to virus concerns.

The Nationals had their season-opening series at home against the New York Mets called off after four players tested positive. Washington right-hander Erick Fedde tested positive in May. Fedde is vaccinated.

Also in May, the Nationals reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold, which let some of MLB’s coronavirus protocols to be relaxed.

Martinez referenced that fact on Tuesday night following Turner’s positive test, when he said vaccinated players and staff aren’t subject to contact tracing protocols.

MLB announced the Nationals-Phillies postponement about 90 minutes before the game was set to begin at Citizens Bank Park, and said the time would allow for “continued testing and contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization.”

There were 45 MLB games postponed because of the virus last year during the pandemic-shortened season. All but two of them were eventually made up.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.