4:29pm: Teams have been issued a memo with new regulations, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report reports (Twitter links), including the requirement of a compliance officer who will monitor on and off-field personnel decisions.
The league investigated the Marlins situation, Miller adds. It determined that the club was “very lapse” in avoiding settings with a greater risk of transmission.
MLB also announced its most recent testing results. Twenty players and nine staff members have tested positive in the past week. Twenty-one of those positive results came from one organization, which is obviously by this point known to be the Marlins.
4:05pm: It sounds as if there’s serious contemplation of a potential end to the just-launched 2020 MLB campaign. Per Jeff Passan of ESPN.com, commissioner Rob Manfred informed MLBPA chief Tony Clark that the league could halt the campaign if problematic recent developments aren’t turned around.
While this could and may yet become a contentious matter, it doesn’t sound as if the message was intended as a threat. Passan labels it, instead, as a “reality check” for the sport. Both owners and players would obviously suffer financially if the season is punted.
The concerns are by now well-known. More than half of the Marlins’ active roster has come down with COVID-19 and the team isn’t playing presently. The Phillies are also on ice since they recently played the Miami org. And now two members of the Cardinals have tested positive.
It sounds as if the commissioner’s office could contemplate a cancellation or pause as soon as Monday. The hope is that the Marlins-related outbreak will be contained and that the Cards won’t have further positive tests. The worst-case scenario would be for members of still other organizations to come down with infections.
It seems there’s also a broader concern with the way players are behaving on and off the field — with some government officials evidently conveying issues to the league. Rule-breaking behavior captured on cameras doesn’t make for a good look, though in many cases it’s not especially risky for transmission. But it sounds as if league officials have identified high-risk actions occurring elsewhere in the ballpark and away from the field of play.
There’s ample blame to go around for this situation. Player responsibility is an easy target, and may well be at play in some cases, but there’s far more to it than that. Travel poses obvious transmission opportunities, even for those that strictly adhere to protocols. And the Marlins-Phillies fiasco — in which informally ascertained player sentiment was inexplicably allowed to drive decisionmaking — shows that there have been leadership and planning failures from the highest levels of the league on down.
Of course, the largest factor in the difficulty of pulling off a season isn’t really in the control of Manfred, Clark, or any of those they’re paid to lead. With tens of thousands of Americans testing positive every day, and many more surely coming down with uncounted infections, it’s awfully difficult to keep the virus from infiltrating traveling baseball teams and/or the many people involved in staging games.