If you thought that there couldn’t be another bad situation during a global pandemic you’re surely mistaken. Major League Baseball started this circus show back in February when the players association and owners couldn’t agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. This set up an ugly public battle between the players association and owners, during a global pandemic, fighting over how many games they should play and how much of a pay cut they should take. This all took place right when the coronavirus just started hitting the United States and extended all the way through July.
If that’s not bad enough, because the players and owners took too long to agree to a new CBA, they spent little to no time discussing what the safety protocols would be when the season would finally start. The result is that baseball has been the only sport that has had major outbreaks and had to cancel games.
The owners had proposed utilizing a bubble situation similar to the NBA and NHL in the teams’ spring training stadiums in Florida and Arizona or playing a full season with all 30 teams playing in either Arizona or Texas. However, the players ruled against the proposal because they did not want to be away from their families for so long. Fair enough. However, baseball now finds itself with a Pandora’s box of positive cases that has resulted in pushing the schedules back for some teams. For example, the Miami Marlins were the first team to have a COVID-19 outbreak as they had 18 players and three staff members test positive after reportedly going out to bars in Atlanta. This didn’t stop them from playing as the players agreed over a group text to still play against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 26th after already knowing that four of their players had tested positive. This outbreak wound up shutting down the Marlins from playing from July 26th to August 4th.
The virus wound up spreading to the Phillies, who originally had three staff members test positive. However, it is worth noting that the MLB announced that they believed two of those three tests were false positives. Either way, Philadelphia also had their season put on pause as they didn’t play from July 27th to August 3rd. To put the cherry on top (for now), the St. Louis Cardinals had 13 members of their traveling group, including seven players, testing positive for COVID. This came after some players reportedly went out to a casino. This forced the MLB to postpone the Cardinals series in Milwaukee, which was supposed to include the Brewers’ home opener on July 31st. On top of that, the MLB has postponed the Cardinals four-game series in Detroit against the Tigers from August 3rd to August 6th. All in all, a total of 21 different games have been postponed, impacting nine different teams due to positive COVID-19 cases.
If all the teams are not able to play 60 games due to postponements from COVID baseball will be forced to decide the standings by winning percentage, rather than record, which has never been done before.
Another big problem that the MLB has had during this experiment is teams are finding out their schedules and playoff formatting on the fly. This is extremely vital because knowing the schedule helps the manager decide how he wants to set out his lineup, give off days to players and how to manage the bullpen and starting pitchers. It is impossible to be able to do all of this without getting your players hurt if you don’t know what your schedule is. This falls on commissioner Rob Manfred, who has failed to save the integrity of the sport of baseball and now can’t even do the basics of keeping people safe and healthy during a pandemic.
Finally, baseball has set a poor example to the US as they continue to travel around the country and into hotspots since there is no bubble. On top of that, teams have not been social distancing and following the safety guidelines as they have continued to high-five, spit and topple on top of players after walk-offs. While the players are not used to not spitting and not celebrating with teammates, this is an unprecedented time so this situation is new for everyone. If they continue to ignore the obvious then the cases will continue to rise. While I don’t think the MLB will shut down yet, if multiple teams continue to have outbreaks at once, they will ultimately be forced to cancel the season.