Hours after Major League Baseball postponed games in both Miami and Philadelphia following a number of positive COVID-19 tests for members of the Marlins, Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the current situation and the league’s plans going forward in an interview with Tom Verducci on MLB Network.
Manfred announced that the Marlins -- who were going through additional testing on Monday -- would not play either of their scheduled games Monday or Tuesday in Miami against the Orioles. If testing results are acceptable, Manfred said the two teams would resume play on Wednesday in Baltimore. Whether the two postponed games will be moved to Camden Yards remains to be seen, Manfred said.
MLB expects to receive test results from the Phillies and Marlins late Monday night, at which time the league will determine how those teams will proceed. The Phillies were set to host the Yankees on Monday night, but the game was postponed out of an abundance of caution.
“We're waiting to see exactly what we get in terms of test results before we make a decision,” Manfred said. “Right now, the only thing that's firm is if the test results result in negatives for the rest of the [Marlins], we would play at least two in Baltimore on Wednesday and Thursday.”
The Marlins underwent testing on Friday, which revealed one positive result Saturday. That led to more testing Saturday, which revealed three more positives on Sunday.
“What then happened under the protocols, was we did contact tracing on all four positives; there were a small number of players who met the CDC guidelines,” Manfred said. “They were quarantined; we ordered additional testing, we did symptom checks. We did temperature checks and decided to proceed with the game on Sunday.”
Manfred spoke with the league’s 30 owners during a regularly scheduled conference call Monday and the group did not discuss the possibility of canceling the season or even putting it on hiatus.
“We talked about the situation,” Manfred said. “I think most of the owners realize that we built protocols anticipating that we would have positive tests at some point during the season, that the protocols were built in order to allow us to continue to play through those positives. I think there was support for the notion that we believe that the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe.”
Later in the interview, Manfred reiterated his belief that MLB is prepared to handle outbreaks such as the one in Miami: “I remain optimistic that 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 addressed other COVID-19-related issues during the interview:
On what it would take for MLB to consider shutting down a team or a portion of the league’s schedule:
“I think that a team losing a number of players that rendered it completely non-competitive would be an issue that we would have to address and have to think about making a change. Whether that was shutting down a part of the season, the whole season, that depends on the circumstances. Same thing with respect to league-wide; you get to a certain point league-wide where it does become a health threat and we certainly would shut down at that point.”
On potential changes to the protocols:
“We have made adjustments to the protocols on an ongoing basis. There were conversations today with the MLBPA about what we should be doing in terms of the protocols themselves and the enforcement of the protocols, making sure that we're following them in every way we possibly can. It’s an evolving situation and we continue to reevaluate where we are in the protocols and what we can do to keep the players as safe as possible.”
On whether a “bubble” scenario such as the ones being employed by the NBA and NHL might have worked better for MLB:
“I think the decision that we made with respect to the bubble was the right one. We're different than other sports. We would have had to have multiple locations probably just in order to have enough facilities to make it work. The numbers of people involved and the numbers of people to support the number of players was much, much larger in our sport. The duration would have been much longer, and the longer you go, the more people you have, the less likely it is that you can make the bubble work. I think the NBA and the NHL have an advantage of smaller numbers of players, shorter period of time; I understand why they did what they did. I'm just not sure it was workable for us.”