As the United States deals with reopening during this pandemic, sports are also slowly inching their way back to “normal.”
The National Basketball League and National Hockey League have created “bubbles” to keep staff and athletes contained in one specific area while finishing up their respective seasons. However, Major League Baseball is facing obstacles as they start the 2020 season.
The baseball season will look different this year. Each team will play 60 games, and a majority will be played against the teams within their respective divisions to avoid extensive travel around the country. The postseason will include 16 teams. Other changes include a designated hitter in the National League, the trade deadline will be August 31st, and all extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. Teams will start with a 30 man roster, decreasing to 28 players for two weeks, and then ending with 26 players for the rest of the season.
Safety measures during COVID-19 include testing players, coaches, and staff members every other day, temperature/symptom checks twice a day, and antibody testing once a month. Players and other team personnel not playing in the game will be sitting in the stands 6-feet apart. Non-playing personnel must be wearing masks in the dugout and the bullpen. Additionally, there are no contact celebrations such as high-fives, fist bumps, or hugs.
The MLB has taken several precautionary steps to protect players and staff; however, some major players such as Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants), David Price (Los Angeles Dodgers), and Felix Hernandez (Atlanta Braves) have opted out of the 2020 season.
Despite the MLB’s hard work to start the season, COVID-19 has officially hit the league. In a recent report by CBSSports, the Miami Marlins announced 19 positive cases among players and coaches. The positive tests were first reported after the Marlins played a series in Philadelphia. Several days later, the Philadelphia Phillies reported clubhouse members had also tested positive. The Phillies postponed games and workouts for a week. But they returned to play August 3rd, against the Yankees after days of reporting negative tests. Miami will be returning to play on August 4th against the Orioles in Baltimore.
The St. Louis Cardinals have also reported 13 positive cases among players and staff. These results have caused a snowball effect, postponing a total of 16 games across for the league in less than two weeks into the season.
MLB has updated its protocol since the news broke, aiming to contain the spread to other teams. They now require a compliance officer to travel with teams for away games to enforce COVID-19 procedures. The league will also be investigating speculation by USA Today that Marlins players left the hotel at night and went out while in Atlanta for exhibition games before traveling to Philadelphia.
Rob Manfred, MLB’s commissioner, insists they are focused on players’ safety.“Our first concern, obviously, is the health of the players and their families and making sure we do everything possible to minimize the spread of the virus among our employees,” said Manfred.
Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeeter also commented on the matter, “The health of our players and staff have been and will continue to be our primary focus as we navigate through these unchartered waters…” said Jeeter.
While the “bubble option” for other leagues has worked well so far, Manfred insists this is not an option for Major League Baseball. He is adamant that the season will continue, despite increasing cases and changing schedules.
When asked about the possibility of canceling the season, Manfred told ESPN’s Karl Ravech, “We are playing, the players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”
Although many are projecting the season will not be completed, there are no plans to cancel it just yet.
By Anisha Wilson