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What You Need to Know About COVID-19’s Impact on the 2020 MLB Season

by Chris Brown

The 2020 MLB season was only a few days old when an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Miami Marlins organization brought the sport into turmoil. The fallout in the days following has been immense, with several teams impacted and games postponed. We’ll keep track of the latest developments on how COVID-19 is impacting Major League Baseball here:

Molina, DeJong among St. Louis’ positive tests; Cardinals cleared to return to St. Louis

August 4, 11:05 p.m. ET: The Cardinals announced on Tuesday the identities of six players who tested positive for COVID-19, including catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong. The team also announced a number of changes to its coaching staff in the interim.

Tuesday evening, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters that the team has been cleared to travel to St. Louis on Wednesday after receiving the necessary negative tests. The team plans work out on Thursday and take on the Cubs on Friday to begin a three-game home series.

The Marlins on Tuesday took on the Orioles in their first game in over a week due to the team’s COVID-19 outbreak. The team placed 13 players on the injured list prior to the game.

Cardinals’ COVID-19 outbreak up to 13, series in Detroit postponed

August 3, 11:15 p.m. ET: Major League Baseball announced on Monday that 13 members of the Cardinals organization — seven players and six staff members — have now tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the team’s scheduled four games against the Tigers in Detroit this week have been postponed. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters Monday that with five of the cases, individuals were asymptomatic, while eight others have experienced minor symptoms. The current plan is for the team to resume its schedule in St. Louis on Friday against the Cubs.

Also on Monday, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the “Field of Dreams” game slated for Aug. 13 in Dyersville, Iowa, between the Cardinals and White Sox has been canceled.

Instant reaction: The Cardinals will become the third MLB team to miss at least a week of the season — in a season that’s still under two weeks old. That’s … really not good. The Phillies and Marlins, the other two such teams, are both returning to game action this week.

Report: Multiple positives expected in latest Cardinals tests; Cespedes opts out

August 2, 10:50 p.m. ET: ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Sunday afternoon that the latest COVID-19 tests from the St. Louis Cardinals are expected to reveal multiple new positives. The Cardinals announced Sunday evening that the team is still awaiting additional results and doesn’t expect to have an update until Monday. The team remains slated to travel to Detroit on Monday to play four games against the Tigers from Tuesday to Thursday.

MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reported Sunday that the Marlins have been cleared to leave Philadelphia, where they have been quarantining since July 26, and travel to Baltimore to resume their season.

Also on Sunday, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen confirmed following the team’s Sunday game that outfielder Yoenis Céspedes has decided to opt out of the remainder of the 2020 season given concerns about the risks of COVID-19. This followed a period of concern and confusion after the team issued a statement as their contest with Atlanta was getting underway that Céspedes’ whereabouts were unknown. He becomes the 20th MLB player to opt out of the season, excluding Nick Markakis, who reversed his decision last week.

Instant reaction: If there are indeed multiple new positive tests from the Cardinals, that would seem to put the team’s four games in Detroit in serious jeopardy. We should know much more Monday morning.

Remainder of Cardinals-Brewers series postponed, MLB announces schedule updates

August 1, 10:50 p.m. ET: Major League Baseball announced Saturday evening that the doubleheader slated for Sunday between the Cardinals and Brewers has been postponed. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters that the team has had four positive COVID-19 tests, three from players and two from staff members. Mozeliak also said that the team received four tests that were inconclusive, and they expect further test results to be revealed on Saturday.

The Cardinals are now slated to play four games against the Tigers in Detroit from Tuesday to Thursday, including a doubleheader on Wednesday, the league announced. Each club will serve as the home team for two games.

Meanwhile, MLB announced Saturday afternoon that the Phillies and Marlins will return to action on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. The Phillies are slated to face the Yankees in a four-game, home-and-home series from Aug. 3-6, while the Marlins — who have been quarantining for several days now — are scheduled to play a series against the Orioles in Baltimore from Aug. 4-6. Other changes to schedules are detailed in MLB’s official announcement here.

In other news, the Red Sox on Saturday announced that left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been shut down for the remainder of the season. Rodriguez is still dealing with a heart condition (myocarditis) related to his bout with COVID-19. Boston chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said the organization is optimistic that Rodriguez will make a full recovery.

Instant reaction: As The Athletic’s Jayson Stark noted on Twitter, the Cardinals have become the third team that’s been shut down for at least five days in a season that’s just 10 days old. With some results still pending and the incubation period for COVID-19, it’s not clear that the full scope of the Cardinals’ situation is known at this point. It’s certainly far from a certainty that the team’s series in Detroit will actually be played next week.

Manfred: “We are playing… no reason to quit now.”

August 1, 3:05 p.m. ET: ESPN’s Karl Ravech tweeted Saturday afternoon that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him, “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.” This from Manfred comes after additional members of the Cardinals organization tested positive on Saturday, resulting in the postponement of the team’s scheduled game Saturday in Milwaukee, and two major leaguers — Lorenzo Cain and Isan Diaz — opted out of the remainder of the season on the same day.

Instant reaction: Based on reporting from the last few days, many MLB players do need to do a better job of adhering to safety protocols. But there are multiple layers to this problem. Another party that needs to be better: the league and its commissioner, Rob Manfred. Players are still finding out about game postponements via media reports, the league allowed the Marlins to play the Phillies last Sunday despite multiple positive tests, and Manfred has apparently decided the best approach to motivate players is by, as Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser tweeted, “juxtaposing their failures with your personal dedication to the game they love.”

Brewers’ Lorenzo Cain opts out of remainder of season

August 1, 1:15 p.m. ET: Brewers outfielder and two-time All-Star Lorenzo Cain has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season, the team announced Saturday. “We fully support Lorenzo’s decision, and will miss his talents on the field and leadership in the clubhouse,” Milwaukee general manager David Stearns said in a statement. Marlins infielder Isan Diaz announced on Instagram Saturday morning that he has opted out of the remainder of the season amid the club’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Instant reaction: Cain is the first big name to opt out since the Marlins — and now apparently the Cardinals — experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. Things are continuing to unravel at this point for Major League Baseball. As ESPN’s Jeff Passan notes, how things play out for the Cardinals in the next few days could be crucial in determining the fate of the 2020 season.

Reports: Cardinals-Brewers game Saturday postponed; one additional Cardinals player tested positive

August 1, 10:50 a.m. ET: MLB Network’s Jon Heyman and several other outlets have now reported that Saturday’s game between the Cardinals and Brewers in Milwaukee has been postponed. Contrary to previous reporting, Heyman, as well as The Athletic’s Mark Saxon and The Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond, report that just one of the new positive tests from the Cardinals is a player. Heyman tweeted that in addition to that player, three staff members have also tested positive. This comes one day after the team learned that two players had tested positive.

Instant reaction: As The Athletic’s Jayson Stark tweeted, “It’s still a factor that those players were around those staff members, remember.” I’m still expecting Sunday’s doubleheader between the two teams to be postponed, though reports indicate that decision has not yet been made.

Report: Several Cardinals players test positive for COVID-19

August 1, 9:50 a.m. ET: Craig Mish of SportsGrid reports that several Cardinals players have tested positive for COVID-19. Mish tweeted the number is “more than five.” MLB Network’s Jon Heyman also tweeted that he’s heard multiple Cardinals personnel tested positive.

Meanwhile, the Phillies announced Saturday morning that they received the results of yesterday’s tests. No new positives came back from that round of testing. The Marlins also received no new positives from Saturday’s tests, per Heyman.

Instant reaction: It now seems essentially certain that the Cardinals’ series against the Brewers in Milwaukee will be postponed. The two teams were slated to play a single game Saturday and then a doubleheader Sunday.

Manfred warned Clark of possible season shutdown

July 31, 6:45 p.m. ET: ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told MLBPA executive director Tony Clark on Friday that the 2020 season could be shut down if the sport doesn’t do a better job managing COVID-19.

Passan reports that multiple players briefed on the call between the pair “fear the season could be shut down as soon as Monday if positive tests jump or if players continue not to strictly abide by the league’s protocols.”

The news comes amid a still-ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the Marlins organization. Twenty members of the club — 18 players and two coaches — have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported Friday that the Marlins are using sleeper buses to transport infected players and personnel back to Miami.

Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller reports that MLB’s internal investigation found that the Marlins “were very lapse in following protocols” during their trip to Atlanta last weekend.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals found out that two of its players tested positive on Friday morning, leading to the postponement of the team’s scheduled game against the Brewers Friday afternoon. Those two teams are currently still scheduled to face each other on Saturday before playing a doubleheader on Sunday. MLB and the MLBPA agreed Thursday to allow seven-inning doubleheaders this season, beginning August 1.

In total, six teams, or 20% of the league, are not playing Friday night as a result of postponements due to positive COVID-19 tests: the Marlins, Phillies, Blue Jays, Nationals, Cardinals and Brewers.

On Friday afternoon, MLB released its latest testing results. 11,895 samples resulted in 29 new positives (0.2%), according to MLB, with 20 of those positives coming from players and nine from staff members.

Instant reaction: Needless to say, this is going to be a critical weekend for the future of Major League Baseball in 2020. While significant attention is appropriately being paid to player behavior, this absolutely cannot solely be framed as a player responsibility issue given the league’s failures in setting up its system and communicating with teams.

This isn’t an either/or situation when it comes to what’s transpired with the Marlins. Miller’s reporting indicates a significant lapse in following protocols on the part of at least some within the Marlins. That’s clearly not acceptable. And, yes, as has been often discussed, Marlins players did vote to play the Phillies on Sunday despite multiple positive tests at that point. But the decision to play absolutely should not have been left up to them, and Major League Baseball must also be held responsible for allowing that Marlins-Phillies game to take place on Sunday.

110 Sports will continue to update this story with the latest developments.

Photo by “slgckgc” / Flickr

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