Baseball’s fervent hope – and it could well be hoping against hope – is that what happened with the Marlins is a one-off. They’re based in Miami, a hotspot. They flew to Atlanta for two exhibitions at Truist Park. They stayed at a Buckhead hotel. They then flew to Philadelphia for MLB’s opening weekend.
The Marlins are into yet another decade of rebuilding, their last winning season having been 2009. They’re known mostly for periodically dumping every All-Star type they develop, the latest wave including Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto and Marcell Ozuna. (They’re also known for having won two World Series and no division titles – at a time when the Braves took 14 of the latter yet only one of the former.)
What’s left in Miami, as usual, is a young roster without a realistic chance of doing much. Such a roster mightn’t have observed every protocol thus far. If it did, MLB needs new protocols.
Among baseball types, there’s thought that the Marlins’ 18 positives could serve as a slap upside the head to the other 29 clubs. Nobody wants to get sick. Reports hold that the Nationals, who were scheduled to travel to Miami this week, took an in-house vote as to whether they should make such a trip. The raging consensus: no way. In the grand scheme, the Nats’ reluctance to play was a bigger warning flare than those 18 positives. MLB players, see, have the right to opt out.
MLB reported Tuesday that of 6,400 tests conducted since Friday, there had been no positives apart from Miami’s. For those hoping to see a World Series, that’s the best sign yet. There weren’t many positive tests during summer camp – Freddie Freeman was the biggest name by far – but that wasn’t much of a measure. No team had yet boarded an airplane. That changed last week. It was all but inevitable that, in bubble-less baseball, some team would get unlucky/unwise. So long as it’s not more than one team, the sport still has a fighting chance.
If baseball can get through its first full week without another outbreak, it will feel massively relieved. What happened with the Marlins was frightening, especially coming after only one weekend’s worth of games. (Said Nationals manager Dave Martinez: “I’m scared.”) We wondered Monday if MLB could find a workaround. Maybe it has.
That said, 55 regular-season games remain. There’s plenty of time for this to go sideways. Even baseball’s raging optimists have never suggested their plan is guaranteed to succeed. (Again from Dr. Fauci: “The virus will decide.”) But if MLB can adjust its schedule to accommodate 18 positives in one clubhouse – AND if it can show the watching world that the virus doesn’t necessarily jump from one clubhouse to another – it will have scaled a major hurdle.