Raise your hand if you thought the MLB would find a way to screw up the return of baseball. Okay, everybody put your hands down now. Regardless of the season finishing or not, which is a bigger question mark than it should be, the MLB has failed to properly protect its players from a health and wellness standpoint. Another player has tested positive for COVID-19, this time a member of the Cincinnati Reds. At the time of writing, no other Reds or Pirates (their current opponents) player has tested positive. There is no outbreak. Yet.
But there have been outbreaks on the Marlins and Cardinals. The Marlins have returned and played a couple weeks worth of games. The Cardinals are scheduled to resume their season Saturday, playing game number SIX on their schedule. They are scheduled for at least eleven double headers the rest of the year. All because a couple of guys went out to a casino. But that’s their decision right? They made a wrong choice, why is it MLB’s fault? Because the MLB didn’t care that guys went out. We should be seeing much more headlines like the ones concerning the Indians last week where pitchers Zack Plesac and Mike Clevinger were told to return to Cleveland to quarantine after they broke protocol in Chicago. Protocol which was changed to include places like restaurants and bars just after the Cardinals outbreak started. *insert larger rant about MLB being reactionary to everything *cough* sign stealing*
The MLB needs to adopt some sort of bubble. Even if teams play at their home stadiums, enforce protocols and isolate players who cross designated boundaries. Players are having to adjust to a new normal like everyone else in the world. The days of going out to your favorite road restaurant or entertainment venue is gone for the near and nearish future. Do the players have responsibility? Absolutely. But it’s MLB and the team’s job to enact consequences on guys who fumble this responsibility.
Also, the bubble works. The NBA and NHL have both come back in their own respective bubbles. So far, while games have been played, there have been no cases coming from within these bubbles. So they work pretty good. The NBA has stories of guys breaking protocol by picking up their food delivery and going to gentlemen’s clubs. They were forced to quarantine before being allowed to return to their teams. MLB is fully capable of doing this, whether in one city or region, or a single baseball campus, or with normal travel and true home and road games. All it takes is monitoring the movements of players and staff and enforcing health protocols when they venture outside the bubble in any way. Some say baseball is different, you can’t bubble like these other sports. Yes you can. As I explained above, baseballs outdoor-edness and larger rosters don’t mean you can’t effectively monitor players’ whereabouts.
The bubble and preventing the spread of COVID-19 is not primarily concerned with spreading it through on field play. It’s concerned about an individual in the bubble contracting it outside the bubble. Then that person doesn’t see the field, court, or rink. But the MLB hasn’t taken this approach. They’ve told their players to not high five, to not spit, to not lick their fingers, bring their own rosin bags. They’ve just barely started telling their players to not venture into the general population where the coronavirus is absolutely thriving right now. The focus should be not having anyone catch COVID-19, not to prevent the spread when somebody inevitably does. This optic that the MLB is giving out is bad. They were more concerned with playing in home stadiums and not paying the players that they seemingly lost the most crucial part of the whole operation: protecting the players. And with this latest positive test on top of two outbreaks, the MLB has officially failed to do that.