'I'm scared': MLB season rocked by 13-person virus outbreak

·5-min read
Harold Ramirez, pictured here in action for the Miami Marlins.
Harold Ramirez is one of four Miami Marlins players on the injured list. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Major League Baseball season is in turmoil after just three games, with at least 13 Miami Marlins players and staff testing positive for coronavirus.

Two major league games scheduled for Monday night were postponed after more than a dozen Marlins players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak that stranded the team in Philadelphia.

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The Marlins are now scrambled for roster replacements, the New York Yankees had an unscheduled day off in Philadelphia while the home team underwent COVID-19 tests, and the Baltimore Orioles are flying home from Miami without playing a game.

And Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez summed up the situation in a season barely underway.

“I’m going to be honest with you: I’m scared,” Martinez said.

The Marlins’ home opener against Baltimore was called off on Monday, as was the Yankees’ game at Philadelphia. The Yankees would have been in the same clubhouse the Marlins used last weekend.

Nine Marlins players on the 30-man roster, two taxi squad players and two staff members tested positive, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the results hadn’t been publicly disclosed.

The Yankees are staying in Philadelphia and have their own clubhouse staff with the team there, the person said. The Marlins postponed their flight home Sunday night after their series finale against the Phillies.

The Orioles planned to return to Baltimore from Miami on Monday night, an indication their scheduled game Tuesday against the Marlins won't take place at Marlins Park.

The Marlins' outbreak was the talk of baseball Monday, and the Nationals' manager choked on his words as he discussed the situation.

Martinez missed time last season because of a heart condition, and the Nationals are scheduled to play in Miami this weekend.

“My level of concern went from about an eight to a 12. I mean this thing really hits home now,” Martinez said.

“I got guys in our clubhouse that are really concerned, as well.”

Jose Urena, pictured here pitching for the Miami Marlins.
Jose Urena was scratched from a start with coronavirus symptoms. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

MLB under fire after virus outbreak

Major League Baseball announced the postponement of both games about eight hours before the scheduled first pitch, and said additional COVID-19 testing was being conducted.

That included Phillies players being tested on Monday.

Coming just days into the 60-game season, the Marlins’ outbreak raised anew questions about MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s plan for navigating the pandemic.

“Now we REALLY get to see if MLB is going to put players health first,” tweeted Los Angles Dodgers pitcher David Price, who opted out of playing this season.

“Remember when Manfred said players health was PARAMOUNT?! Part of the reason I’m at home right now is because players health wasn’t being put first. I can see that hasn’t changed.”

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Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, said the Marlins’ outbreak isn’t a surprise because Manfred’s plan was seriously flawed.

“Baseball is in huge trouble,” Morris said. “It makes me wonder if they are listening to the advice of experts or whether their experts are giving them good advice.

“This was not a plan anyone who knows what they are talking about would have conceived. It’s playing out like it was supposed to play out.”

Dr Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, wrote on Twitter: “They need to suspend games, do aggressive contact tracing, and see how bad this outbreak is.”

“I don't know if MLB can resume the season. But, without aggressive action and vigilance, there is little hope we'll see more baseball without more outbreaks.”

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Where will MLB go from here?

The Marlins had placed infielder Garrett Cooper, outfielder Harold Ramirez, catcher Jorge Alfaro and right-handed pitcher Jose Urena on the injured, believed to be because they tested positive.

“I think it’s really important to trace how it occurred. That’s the one thing we need to know first before you jump to a lot of different conclusions,” Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon said.

“If there was a breach of protocol by any of those players, then it’s more easily explainable, and if not, then it becomes more problematic.

“I would just wait and see, let them trace things back, try to figure out why it occurred, and then you start creating your conclusions or drawing your plan up to solve it.”

Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell said that in the wake of Marlins’ outbreak, his team will double down on efforts to be safe.

“This was a huge punch to the face, a realisation that we have to be perfect,” Counsell said.

“It feels like a tough task, but we’re going to try and get it right.”

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