MLB’s Failure to Implement Better Protocols Means Marlins Situation Could Just Be Tip of Iceberg

Admit it, you knew it would be the Marlins. Of course the first disaster of the COVID season would be Derek Jeter’s dumpster fire of an organization. First, Miami decided to go ahead and play the Phillies despite three positive tests before their game last Sunday, not to mention another one two days earlier, then they had 13 more subsequent positive tests. The outbreak necessitated the postponement their games for at least a full week.

Much of this disaster is a result of leaving the decision to play up to the Marlins, rather than have a strict league-wide protocol. MLB should have mandated a threshold — maybe two or more positive tests in a 24 hour period — and required a team to forfeit all games until such time as they have a full day of negative tests come back. Not only would that have prevented the Marlins scenario, but it might actually motivate players to obey the safety protocols that are in place. Instead, I see teams high-fiving after wins and celebrating walk-offs like nothing is amiss.

Yet MLB has no structures in place for dealing with this. They spent so much time bickering about money with the players, they ran out of time to properly design comprehensive health protocols. For example, the Marlins-Orioles series is officially “postponed.” Raise your hand if you think there is time to squeeze in an entire extra series later in this abbreviated season.

So what happens if the season ends and the Orioles are a half-game behind the Yankees? Do the Marlins get charged with a forfeit loss because the Orioles were prepared to play, but couldn’t because their opponent was quarantined in another city for a week? Apparently, MLB neglected to decide how to address this highly predictable outcome before starting the season.

Let’s raise the stakes. Suppose, the Cubs win the NL Central but have a mass outbreak just before the playoffs. Do they forfeit the playoff series? Does the next team behind them in the standings take their spot? What happens if a team in the NLCS has a mass outbreak? Call me crazy, but it seems like we ought to lay down these rules before they actually happen, not declare an All-Star Game tie on the fly.

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