Major League Baseball’s worrying coronavirus outbreak spread into another clubhouse on Friday when the St. Louis Cardinals’ game in Milwaukee was postponed after two Cardinals players tested positive for the virus.
The Cardinals did not name the players, but said that the positive results came from testing performed before Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis. The Cardinals said the team was self-isolating at its hotel in Milwaukee, where it is conducting rapid testing and implementing contact tracing.
Friday’s game is the 15th virus-related postponement in a major league schedule that only began on July 23. The matchup was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Sunday, and despite the Cardinals’ exposure to the virus the teams still plan to play a regularly scheduled game on Saturday night.
Major League Baseball has said it was prepared for positive cases, and it officials had been encouraged by the fact that, until Friday, only one team — the Miami Marlins — had any players test positive. But the Marlins’ outbreak, which has widened to include 18 players, has devastated its roster, and the Cardinals’ news sent a sobering signal of the complications in staging a 60-game season, with extensive travel, during a pandemic.
“We have a lot of really smart people working on this, a number of committed players who want to play through this, but everybody wants to play safely,” Mark Attanasio, the Brewers’ principal owner, said during a news conference at Miller Park. “If we’re not smart and safe, we’ll fail. But we’re going to do everything we can not to fail.”
Major League Baseball said the Cardinals-Brewers postponement and the decision to go ahead with Saturday night’s game were “consistent with protocols to allow enough time for additional testing and contact tracing to be conducted.” Yet just last Sunday, the Marlins were allowed to play in Philadelphia despite being notified before the game that four players had tested positive. The inconsistencies in the cases underscore that M.L.B. is largely adjusting its plans as it goes.
“With new information, we’d be silly to continue the same protocols we did a week ago when there’s obviously a different situation,” Gary Green, M.L.B.’s medical director, said in an interview this week. “So we have to react to that and try and change within the course of it, when we don’t know all the facts because it’s a new disease.”
For now, Friday’s game — which was to have been Milwaukee’s long-delayed home opener — was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Sunday. The teams’ Saturday night game will be played as scheduled, M.L.B. said in a statement, though Milwaukee General Manager David Stearns did not specify a date, saying only that the Brewers “look forward to playing our home opener as soon as conditions safely allow.”
The Cardinals-Brewers game is the third postponement on baseball’s Friday night schedule, following earlier ones involving the Marlins, who were to play the Washington Nationals, and the Phillies, who were to host Toronto. The Marlins have had 18 players (the most recent case came to light on Friday) and two staff members test positive this week; those cases have already upended baseball’s revised schedule.
The Games Resume
Sports and the Virus
Updated July 31, 2020
Here’s what’s happening as the world of sports slowly comes back to life:
- The N.B.A. returned, and the Lakers held on to beat the Clippers in a thriller. Zion Williamson played in the first game of the night for the Pelicans.
- Players, coaches and analysts are watching this season’s baseball games to see what effect the absence of fans has.
- With no summer tournaments to play in, top high school basketball stars are committing to colleges earlier. Villanova is one of the beneficiaries.
The three games postponed on Friday mean that eight of baseball’s 30 teams have been affected by cascading schedule changes caused by the virus. That includes the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, who have had games called off or shuffled as the sport strains to isolate the affected teams.
In an interview with MLB Network on Monday, baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, expressed confidence that baseball would be able to manage the outbreaks and continue its season.
“We knew that we were going to have positives at some point in time,” Manfred said. “I remain optimistic that the protocols are strong enough that it will allow us to continue to play, even through an outbreak like this, and complete our season.”
The Phillies on Thursday became the second team, after the Marlins, to miss a full week of play when the league postponed scheduled games for this weekend after a Phillies coach and a clubhouse attendant received positive test results for the coronavirus.
The Phillies had hoped to play a doubleheader with the Blue Jays on Saturday in Philadelphia and another game on Sunday, but the positive tests caused the team to shut down Citizens Bank Park for baseball activity. It remained closed on Friday, even after the Phillies announced that there had been no positives in their most recent round of test results.
Those measures would seem to suggest that the Minnesota Twins will take similar precautions at Target Field, where the Cardinals played two games this week before traveling to Milwaukee. The Twins hosted Cleveland on Thursday, meaning that the Indians used the same clubhouse and dugout used by the Cardinals. But the Twins-Indians game was still scheduled to go forward as planned on Friday night.
Baseball has already made several revisions to its extensive virus protocols since the Marlins’ outbreak. The league, which is investigating the source of the Marlins’ cases, ordered every team to appoint an employee to monitor the traveling party’s compliance with health rules. The league also has implemented seven-inning games for doubleheaders in 2020 to minimize both time spent at the ballpark and injury risks to players.
Yet there still seems to be confusion about some protocols. On Thursday in Cincinnati, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo — who gave hand sanitizer to a runner at first base on opening day — questioned how his team was supposed to stay socially distant during a rain delay.
“Player safety?” Rizzo wrote on Twitter. “@mlb let’s sit around for 8 plus hours inside the clubhouse. I’m sure I can find that somewhere in the 113 page player safety protocol.”
Rizzo apparently was unaware that the Reds had set up tables on the open-air concourse level to help players spread out during the rain delay. A reporter, C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, tweeted a photo of the fenced-in area in response to Rizzo. All of the tables were empty.