Major League Baseball had to shuffle its schedule yet again on Thursday, postponing the Philadelphia Phillies’ scheduled games for this weekend after a coach and a clubhouse attendant received positive test results for the coronavirus.
The Phillies had been scheduled to play a doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday in Philadelphia and another game on Sunday, but the positive tests caused the team to shut down their stadium, Citizens Bank Park, for baseball activity.
“Our plans right now are to stay put and let M.L.B. work through whatever they’re working through, and then they’re going to let us know what’s our next step,” Toronto Manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters on Thursday, before the Blue Jays’ game in Washington. “But we’re not going to Philadelphia. Those games have been postponed.”
The Phillies are the second team, with the Miami Marlins, to be forced to miss a full week of action because of the pandemic. The Marlins, who played three games in Philadelphia last weekend, have had 19 positive tests for the coronavirus within their traveling party, including 17 players.
The team has remained in isolation in Philadelphia while receiving testing and treatment. No Phillies players are known to have tested positive since the season began, but Major League Baseball felt the Phillies’ recent exposure to the Marlins made it unwise to go ahead with the games this weekend.
“Had this happened a week ago, that would have been the answer, because in our manual, we talk about what to do when there’s a positive case and how we handle contact tracing,” said Dr. Gary Green, M.L.B.’s medical director. “But the commissioner correctly decided that this was an extraordinary situation, and we wanted to go beyond the manual and reassure the public as well as the players and the staff that we were taking every possible precaution.”
The Phillies had been scheduled to play in Miami next week, but with the Marlins in limbo, M.L.B. has instead scheduled the Phillies for four games against the Yankees, on Monday and Tuesday in the Bronx and in Philadelphia on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Yankees had been scheduled to play at Tampa Bay on Thursday, but now they will most likely make up that game as part of a doubleheader that weekend.
The adjustments underscore how flexible M.L.B. and its clubs must be while playing during the pandemic, with the abbreviated schedule subject to reorganization based on circumstances. The Yankees and the Orioles, who were supposed to face the Phillies and the Marlins this week, switched to a two-game series against each other in Baltimore. The Nationals and the Blue Jays, who were scheduled to play the Marlins and the Phillies this weekend, are now idle.
Missing a full week will make it all but impossible for the Phillies and the Marlins to squeeze in a full 60-game schedule. To do so, the teams would each have to play 57 games in 56 days from Monday through the end of the regular season on Sept. 27. They could fill in some games on off days or make up some with doubleheaders — which may include games that last just seven innings — but the league no longer views 60 games as a must for each team, given the unprecedented disruptions.
The Games Resume
Sports and the Virus
Updated July 30, 2020
Here’s what’s happening as the world of sports slowly comes back to life:
- Some of the N.B.A.’s biggest stars, including LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, are in action on opening night of the resumed season.
- With no summer tournaments to play in, top high school basketball stars are committing to colleges earlier. Villanova is one of the beneficiaries.
- Baseball’s botched return could be a warning for the N.F.L., which is returning without sequestering players. It may be too late for the league to change its plans.
As M.L.B. tries to untangle the Marlins’ outbreak — and how it originated — the league has instructed teams to more closely monitor players’ adherence to safety rules. Each team will have one employee serve as a compliance officer, making sure players observe health protocols at the ballpark and do not leave the team hotel on the road, except for games.
“The difficulty — and you’re seeing this across the country with contact tracing — it’s very difficult to know exactly where somebody picked something up, because people don’t just go to one place,” Dr. Green said. “It is a little bit difficult to determine where that actually occurred. But our contact tracers have been working on that as well as our department of investigations. They have been doing that pretty much full-time since this happened.”
Dr. Green emphasized that M.L.B. had performed more than 11,000 coronavirus tests since the Marlins’ outbreak, and no players on any of the other 29 teams have tested positive.
“Twenty-nine out of 30 is a pretty good batting average,” he said. “So what that means is overall, it’s been successful. Obviously we’re upset there’s been an outbreak with one team, which is one team too many, but if you look at our positive rate overall, even with the Marlins, since the surveillance started it’s about .1 percent.”
Dr. Green said it was up to the players and teams to follow the protocols both the ballparks and away from them to limit the spread of the virus. But he said the league understood all along that some positive tests would occur.
“We were never under any illusions that this was going to be perfect or that we weren’t going to get positive cases,” he said. “The whole idea was to try to mitigate that and be able to play sports within the setting of a pandemic, which has never been done before.”