The Miami Marlins’ season has been temporarily paused until at least Monday as they remain quarantined in Philadelphia following the latest round of COVID-19 testing.
Major League Baseball announced the decision Tuesday to postpone the Marlins’ games against the Baltimore Orioles set for Wednesday and Thursday as well as their weekend home series against the Washington Nationals. The Marlins’ two home games against the Orioles scheduled for Monday and Tuesday were already postponed.
The team’s most recent test results showed four more positive tests among players, according to two sources. That brings the total to 15 players among the 33 who traveled for their season-opening series and 17 members overall of the organization’s traveling party.
However, one of the players who had previously tested positive produced a negative result Tuesday, according to a source. Two consecutive negative tests taken more than 24 hours apart are required to be involved in team activities or use team facilities.
“Given the current circumstances, MLB believes that it is most prudent to allow the Marlins time to focus on providing care for their players and planning their Baseball Operations for a resumption early next week,” the league wrote in a release.
MLB said there have been no other new positive tests among on-field personnel from any of the other 29 teams since Friday.
“The difficult circumstances of one Club reinforce the vital need to be diligent with the protocols in all ways, both on and off the field,” the league wrote in its statement. “We will continue to bolster our protocols and make any necessary adjustments. The realities of the virus still loom large, and we must operate with that in mind every day.”
Should that schedule hold, the Marlins’ next scheduled series is against the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 4-6 at Marlins Park.
The Marlins are continuing to undergo daily testing while quarantining at their team hotel in Philadelphia.
But even then, the Marlins would not be playing games in the immediate future. They’re also not sure when they will be returning to South Florida or when games will be played. Those who test positive must remain in quarantine in Pennsylvania.
To add to the calamity: A majority of Washington Nationals players earlier Tuesday had voted against going to Miami for their three-game series at Marlins Park that was supposed to begin Friday, according to The Athletic. This was before the league postponed the series.
Regardless, the Marlins playing in any capacity or venue in the immediate future would require them to essentially replace half of their team with prospects and low-level veterans. Miami already made a couple roster moves, claiming relief pitchers Josh D. Smith and Justin Shafer from the Cincinnati Reds as well as Mike Morin from the Milwaukee Brewers. Jose Urena, Garrett Cooper and Harold Ramirez have been placed on the injured list.
The Herald, while confirming that 15 players have tested positive through sources, is not disclosing the names of players who have tested positive without their consent but are acknowledging reports by others after the fact. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman has reported that Urena, Cooper, Ramirez, catcher Jorge Alfaro and shortstop Miguel Rojas are among the 15 players to have tested positive.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday that the criteria to shut a team down isn’t necessarily the total number of players with COVID-19 on a team but whether the absence of players because of COVID “rendered it completely non-competitive.”
“Whether that was shutting down a part of the season (or) the whole season, that depends on the circumstances,” Manfred said. “Same thing with respect to leaguewide. If you get to a certain point leaguewide where it does become a health threat, we certainly would shut down at that point.”
According to MLB’s operations manual for the season, players and staff members are not allowed to travel or access club facilities following a positive test until after they have two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, show no fever for at least 72 hours, complete an antibody test and are cleared by a team physician as well as the MLB COVID-19 joint committee.
The Marlins’ schedule isn’t the only one being impacted. The Philadelphia Phillies will not play again until Friday “out of an abundance of caution,” meaning their four games against the New York Yankees (Monday and Tuesday in Philadelphia, Wednesday and Thursday in New York) were also postponed
The Yankees and Orioles are now playing in Baltimore on Wednesday and Thursday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday on Good Morning America that he does not believe at this time the Major League Baseball season needs to canceled following the Miami Marlins’ recent coronavirus outbreak but added that it could be the first step of putting the 2020 season in jeopardy.
“First off all, I’m concerned,” Fauci said. “I hope the players are all right. I heard almost a dozen of them have gotten infected. Even though they’re young, vigorous and very healthy, I hope they’re OK. You have to watch this because this could put it in danger. I don’t believe they need to stop, but we just need to follow this and see what happens with other teams on a day-by-day basis.”
But not all infectious disease experts agree with Fauci.
Doctor John Swartzberg, Clinical Professor Emeritus at the School of Public Health Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at the University of California-Berkeley, said in a phone interview Monday that it would be prudent for MLB to suspend the Marlins’ season for 14 days.
In an email on Tuesday, he said news that four more players tested positive for COVID-19 made him even more convinced that a temporary shut-down would be the correct move.
“Everybody on that team including the coaches and staffs need to go into 14 day of quarantine,” Swartzberg said. “The writing is on the wall here. I know MLB tried really hard and worked hard with the players union to put together something that would work.
But contagion of this disease is beyond tools they have to control it.”
The Marlins and MLB believe players who test negative can continue playing. Swartzberg said that’s not the right move.
“It’s a little hard for me to understand how most of those players and staff wouldn’t have had pretty significant contact,” he said. “Anybody in close contact needs to be in isolation for 14 days.”
Playing a season like this “is not going to be feasible,” he said. “If it’s the Marlins this time and Yankees next time and Phillies next time – how many of these can baseball sustain?”