Major League Baseball has a potentially major league problem on its hands. At least a dozen members of the Miami Marlins have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The Marlins played a 3-game series in Philadelphia over the weekend and were supposed to hold their first home game of the shortened season on Monday night in Miami against the Orioles. That game, as well as Tuesday's game, have been postponed as the Marlins await further test results. They hope to resume play in Baltimore on Wednesday.
The Phillies were set to host the Yankees on Monday night but that game has also been postponed as the visitor's clubhouse undergoes a thorough sanitation. This development has teams across baseball re-doubling their efforts to keep everyone safe and healthy. In San Diego, Padres manager Jayce Tingler says it's so far, so good.
"We've been getting our test results back every day, two days. It's been a pretty quick turnaround, honestly," says Tingler. "I can't really speak to what's going on in other clubhouses. You just hope for the best at the end of the day."
The Padres are about to make their first road trip of the year, up to San Francisco. That means a flight, plenty of bus trips together and a whole new list of concerns.
"I don't think those concerns are risks will go away at any point in the year. We just have to be as responsible as we can," says Tingler.
Speaking of responsibility, the Padres admit they need to take more of it. Over the weekend they beat the Diamondbacks two out of three games. After wins, big hits or strikeouts they were not shy about high-fiving and fist-bumping, two things that are supposed to be outlawed in MLB this season.
The Padres are certainly not the only team that's been celebrating in this manner. It's happening across Major League Baseball. Tingler says, after growing up playing the game with emotion, changing the way players celebrate is a work in progress.
"We have those conversations. We understand the protocols. Sometimes things happen in the game and we're going to continue to educate on them. There's no doubt we've got to get better or a little bit more disciplined in some of those areas. At the same time, our focus once the game starts in general, at least my eyes, has been more on the game. It hasn't been on looking at the dugout and seeing a guy four feet (of distance from teammates) instead of six feet. Those are things we've got to continue to work on and hopefully we get better but they are being addressed and they'll continue to be addressed."
The difficult part of this is asking players to harness their passion while on the field then shut it off when they head back to the dugout.
"The last thing that I think baseball would ever ask for the players is to take that spirit away," says Tingler. "That's a beautiful part of the game. That's something that should be promoted. But then, the things that go on in the dugout ... the high-fiving, maybe getting too close to one another. I still think that the game is the game between the lines. We just have to be a little bit better with our dugout, our spacing, things like that."
If we're playing eternal optimist, perhaps the Marlins outbreak turns out to be a good thing for baseball (and sports in general). If the Phillies testing continues to come back negative then it could mean outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is not as prevalent as it is indoors, and that could help open things up further.
At least let's hope that's the case. If not then baseball could face another shutdown ... this time, potentially, for all of 2020.