Sports

MLB blames Marlins, adjusts schedule in coronavirus aftershock

Major League Baseball, its season having struck a coronavirus iceberg just days after leaving port, took dramatic, dizzying measures Tuesday to keep its endeavor afloat.

The Marlins, with four more players testing positive for COVID-19 Tuesday to give them a total of 15 (plus two coaches), will cease playing through Sunday, the league announced. The Phillies, who hosted the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park last weekend — and played the series finale on Sunday despite knowing already of four positive Miami cases — won’t play through Thursday. And the Yankees, who were supposed to play the Phillies this week in a home-and-home, instead headed from Philadelphia (where they did nothing for two days) to Baltimore so they could take on the Orioles — who were supposed to be playing the Marlins — Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’re in a world where no one has dealt with anything like this before,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, “so I think we all need to be pliable and be able to pivot and at least be open to adjust.”

Whether any adjustments will prove sufficient to save baseball’s 2020 campaign remains undetermined. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious diseases expert, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that the Marlins’ outbreak “could put [the season] in danger.” Fauci added: “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.”

That’s what MLB intends to do, with particular scrutiny on the Marlins and Phillies. If the league considered bringing the Marlins back sooner than Monday, such enthusiasm surely was curbed by the Nationals voting to not travel to Miami this weekend. While the Nats couldn’t unilaterally declare such an action, MLB surely wouldn’t slap three forfeit losses on the defending champions in this environment. Pausing the Marlins through Sunday solved that problem.

With everyone running for cover as the ground shook under MLB’s feet, MLB blamed the Marlins for this headache, and Miami’s CEO Jeter blamed the road for his club’s troubles.

After boasting that no one outside the Marlins had tested positive in more than 6,400 tests conducted since July 24 — and that the overall positive rate through July 23 had been 0.3 percent from over 32,000 samples — MLB added, “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.”

Jeter, meanwhile, said his team will stay in Philadelphia until the situation calms down and hereon will undergo daily testing, an uptick over MLB’s every-other-day protocol. Jeter added: “We look forward to safely returning to Miami where we conducted a successful and healthy Spring 2.0 before departing on the road and experiencing challenges.” The Marlins played a pair of exhibition games in Atlanta July 22-23 before heading to Philadelphia.

Derek Jeter and Joe GirardiAP; Getty Images

The Phillies took consolation in that no one on their team had contracted the disease as of Tuesday. Yet as manager Joe Girardi noted in an interview with MLB Network Radio, “[T]he incubation period is 2-to-14 days. And I know we can’t wait 14 days, but I think we have to be really smart about this.” They will wait four days. Girardi, moreover, expressed regret for the Phillies’ decision to finish the Marlins series while knowing that his Yankees pal Jeter’s team was facing peril.

The Yankees, meanwhile, found themselves hit by the Marlins shrapnel because they happened to be the team following them to Philadelphia. Yankees player representative Zack Britton said the players agreed rather easily Tuesday to head to Baltimore rather than go home as originally scheduled. MLB said that more schedule alterations will be announced shortly; the original schedule called for the Yankees to go to Baltimore next week.

“You’re going to have to deal with the curveballs that can likely come on a daily and weekly basis,” Aaron Boone said.

“Coming into it, we understood that … there could be a team that could have multiple positive tests,” said Britton, who professed his confidence that the Yankees would continue to honor the collectively bargained health and safety protocols.

“I don’t know if any of us thought there would be. … I think they’re up to 17 cases now, 15 players,” Girardi said accurately of the Marlins.

It’s an awful lot, exactly half of Miami’s roster. Then again, Fox Sports announced Tuesday evening that an awful lot of people streamed the July 25 Yankees-Nationals game — a regular-season record — which explains why MLB desperately wants to keep the season going.

“I can’t tell you I have confidence. I can’t tell you I don’t have confidence [about the rest of the season],” Cashman said. “I can tell you we’re going to do everything in our power to do everything the right way and play baseball as long as we can. If something changes, it changes.”

More icebergs loom out there. Can baseball, with the same unreliable GPS as everyone else in these unprecedented times, avoid them?

— With Joel Sherman

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