MIAMI — With six teams idled Friday by the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to union leader Tony Clark about the importance of players following the sport’s coronavirus protocols.
Manfred and Clark talked about what needs to be done to finish the season, a person familiar with the conversation said.
The conversation between Manfred and Clark, first reported by ESPN, comes amid growing evidence that the spread of infection threatens to overtake efforts to play ball.
“Some things aren’t looking too good right now, but we have to play up to that point. Players are seeing what can happen,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said.
“The rest now is up to us and the virus,” he said.
Concerns have been expressed about lax behavior by players on the field — such as spitting or high-fives — and off. The scrambled schedule has also heightened doubts about whether the owners’ desire to play is realistic.
“Obviously, we saw the message. They sent a memo. Just be more diligent, wear a mask in the dugout when you’re not playing, what we’ve thought to be the rules all along,” Arizona catcher Stephen Vogt said. “So it’s just like every other rule that MLB has for players — now it’s going to be enforced, so to speak. Just strongly encouraging.”
“Everything gets a little bit lax when you get in the game because the habits of what we’ve been doing our whole life takes over. When one of your teammates gets a big hit, you want to high-five them. You want to celebrate the way you’ve always done,” he said. “And the last thing I want to do when I’m trying to play and do my job is be worried about COVID, but that’s the times were in right now.”
The latest game to be postponed was Milwaukee’s home opener against St. Louis, called off hours before the first pitch after two Cardinals players tested positive for COVID-19.
The Cardinals said in a statement they learned Thursday night about positive tests from samples collected Wednesday. Players and staff were instructed to isolate in their hotel rooms.
“The team is currently conducting rapid testing of the entire traveling party, has implemented contact tracing, and will continue to self-isolate,” the Cardinals said.
The Cardinals and Brewers still hoped to play tonight, and to make up Friday’s game with a pair of seven-inning games Sunday under a newly approved MLB plan for doubleheaders.
Two weekend series — Nationals at Marlins, and Blue Jays at Phillies — were called off earlier. The Marlins were hit with a virus outbreak in Philadelphia that infected at least 20 members of their traveling party, and both Miami and the Phillies are sidelined for at least a week.
The six idled teams Friday represented 20% of MLB.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said baseball is braced for curveballs, especially this year.
“We’re all committed, I believe – and I’ve talked to a number of players today — to finishing the season,” Attanasio said.