Goodell and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred have expressed less confidence than previously about completing their seasons as the pandemic lingers.
In announcing the postponements and other schedule changes, MLB said “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 Marlins had as many as 14 reported positive cases among players and coaches, and sources told MLB Network, the Miami Herald and ESPN on Tuesday that the latest round of coronavirus tests yielded four more positive results.
The team has not provided details about the players’ conditions or when they might return.
Other teams’ schedules have been affected by the Marlins’ outbreak. The Baltimore Orioles, who were to play two games against Miami starting Wednesday instead will play host to the New York Yankees on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Yankees’ game against the Phillies on Tuesday in Philadelphia has been postponed “out of an abundance of caution.” Philadelphia had been scheduled to play Wednesday and Thursday against the Yankees in New York, but will now travel to Baltimore to play the Orioles.
Meanwhile the Washington Nationals, who were to play three games in Miami starting Friday, are in limbo after a major of players voted against playing the Marlines, according to ESPN.
While Miami has had the largest outbreak of COVID-19 to date, the Washington Nationals had the highest-profile player testing positive. Pre-season MVP candidate Juan Soto received a positive test result Thursday, the day the Nationals played the Yankees in the first game of the MLB season.
Soto still is in the league’s coronavirus protocol. He returned a negative result Saturday, but must show a second MLB-approved negative test before he can return.
Soto’s absence creates a huge hole in the Nationals’ lineup, and exemplifies how quickly the coronavirus could potentially dismantle a season.
In light of the Marlins’ positive tests, a majority of Nationals players voted against traveling to Miami for a three-game weekend series to start Friday.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who missed part of last season due to a heart condition, told reporters Monday he would be concerned about his safety if his team traveled to Florida.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m scared,” Martinez said. “My level of concern went from about an eight to a 12. I mean this thing really hits home now. … I got guys in our clubhouse that are really concerned, as well.”
The Marlins likely would have to replace half of their team’s active roster with prospects and low-level veterans if the team is allowed to return to the field Wednesday. The team claimed two pitchers Monday after the first wave of positive tests.
The Marlins remain in Philadelphia. MLB protocol stipulates that players and staff members are not allowed to travel or enter club facilities after a positive COVID-19 test until they return two negative results at least 24 hours apart.
Rules for returning
Players or staff members who test positive also must not have a fever for at least 72 hours, complete an antibody test and be cleared by a team physician and the league’s COVID-19 joint committee.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, told Good Morning America on Tuesday that the Marlins’ outbreak could put the 2020 MLB season “in danger,” but he doesn’t think officials need to pause or end the season.
“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,” Fauci said.
MLB’s commissioner did not have the luxury of time when the coronavirus caused halted seasons around the world. The MLB season was delayed for four months after the pandemic led to a canceled spring training.
Other sports leagues, like the NFL, had time to watch how MLB and European and Asian sports leagues allowed teams to return to play, but still have had major difficulties to devise adequate plans and protocols.
Goodell sees major challenge
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell detailed the league’s path to play in a letter published Monday, which outlined how the league crafted coronavirus safety protocols and plans to move forward.
His letter provided a less-optimistic tone than previously to speak about the 2020 season — but still said the league plans to play a complete schedule.
“In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, we have navigated the time carefully, thoughtfully and in partnership with the NFL Players Association with a shared goal of playing a healthy and complete 2020 season,” Goodell said.
“This process has not been easy. COVID-19 will continue to present a major challenge to nearly every area of American life. Football is no exception.”
The 32-team league plans to start training camps this week after individual team facilities were closed to players this off-season due to the pandemic. The NFL had teams meet through video conferences amid the stoppage of in-person workouts and has canceled preseason games.
In April, Goodell said the league would be prepared for the 2020 season and planned to play its entire schedule with its typical fall start. Many NFL players voiced concern in mid-July for what they characterized as the lack of preparation. Several players have since opted out of the 2020 NFL season and citied safety concerns.
New England Patriots Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower is the highest-profile player to skip the season. Five other Patriots players also have opted out.
Goodell said players and coaches will be tested for the virus “regularly, including every day for a while,” when they return to facilities. He also said state and local health guidelines will help determine if fans can attend games this coming season.
Unlike most other professional sports leagues in the United States, the NFL does not plan to use a protective bubble strategy for the 2020 season. Recent test results from the WNBA, NBA, MLS, WNBA and NWSL bubbles have shown decreased levels or no positive results in recent weeks.
The NBA and MLS have practice, games and lodging at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
WNBA teams met for their season on the IMG Academy Campus in Bradenton, Fla. NWSL teams met in Herriman, Utah, for a tournament, which started June 27 and ended Sunday.
The NHL’s bubble in Canada is a bit more broad, with Toronto and Edmonton set to split 24 teams for games that start Tuesday. Seven NHL teams didn’t qualify for the resumed season after the 2019-2020 campaign was suspended in mid-March.