Rob Manfred Warns MLBPA of Shutdown If COVID-19 Outbreaks Persist

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJuly 31, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2020, file photo, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during baseball owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. Manfred tells The Associated Press that the commissioner's office, teams and the players' association
John Raoux/Associated Press

The delayed and shortened 2020 Major League Baseball season amid the COVID-19 pandemic is only eight days old, but commissioner Rob Manfred is already threatening a shutdown following positive test results across numerous teams.

The report came via ESPN's Jeff Passan on Friday: "Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark on Friday that if the sport doesn't do a better job of managing the coronavirus, it could shut down for the season, sources familiar with the conversation told ESPN."

Two unnamed St. Louis Cardinals players tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, per Passan. That's in addition to a much larger outbreak on the Miami Marlins that included 18 players and two coaches.

The Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies, who faced off during the season's opening weekend, have not played since Sunday with their seasons paused.

The Cardinals' series opener with the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday has been postponed, with a doubleheader now scheduled Saturday.

Passan provided more context to the report on Twitter:

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"This weekend is seen as a crucial juncture for the sport, both in terms of hoping for a limit of positive tests and in players abiding by protocols. Local health officials have been troubled by the lack of mask wearing, high-fiving and spitting by players, according to sources.

"The conversation between Manfred and Clark was not a threat but a reality check that was relayed to players and has spread quickly among them: Weall of usneed to clean this up, because if we don't, Major League Baseball in 2020 is going to be over."

Passan also provided the latest COVID-19 test result numbers throughout the league:

The vast majority of MLB teams haven't had players test positive for COVID-19 through one week, but as the past few days have shown, one team's outbreak can have a ripple effect on other teams. Games are postponed, schedules are altered, and previous opponents have to be on high alert for positive tests.

The other issue is that the COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading rapidly in the United States, with 65,406 cases confirmed Friday alone, per the World Health Organization. That marked the 23rd straight day of 50,000 or more confirmed cases in the United States, which has seen over 4.38 million total.

With some teams playing home games in various hot spots around the country, like Texas and Florida, the threat is always there even if teams abide by all rules and safety protocols.

But at least one team reportedly hasn't, per comments that Bob Nightengale of USA Today made to 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh (h/t Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia):

"I think it's a wake-up call for all the other teams, saying, 'You'd better not go out at night.' Because if you bring it in, you've got a chance to knock off the season by yourself.

[...]

"Well, I think a couple guys went out in Atlanta. That's what happened. I don't think it was any kind of fluke, from the bus driver or a pilot, any of that. I believe some guys got careless, at least one guy did for sure, he went out, and came back positive and spread it around."

There is no timetable for the Marlins' return to the field. The earliest they can be cleared to play is Tuesday against the Phillies at home, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.

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