Why the MLB Season Is Already in Serious Danger


Why the MLB Season Is Already in Serious Danger


What MLB is trying to do is difficult wrapped around laborious engulfed by challenging.

In a few weeks, the league has had to construct a health and safety protocol with, most vitally, testing of on-field personnel done every other day. The lab is in Utah. The teams are spread over 30 sites — in some cases more with satellite facilities. The number of tests is roughly 14,000 per week. A collection company must retrieve all those samples, a delivery service then must ship the samples promptly to the lab.

The CDC or the US armed forces would be stretched to pull off this kind of relentless, coordinated effort, much less a sports league.

There was no trial period for MLB to see how this plays out by, say, having pitch clocks in the minor leagues or robot umps in independent ball. This had to be up and running and expertly done since it could be a life-or-death endeavor.

We know now that this system overseen jointly by MLB and the Players Association will not be perfect. On Monday, there was disruption and embarrassment. But what was threatened is worse. For to get this season played there must be trust in the testing process so that personnel have faith in taking the risks to play amid a pandemic.

The Nationals and Astros — last year’s World Series participants — plus the Cardinals cancelled workouts Monday due to delays in receiving results from tests taken Friday. The A’s, Angels and Diamondbacks pushed back their workouts to later Monday hoping to get results that would allow them to move forward.

“We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

Rizzo made that statement on the same day MLB was planning to release its schedule, which was going to be highlighted by a July 23 Opening Day game in Washington between the Yankees and Nationals — Gerrit Cole in his Yankees debut against Max Scherzer and the defending champs. That is if all goes well. But already there is, at minimum, a glitch.

MLB believes myriad issues funneling together, notably the holiday weekend, created the problems. MLB and the Players Association had to turn to the backup courier they use for PED testing, which unlike the regular service, FedEx, did not have its own fleet for delivery. That forced a turn to commercial flights, which were more limited due to the holiday weekend and COVID-19-related delays and cancellations. In addition, MLB was dealing in some cases with intake testing from last week and the beginning of the every-other-day testing, which caused a backlog.

In a text message sent to A’s players obtained by The Athletic, GM David Forst strongly criticized MLB and the company designated to retrieve and deliver samples. Oakland officials already were concerned that the team was at a competitive disadvantage being unable to have even its first full workout yet.

But the largest concern is more than who shoehorns the most preparation days in during this condensed spring training. This is about a process in which absolute trust is the only acceptable position.

Nine veteran players already have elected not to play this year. Many others, including stars such as Mike Trout of the Angels and Buster Posey of the Giants, have publicly wondered if they are doing right to be in camps when the dangers are so real. Lack of faith in the testing process could convince the teetering to abandon this attempt.

If the sport cannot get the testing done like clockwork, it cannot move forward. Not in this environment with COVID-19 cases rising in this country.

MLB and the Players Association never had a better reason to bond against a common enemy — the virus — as it did in trying to restart the game this year. But so much time, passion and rhetoric went into fighting about money that there then was a rush to open camps to find time for even a 60-game season.

But the true threat to that 60-game season — or any season for any sport in 2020 — has not evaporated. The virus is still out there. MLB and the union must make fixes quickly, competently and with full transparency to regain the confidence of those in clubhouses and on the field.

Or else they will have failed the test.



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