Barely a week into the Major League Baseball regular season, the league has been forced to alter its schedule and postpone multiple games due to positive COVID-19 tests. The Miami Marlins are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that has reportedly had 19 positive tests among the team, including 17 from players. The Marlins have not played since Sunday and it's unclear when they'll attempt to resume play.
The Marlins are the only team known to be dealing with a full-blown outbreak, but eight different teams have had their schedules altered already due to positive COVID-19 tests in a season that started eight days ago. The Phillies, Orioles, Yankees, Nationals, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Brewers have also had games postponed. The Phillies, who hosted the Marlins last weekend, have also not played since Sunday and will not face the Blue Jays this weekend after two staff members (a coach and a clubhouse attendant) tested positive.
News broke Friday morning that the Cardinals also had multiple players test positive, and their Friday afternoon game vs. the Brewers has reportedly been postponed.
Because there is no stated provision in the agreement between the league and the union on what would lead to the season being canceled or paused, that discretion belongs to commissioner Rob Manfred. What would it take before Manfred would consider pausing or scrapping the rest of the year? On Monday, Manfred had a sit-down interview with Tom Verducci on MLB Network, and pursuant to the new cluster of cases, he was asked what would lead a team being forced to shut down for a period of time because of COVID-19 concerns.
Manfred initially indicated that the Marlins could return to the field as early as Wednesday with "acceptable" testing results. That did not happen as the Marlins outbreak grew each day this week. Manfred also said that "[a] team losing a number of players that rendered it completely non-competitive" would be standard for considering a pause at the team level. That would of course require subjective judgment to determine whether a team had been reduced to "non-competitive" status, but it's at least a standard of some kind.
Manfred was asked a similar question earlier this month as part of an appearance on Dan Patrick's radio show. Here's what Manfred said:
"I don't have a firm number of days in mind (to pause the season). I think the way that I think about it, Dan, is in the vein of competitive integrity, in a 60-game season," Manfred said. "If we have a team or two that's really decimated with a number of people who had the virus and can't play for any significant period of time, it could have a real impact on the competition and we'd have to think very, very hard about what we're doing."
Despite having a call with the 30 team owners on Monday, the word is that MLB did not seriously discuss plans to cancel or pause the season. It remains to be seen if that will change after positive tests among the Cardinals.
It's worth noting that Manfred acknowledged the league would be "lucky" to get in 60 games prior to the start of the season.