An internal investigation conducted by Major League Baseball into the Miami Marlins' COVID-19 outbreak revealed that the players did not follow the agreed-upon protocols during a trip to Atlanta for an exhibition game, according to Scott Miller of Bleacher Report. The players were found to have engaged in risky behavior, such as congregating at the hotel bar and going out.
Here's what MLB's coronavirus safety manual says about going to bars and restaurants:
In order for a 2020 season to be conducted safely, Covered Individuals must exercise care while away from Club facilities to avoid situations in which the risk of contracting the virus is elevated, such as participating in activities involving large groups or indoor activities in which people are in close proximity to one another (e.g., crowded restaurants, bars, clubs). MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from Club facilities, but will expect the Covered Individuals on each Club to ensure that they all act responsibly.
Although MLB did not name the Marlins in its weekly testing results roundup, it did reference them in an obvious way. The league's report stated that 29 individuals tested positive over the last week, with 21 of them coming from "a single MLB Club." That club was, obviously enough, the Marlins, who had at least 20 positive tests (18 of them players) as of Friday morning.
In response to the Marlins' outbreak, MLB had little choice but to park the team for the week. MLB also isolated the Philadelphia Phillies, the Marlins' opponents last weekend, after the Phillies had a few individuals test positive. The league was forced to postpone the Milwaukee Brewers' home opener against the Cardinals after two St. Louis players tested positive. In other words, a full 20 percent of the league was not active on Friday due to COVID-19 complications.
On Friday evening, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported that commissioner Rob Manfred had warned union head Tony Clark that the league might have to shutter the season if the testing trends continued through the weekend. Based on what is known about COVID-19's incubation period, new infections over the weekend will have been contracted at least two days prior, and perhaps as long ago as two weeks. The median incubation period is believed to be around five days.
While the Marlins players deserve their share of blame for improper conduct, and for choosing to play Sunday vs. the Phillies despite multiple positive tests coming in over the course of last weekend, it should be noted that the league itself could have been more proactive in preventing potential outbreaks and poor behavior. For example, it was only this week that the league required every team to hire a compliance officer -- a position that should have existed before the season was launched.
There's also the matter of rain delays. Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo tweeted about his frustration with the league's approach on Thursday night, noting that it wasn't consistent with MLB's words about player safety. The chances of transmission are at their highest when individuals are exposed for prolonged periods to crowded areas at intimidate settings contained with a closed or otherwise poorly ventilated environment -- or, basically, a big-league clubhouse.
On that note, it's hard to forget that Marlins manager Don Mattingly may have been the first to observe the league's need to alter its rain delay protocol -- and that he did it during that now fateful trip to Atlanta. "We had all these guys and nowhere to go," Mattingly said. "Then we've got a zillion guys in the dugout, so there's no way we're social distancing."