The 2020 Major League Baseball season has continued despite stoppages due to positive coronavirus cases within teams. Due to positive cases on five different teams, the league has postponed and rescheduled 41 games so far in a season that is six weeks old.
After the most severe team outbreak which saw 20 individuals (18 players) from the Miami Marlins organization test positive for the coronavirus, MLB announced new health directives for players and coaches. MLB doubled down on wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines. In response to the outbreak, the league also added the requirement that every team is to travel with a compliance officer who ensures that the team staff and players adhere to the league's health and safety protocols.
Nearly two weeks later, news broke that Cleveland starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac snuck out of the team hotel room and went out during a road trip in Chicago. The team sent the duo down to the alternate training site, and later traded Clevinger to the San Diego Padres.
It's expected that this violation of team rules only led the league to further emphasize the importance of following the health and safety protocols, especially on the road. Texas Rangers utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa explained to Dallas' 105.3 The Fan how players are handling the strict rules when traveling on the road during the pandemic. Because baseball is not being played in a one-location bubble, all players and staff are still traveling, yet the schedule is regionally limited.
"MLB actually has someone just walking around the hotel to make sure we don't do anything," Kiner-Falefa told The Fan. "Just based off previous teams and what they've done and how it affected the season. So MLB has been very strict. It's almost cooler to be at home because you can at least do a little more and have some people around.
"But when you're on the road it's almost like prison. You can't leave your room. Even if you go down to the lobby (you'll get in trouble). I think for us this year, the physical part's been okay, but mentally it's starting to wear on a lot of people. (I'm) just curious how far this can go on."
Kiner-Falefa went on to discuss the restrictions enforced by the compliance officers working with teams. He told The Fan that players don't know who they are, but the officers are always present during road trips.
"They do a good job of hiding," Kiner-Falefa told The Fan. "We don't know what exactly they do. I know there was a couple of our guys that just went down to the lobby, took their mask off for a quick second, went to their room, and got a text message saying they got caught."
Some of MLB's restrictions this season, for the sake of health and safety of players and staff, include limiting contact like high fives, fist bumps, and hugs.
"It's kind of scary but at the same time it's good for us to make sure we don't pass the virus and we're staying safe," Kiner-Falefa added. "But on the human side of it, not being able to give your teammates a hug, a high-five, it's taken away a lot of the joy we have playing the game. But at the same time, Hawaii (his home state) just started their second lockdown, so I could be locked up in my room for another three weeks. So just kind of putting things in perspective and understanding that the whole world is dealing with this and not just us. So we're just happy to play ball."
MLB is currently discussing a two-location bubble possibility for this year's expanded 16-team postseason. Our R.J. Anderson broke down why baseball didn't use the bubble plan for the 2020 regular season earlier this season.