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Marlins COVID-19 Test Results Roil Orioles, Baseball

Maryland GovPics via Flickr (CREATIVE COMMONS BY 2.0)

If you’re the type that makes a wager on such things, and you bet that one of the major team sports wouldn’t be able to make it through its first week back from the pandemic without a problem, well, consider yourself a winner.

It only took four days from Major League Baseball’s launch on Thursday for the sport to hurdle into a potential crisis, as 13 Miami Marlins players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19, according to reports.

This all apparently began Friday when one unnamed Miami player tested positive. Before Sunday’s game with the Phillies, three other players learned of their positive tests, with the other nine finding out afterwards.  

Like a pebble dropped into a pond, the test results rippled through the sport, as the Marlins were forced to cancel Monday’s game against the Orioles in Miami in South Florida, a recent COVID hotspot. 

And because the Marlins were in Philadelphia for a series, the Phillies were forced to postpone their game with the Yankees, as the Miami staff used the visiting clubhouse in Philadelphia. 

The Marlins’ players were forced to remain in Philadelphia for a time to be tested before they could go home and the Phillies road clubhouse staff will have to be quarantined for a time because of their contact with the Marlins.

This fiasco, of course, raises all sorts of questions and red flags about what has happened and what’s to come.

For instance, two infectious-disease experts reached for comment by the sports website the Athletic asked why Sunday’s game was played at all, given that four players had already been told of their positive tests.

While four may not be an outstanding number in and of itself, the two doctors raised the distinct possibility that many more athletes and personnel may not have presented positively at the time of the testing, but may do so later.

While the infectious disease doctors believe there is little chance that the Phillies themselves may have received the coronavirus from the Marlins, what about employees in the hotel where Miami team members and officials stayed?

And what about the implications for other sports? All eyes will certainly turn to the NFL, where players are to report for training camp this week. 

The league and its players have, as we mentioned recently, sparred over testing protocols for a sport where close contact is essential. How will this development impact the NFL? 

The NHL, NBA and WNBA all elected to bring their players to secure locations and lock them down in what has been affectionately called a bubble. 

So far, as the WNBA opened play last week and the NBA and NHL ramp up to begin their seasons in the next week, positive test results have been relatively low, but the Marlins’ debacle will almost certainly raise concerns within those sports and for college athletics.

There are many chapters still to be written in the story of sports in 2020, but the rest of this book has to be better than this chapter for the ending to turn out well.

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.



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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.