Let’s not dance around it. Major League Baseball already has a serious testing issue.
The Washington Nationals reported to Nationals Park for their first team workout in almost three months on Friday.
They had a coronavirus test that same day as part of MLB’s protocol to ensure players are tested at least every other day.
The next test was conducted on Sunday as expected. However, the results from Friday’s test had yet to be confirmed leaving the organization uneasy about the protocols already.
Monday morning came around and yet again there were still no test results from Friday.
The lack of results led to an abundance of caution from the Nationals as they decided to cancel their team workout for that day.
“Per MLB’s protocol, all players and staff were tested for COVID-19 on Friday, July 3rd,” GM Mike Rizzo said in a statement “Seventy-two hours later, we have yet to receive the results of those tests.
“We cannot have our players and staff work at risk. Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning. We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff, and their families. 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.”
The Nationals weren’t the only ones who were forced to alter plans because of testing issues.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros also called off their Monday workouts because test results hadn’t arrived. The Oakland Athletics’ tests still hadn’t reached the laboratory handling MLB’s testing. The Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees didn’t even have any testers report to their facilities as scheduled, though both conducted their own saliva tests.
MLB released a statement on Monday to address the various issues teams were having:
“Our plan required extensive delivery and shipping services,” the statement said, “including proactive special accommodations to account for the holiday weekend. The vast majority of those deliveries occurred without incident and allowed the protocols to function as planned.
“Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays. We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence. We commend the affected Clubs that responded properly by cancelling workouts.”
Good to know that the 4th of July, the holiday that literally has the date in the name, snuck up on MLB.
In all seriousness, MLB’s protocols can’t afford to be thrown off by minor logistical issues.
While labor negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA were stalling, the virus was always the most important factor in whether baseball is actually played this year.
Players, coaches, and ballpark staff are all putting themselves at risk by resuming play.
Even if all of MLB’s other health and safety protocols are followed to the letter, helping to prevent potential spread of coronavirus, it’s still almost an inevitability that at least some of those at the ballpark will contract the virus at some point.
To have the element of the unknown about whether someone may be carrying the virus is not only dangerous in terms of containing the spread among MLB players, but also a surefire way to make those at the ballpark even more nervous about the risk they’re under.
“As I sit here talking to you guys,” Sean Doolittle said in a Zoom press conference on Sunday, “I still don’t have my test results from Friday’s test. So, like, I got tested again this morning without knowing the results of my test from Friday, so... we’ve got to clean that up, right?
“So, that’s one thing that makes me a little nervous.”
MLB were also cutting it pretty fine even before Friday’s tests too according to the lefty.
“Even the intake tests, there were clubs that couldn’t work out as a team on Friday because they were still waiting for their results,” Doolittle explained.
“We got our results at like 3:00 in the morning. So we all just kind of set our alarms and then we all got our notification when we woke up and we were like, ‘Oh, okay, we do have practice.’”
“There were a few teams that their results didn’t come back, and so they lost a day, and Spring Training is only three weeks long, you got to have those days. You need every day to try to get ready for the season.”
Only a handful of MLB players have opted out of the season so far. If the testing continues to be delayed for whatever reason, expect that number to increase rapidly.
Doolittle has long been cautious about his participation in 2020. Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs and Jake Diekman of the Athletics have expressed their concerns too, with the former even saying “I wanted to play this year because I felt that it would be safe and I would feel comfortable. But honestly I don’t really feel that way,” per Patrick Mooney of The Athletic.
The only way those still-hesitant players will play this season is for them to feel more comfortable in their new environment. That begins with adequate league-wide testing, which has clearly yet to be provided by MLB through the weekend.
“As the season moves forward, as we continue Spring Training, especially once we start traveling, those results got to be back,” Doolittle said.
“That’s one of the biggest things, that there were a lot of guys that were on the fence, that decided to try to play to see how this was going to go because we were going to have our results within 48 hours. So, hopefully that’s something that we can address and improve moving forward.”
In his Zoom presser on Saturday, Max Scherzer also mentioned how important the testing is to the whole endeavor of trying to play baseball in America this summer.
“For me, the testing is such a huge aspect of this, of restarting our season,” Scherzer explained. “And the test that we do have seems to be ... a very highly accurate test, so I do feel safe about going into a clubhouse and knowing that everybody else has tested multiple times negative to really curtail any possibility that somebody could have it right now.”
While the test itself may be accurate, it needs to produce results and produce them quickly.
If MLB’s testing protocols can’t give its clubs the turnaround time they need to safely ensure they can resume baseball activities, it could only be a matter of time before the 2020 season falls apart before it even begins...