MINNEAPOLIS -- Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association spent months negotiating salaries, the length of a potential season and other issues, swapping proposals back and forth that were quickly rejected.
If that seemed like that hardest part in baseball’s return to play, think again. The two sides never did come to a deal, but there will be 60-game baseball season starting in late July nonetheless — that is, if the country’s health situation permits it.
The Minnesota Twins became the latest team to announce positive COVID-19 tests among their players on Thursday, June 25, after having players test positive in recent days. President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said “a few” players had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, declining to go into many more specifics. Prior to that, Falvey said the club had not recorded any positive tests among players, staff or others.
Multiple cases, he said, were asymptomatic, and none of the players had been training in Minneapolis or at the team’s complex in Fort Myers, Fla., which had been shut down for a deep cleaning after outbreaks occurred at other teams’ facilities.
The players who tested positive were at their home locations, Falvey said, and each player who tested positive is doing well and is in quarantine. He did say at least one player was a minor leaguer who was not expected to join the team when it reassembles for training on July 1. Teams are allowed to have 60 players report at that time and at least one player is from that group.
“We are likely to not have our complement of what would have been the 60 to start camp, but hopefully can do that once we follow the appropriate protocols, get past the quarantine period and an additional test,” Falvey said.
For a player to rejoin the team, he must subsequently test negative twice after a positive test.
In recent days, multiple teams have registered positive tests, including the Red Sox, Tigers, Mariners, Rockies, Blue Jays and Phillies, who have had the most cases reported among teams thus far stemming from an outbreak at their spring training facility in Clearwater, Fla.
“We’re all aware of the science around this. We’re all aware of the numbers that exist across the country right now,” Falvey said. “We have players that are in many different locations. I don’t think this is necessarily a surprise that we may have some positive cases. We’d expect it, and as a result, that’s why we want to follow the appropriate protocols before getting everyone back together.”
The number of positive tests around the league is expected to rise as players report soon to their second round of spring training and undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing. After being tested initially, Falvey said players and coaches would go through an every-other-day testing procedure.
MLB has a thorough document that is more than 100 pages chock full of health and safety protocols that teams and players must adhere to. Falvey said players will be encouraged to spend time outside of the clubhouse — the normal tables and chairs where players might play cards or dominoes will be removed — so they can spread out outdoors.
But at the end of the day, much of the success of the MLB season hinges on each player taking his own personal responsibility seriously, both at and away from the ballpark.
“What you do away from the park is probably as important or more important than what happens inside our walls and inside our building and we need to impress upon all our players that that has to be taken exceptionally seriously so that we can move forward in a healthy way,” Falvey said.