MLB was probably hoping to get through its showcase opener, the defending champ Nationals vs. the marquee franchise Yankees, without any indication of just how stupid and dangerous this all is. But when it comes to looking stupid, no one puts MLB in a corner.
Take one look at Rob Manfred’s face and say that anyone is going to out-stupid him. Don’t even bother coming at the crown because you can’t help but miss.
So here we are, some three hours before first pitch, and the Nationals will be without their best player, Juan Soto. Why? You already know the why. He tested positive for COVID-19 and hence can’t return until he has two negative tests 24 hours apart.
Now you probably have a raft of questions, and none of them have satisfactory answers to anyone with more than five neurons firing between their ears. Shouldn’t the Nats all be held out and tested? Of course, but then they wouldn’t be able to play. So far all have tested negative, but we know it takes a few days of having the virus before you’d test positive. Soto tested negative until he didn’t. Are we mere days away from multiple Nats testing positive?
Second, Soto played in their exhibition game against the Orioles on Tuesday. So shouldn’t the catcher of the Orioles be quarantined and tested? He certainly spent more than a moment within six feet of him. The shortstop or second baseman he would have stood near after he doubled in that game? What about the home plate ump? And does anyone want to ask the Yankees how they feel about playing this team that possibly has multiple players carrying the virus? I’m reaching my limit on questions I can ask without answers.
They actually do have answers, it’s just that all of them would involve baseball stopping, and apparently we’re not so much down the tracks on that as over the cliff.
Here’s another fun tidbit. Soto was already held out of Nats camp for two weeks because back then, District of Columbia protocols called for anyone that had come into contact with a person who had tested positive to quarantine for 14 days. That was just last Monday.
I’ll let The Athletic’s Nats beat reporter sum this up:
Exactly. Except not knowing the full extent means everything should stop so it can’t possibly be made worse. Every country that has had a handle on this treated “what we don’t know” as a sign to pull back and not risk it. To not find out the hard way. This country takes it as an excuse to go forward, because hey, just because there are construction signs up in the middle of the street doesn’t automatically mean there’s a basketball-sized sinkhole in there. So drive on!
So because “what we don’t know” isn’t a stop-sign, the Nats will roll it out for ESPN against the Yankees tonight. And possibly any player that might have contracted COVID-19 from Soto but hasn’t tested positive yet, remember it takes a few days and people are at their most contagious before even showing symptoms, will be amongst his teammates. This is the risk they’ve decided is fine for TV money.
And this will hardly be the last time. More players are going to test positive, and they’ll be isolated, but their teammates will not, because there’s a game that day or the next. All the other sports have some break between games where, theoretically, everyone on a team can get a test and the results back before the next game (even if it’s not long enough to cover the whole incubation of the virus). Baseball’s daily nature means there isn’t time for that, which means the virus can remain present in different hosts for whatever length of time.
Maybe it’s a false positive. But if it’s not, it’s an excellent illustration of just how fucked this all is.