Cubs manager David Ross said he doesn’t need to apologize for the way his players have adhered to baseball’s health and safety protocols during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our record speaks for itself,” Ross said Friday in a teleconference at Wrigley Field.
Ross was referring to the fact no Cubs players have tested positive for COVID-19 during summer camp and the first week of the shortened, 60-game season. He said the Cubs have “done a great job” following the protocols.
“We definitely probably high-five more than is allowed,” Ross said. “But we’ve got hand sanitizer waiting right afterward. Doing the best we can and trying to have fun and win ballgames.”
But Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t feel MLB players as a whole are taking matters seriously enough. According to an ESPN report, Manfred threatened to shut down the season in a meeting with players union chief Tony Clark if the sport doesn’t step up and manage the problem. An MLB investigation into the Miami Marlins’ outbreak reportedly found players going out to bars during their stay in Atlanta for their series against the Braves.
“I don’t know that I have an objection to putting (blame) on players,” Ross said. “I have an objection to putting things on my players, who haven’t done anything.”
Manfred’s threat came after three games were postponed Friday, including the St. Louis Cardinals-Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park after two Cardinals players reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
“This is another loud wake-up call,” Cardinals President John Mozeliak said.
One in a series of wake-up calls, it seems. This has been a tough week for MLB, which saw 29 positive tests — 20 players and 9 staff members — out of 11,895 samples, a rate of 0.2%. But 21 of those positives were from the Marlins alone. Only two other major-league players tested positive, which suggests most actually are following the protocols.
Despite the Cubs’ clean record on testing, the thought of MLB shut down the season prematurely could not be discounted heading into Friday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.
“It’s definitely in a lot of guys’ minds, that’s for sure,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “Especially with a couple Cardinals guys (testing positive), the reports of that coming out today. We all want to play, and the guys here in our clubhouse as we get going know the importance of sticking together and being as prudent as possible away from the field and at the field.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking. We say the most normal thing about the day is when we play actual baseball. Taking care of all the little things before that, with health and safety, is top priority as well.”
The Miami Marlins outbreak last weekend in Philadelphia has put their season on hold, while the Phillies also have not played since a visiting clubhouse attendant tested positive during the Marlins series.
Rizzo said the league and union have done a good job “continuing to adjust on the fly” to the crisis. MLB on Thursday agreed to play seven-inning games in doubleheaders the rest of the season for safety issues.
“It’s just one of those things,” Rizzo said. “You can get food delivered to you, and if it’s on there, we don’t know where (the virus) hides all the time. With players, it’s one of those things where you’ve got to be prudent, you’ve got to have faith and you can’t really live in fear of it.
“Guys are going to get it. We can’t sit here and say ’Oh, look at us, we’re doing so great.’ Because tomorrow we can have someone a walking around here (who is) asymptomatic and he can spread it to 10 guys.”
While there were reports some Cardinals players were golfing at Whistling Straits on Thursday on their off day, Rizzo wasn’t ready to castigate anyone or insist golf should be off limits to players. Instead he said there should be a “leaguewide discussion” on whether it’s OK.
“You can get it on a golf course, yes,” he said. “You can get it walking into Wrigley Field. You can get the virus going up an elevator in my apartment building. Any added variable to this is going to be blown up, and rightfully so because this is such a sensitive (issue). This is where we’re at. Let’s call a spade a spade.”
Rizzo was outspoken Thursday about the delay in postponing the Cubs-Reds game in Cincinnati because of rain. He tweeted his disgust during the delay but on Friday made an attempt to absolve MLB and the Reds. He said “the rules are out the door” in the pandemic-marred season, meaning the Reds should’ve called it earlier because there were no fans to be concerned about and it’s unsafe for players to be confined to one indoor space for several hours.
“I just know we don’t want to be sitting around a long time, especially when it comes to rain delays,” he said.
Ross said he spoke with MLB “multiple times” Thursday and was told it’s the home team’s call. He wasn’t as upset as Rizzo but said perhaps MLB will “consider” making an adjustment in to its policy.
Asked if he was optimistic the season would make it to the finish line, Ross said: “Outside of the Chicago Cubs, I can’t speak for the league and what everybody is trying to do.”
While MLB faces daily dilemmas, the NBA and NHL seem to be doing well in their respective bubble environments. Rizzo said that wasn’t feasible for baseball, and without a bubble, no one was too surprised an outbreak occurred
“As far as whole teams getting it, that’s the scary part of this whole thing,” Rizzo said. “I know that at some point the league and players were ready for a team to come down with it and (have) it spread like a wildfire, because that’s what it does.
“That’s why the whole country is in shambles because of it.”
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