MLB suspends Marlins’ season until August 3

Miami Marlins chief executive Derek Jeter in the stands during an intrasquad game earlier this month at Marlins Park. The club's 2020 season is suspended until August 3 as it grapples with a still-growing outbreak of Covid-19. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball has suspended the Miami Marlins’ 2020 season until August 3 after testing found additional Covid-19 cases among the already-ravaged team.

Multiple reports and industry sources said that another four Marlins players tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of cases thus far to 17 members of the club’s traveling party. As a result, a full week’s worth of games for the Marlins have now been postponed. The team’s games on July 27 and 28 had previously been postponed due to the club’s outbreak.

The Marlins have also remained this week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the club played the Phillies last weekend and the Marlins’ outbreak was initially detected, while team members undergo daily testing, and isolating and quarantining as needed. 

No Phillies players have tested positive, and MLB additionally said there have no new positive tests among the all other clubs aside from the Marlins since July 24, representing more than 6,400 total tests.

“We continue to take this entire situation very seriously,” said Marlins chief executive Derek Jeter. “All of our players, coaches, and staff are, understandably, having a difficult time enduring this experience. After receiving additional test results on our Major League team, we reached out to the commissioner’s office with concern with the health and safety of our team as well as our opponents.”

The league responded by not only pausing the Marlins’ schedule, but also postponing a second scheduled game in Philadelphia this week between the Phillies and New York Yankees. MLB additionally shifted the schedules this week of the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, who were due to play the Marlins and Phillies this week as the league looks to manage the impacts of the still-developing situation. The Phillies will further be idle until July 31 as they await their next opponent, the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Washington Nationals, the Marlins’ scheduled opponent during the weekend of July 31-August 2, will also be idle this weekend, further showing the ripple effects of the Marlins’ outbreak.

“Given the current circumstances, MLB believes that it is most prudent to allow the Marlins time to focus on providing care for their players and planning their baseball operations for a resumption next week,” the league said in a statement.

As a result, the Marlins are expected to dip heavily into their reserve player pool when they do restart play.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred earlier this week said the Marlins’ situation at the time did not warrant a larger shutdown of the league’s just-resumed 2020 season. And even after the club’s additional Covid-19 cases, the league has remained firm in that belief.

“The health and safety protocols were designed with a challenging circumstance like the one facing the Marlins in mind,” the league continued in its statement. “The response outlined in the joint MLB-MLB Players Association Operations Manual was triggered immediately upon learning of the cluster of positive cases, including contact tracing and testing of all the identified close contacts. The Marlins’ personnel who tested positive remain in isolation and are receiving care.

“The difficult circumstances of one club reinforce the vital need to be diligent with the protocols in all ways, both on and off the field. We will continue to bolster our protocols and make any necessary adjustments. The realities of the virus still loom large, and we must operate with that in mind every day,” MLB said. 

The Marlins’ situation escalating concern among many other players and coaches around the sport, many of whom are now increasingly questioning whether or not to opt out of playing the rest of the season.

“There’s real fear, there’s real anxiety for me, for all of my teammates,” said Milwaukee Brewers outfielder-designated hitter Ryan Braun. “I think we’ve found it very difficult to focus on baseball at all the last couple of days.

“Not only the players and coaches, and everybody else associated with the teams, but everybody else we come into contact with. You think about all the hotel employees, bus drivers, pilots, flight attendants, anybody else all the Marlins guys might have come into contact with, and it’s obviously scary,” Braun said.

MLB is expected to detail further schedule adjustments later this week as it continues to seek to find new dates and venues the games lost thus far to crisis, and play as much of the originally planned 60-game regular season as possible. 

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, meanwhile, said the Marlins are required to conduct a 14-day quarantine when the club returns to South Florida. A final ruling on that, however, could like with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“I would say unless the governor gives them an exemption…I would think the rules apply them to them, too,” Gimenez said. “They should follow the medical protocol. If somebody has been exposed, just like any other person, they need to be tested and self quarantine for a while. That’s the normal protocol.”