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Marlins Season Paused Due to COVID-19 Cases

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MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Miami Marlins season has officially been paused. This news comes just hours after four more players tested positive for COVID-19 in the latest round of testing conducted on Monday. This brings the total number of Marlins players with coronavirus to 15, plus two staff members.

The full statement from Major League Baseball:

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that all games on the Miami Marlins’ schedule have been postponed through Sunday (BAL @ MIA tonight, MIA @ BAL Wednesday and Thursday, and WSH @ MIA Friday through Sunday). 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 early next week.

In addition, out of an abundance of caution, the remainder of the home-and-home series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees has been postponed (NYY @ PHI tonight, and PHI @ NYY Wednesday and Thursday). As a result of these postponements, the Yankees will now play the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday and Thursday in order to create more scheduling flexibility later in the season. Additional rescheduling during the week of August 3rd will be announced later this week.

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

In over 6,400 tests conducted since Friday, July 24th, there have been no new positives of on-field personnel from any of the other 29 Clubs. This outcome is in line with encouraging overall data since the June 27th start of testing. Through last Thursday, July 23rd, 99 of the 32,640 samples – 0.3% – had been positive.

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. We are confident that Clubs and players will act appropriately, for themselves and for others, and the data provides reason to believe that the protocols can work effectively.

And the response from Marlins CEO Derek Jeter:

Marlins Communications

After the massive outbreak within the team, the Marlins originally cancelled their flight home to Miami, where they were set to play the Baltimore Orioles on Monday and Tuesday. After Monday’s test results, Monday and Tuesday’s game was postponed by Major League Baseball. The Philadelphia Phillies—who the Marlins just played against last weekend— also postponed their games against the New York Yankees out of “an abundance of caution.” So far, zero Phillies players or coaches have tested positive.

With a roster completely decimated by the virus, the Marlins have had to scramble to find talent, acquiring relief pitchers Justin Shafer, Josh D. Smith, and Mike Morin (each of whom were recently DFA’d by other teams). MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that the only way the season will be suspended is “a team losing a number of players that rendered it completely non-competitive.”

Just a few hours prior to MLB’s decision to pause the season, the Washington Nationals’ players voted not to come down to Miami for their weekend series against the Fish. With Miami being one of the COVID-19 hotspots over the past week, it was not surprising to see teams be skeptical about coming down to Florida.

“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m scared,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Marlins plan to stay in Philadelphia overnight, with no indication yet as to when (or if) they will fly home. Those who test positive will remain quarantined at the Philly hotel.

The Phillies are currently scheduled to come down to Miami next Tuesday for a three-game series. However, Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez said that the Marlins should follow the 14-day quarantine protocol, reports local radio host Andy Slater (which would prevent them from playing on that date). Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may ultimately make the decision, Slater adds.

When the Marlins finally do resume play, it will likely be with an unrecognizable lineup, consisting of low-profile journeymen and minor league call-ups from their Jupiter reserve squad. Most MLB players who have tested positive this season have been sidelined for two weeks or longer. To be eligible to return, Miami’s players affected by this outbreak will need to test negative twice at least 24 hours apart, and have no symptoms for at least 72 hours.

Now, MLB must figure out how to proceed with the schedule beyond this week. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Yankees and Orioles will play each other in Baltimore on Wednesday and Thursday.

If teams like the Marlins and Phillies wind up playing far fewer than 60 games, MLB may determine 2020 playoff berths based on winning percentage. This is what was employed during the 1981 season, which was split into two halves due to a players’ strike.