Miami Marlins

Derek Jeter sticks up for his Marlins players amid COVID outbreak

Derek Jeter denies his Marlins players went out to bars and clubs

The Miami Marlins might never know for certain how COVID-19 got into their clubhouse and swept through their roster. But CEO Derek Jeter is certain it wasn’t because they were out partying.

The Marlins got their first positive test 10 days ago from catcher Jorge Alfaro. Two more players tested positive before they played the Philadelphia Phillies last Sunday. Within a few days, that number had swelled to 18, including veteran Miguel Rojas and Opening Day starter Sandy Alcantara.

They haven’t played in more than a week as the club’s front office attempts to field some resemblance of a Major League-ready roster with more than half of their players testing positive. The timing of the outbreak indicates it likely originated in Atlanta, where the Marlins played two exhibition games against the Braves nearly two weeks ago.

As the outbreak intensified, rumors spread that the Marlins frequented bars and clubs while out in Atlanta, a blatant violation of MLB’s protocols. But Jeter insisted that isn’t the case in a virtual press conference on Monday.

The Hall of Fame shortstop is in his third season as CEO and part-owner of the Marlins. This has been the biggest crisis of his tenure, and he’s so far proven himself up to the challenge. Jeter is putting himself forward as a voice for his players, saying not only are the reports not true, but it’s also disrespectful to even bring them up while the players are dealing with a potentially deadly virus.

“It really has been disheartening to not read anything about that or see any signs of empathy for what they’re going through. Instead, we continue to hear and read about rumors about our players’ actions in Atlanta, and we need to stop that. Our team and our players deserve better than that,” Jeter said. “Our guys were not running all around town after our game in Atlanta.”

The Marlins appeared to be doing everything right before the season began. They had no positive tests during Summer Camp. While in Atlanta, Jeter says some of them went out to get coffee and clothes; one had dinner at a teammates’ house without any other guests. But there were no visits to bars or clubs. He recognizes, though, that the club might not have been taking the protocols seriously enough.

“What it boiled down to on this particular trip is, guys were around each other, they got relaxed, and let their guard down,” he said. “They were getting together in groups, they weren’t wearing masks as much as they should have, they weren’t social distancing. The entire traveling party got a little too comfortable. Should they have been doing that, no. And that’s been addressed.”

Jeter says the players who have tested positive are doing well and many of them are asymptomatic. Some have mild symptoms. They’re all safely quarantining in Miami. The club has had no further positive tests the last three days and will resume their season on Tuesday in a four-game series in Baltimore. The Marlins will serve as the home club in the last two games of the series.

The Marlins outbreak has forced MLB to toughen their protocols. Instead of simply discouraging players from leaving the team hotel while on the road, it’s now strictly prohibited. Furthermore, each club must employ a compliance officer to make sure everyone is following the rules.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the second team in this young season to experience a COVID-19 outbreak after seven players and six staff members have tested positive. Like the rumors swirling around the Marlins, there are concerns some members of the Cardinals visited a casino while on the road. Their four-game series against the Detroit Tigers has been postponed indefinitely.

The Marlins outbreak forced MLB to deal with the hard reality that the virus is still out there and poses a risk, especially with the clubs traveling to different cities. It was only a matter of time before it infiltrated a club. The league, though, is determined to plow ahead, learning a lesson from what happened to the Marlins.

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