If something doesn’t change, the MLB is going to be shut down when it’s barely begun.
The MLB has had a disastrous start to the 2020 season, and with commissioner Rob Manfred holding the threat of shutdown over everyone’s heads, the league and MLBPA have come to an agreement about changes to the COVID-19 safety protocols for teams. While the changes probably will not solve everything, they will be at least a step in the right direction.
It’s honestly shocking that several of these changes weren’t already part of the protocols because they just seem like common sense. Players will now be required to wear masks at all times except for when they are on the field and when they are alone in their hotel rooms while traveling. Only absolutely essential personnel will be allowed to travel. Teams must also provide outdoor covered spaces for visiting teams and designated areas to socially distance in the event of a rain delay.
Wearing masks is currently one of the best ways to prevent person-to-person spread of the virus when social distancing isn’t possible. It seems like an obvious rule to require masks everywhere possible. On top of that, why were teams traveling with non-essential personnel? During a global pandemic, there’s no reasonable justification for putting more people at risk.
Protocol changes will help, but they won’t fix the problem
The MLB and MLBPA don’t have the best history with negotiations, so at least they were able to quickly respond and agree to new terms of safety protocol. However, the bigger issue that the league can’t fix is that players who have already tested positive were largely players who violated the protocols in the first place.
The Miami Marlins had a massive outbreak on the team after several players attended a club in Atlanta, and the St. Louis Cardinals had athletes test positive after an outing to a casino. Those activities were against the original protocols, but the MLB couldn’t regulate players’ behavior outside of team activities. With heightened security and tighter regulations, hopefully, athletes will take the safety protocols more seriously. If they really want to go out though, there isn’t much the league can do to stop them.
The onus of the MLB’s struggles falls equally on the players and the league. Both sides need to step up for the safety of everyone involved and for the future of their season. Otherwise, we aren’t going to be watching baseball for much longer.