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MLB’s response to COVID-19 outbreak raises more questions than answers

How did the league handle the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Marlins’ clubhouse, and how will it impact the Orioles moving forward?

Baltimore Orioles Summer Workouts Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Let’s address the elephant in the room.

It’s difficult to have any conversation about baseball without acknowledging the recent developments with COVID-19. The state of Baltimore’s rotation does not matter if there are no games to pitch in.

Major League Baseball’s handling of the pandemic has left space for this elephant in the room to transition into a traveling circus. Well, here we are.

All aboard.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Orioles never should have traveled to Miami. After four Marlins players tested positive over the weekend, Major League Baseball should have called for an immediate hiatus. Instead, the Marlins elected to play the final game of their series against Philadelphia.

As of Tuesday evening, 17 members of the Marlins organization had tested positive for the virus. In less than a week, the Marlins went from one positive case, to four, to 11, to now 17 people infected. That’s how this thing works.

This CBS Sports article provides a detailed timeline of the outbreak in the Marlins clubhouse. Miami’s games have been canceled throughout the week, while the O’s will return home to play the Yankees today and tomorrow.

There’s no way of knowing whether canceling Sunday’s game would have helped limit the outbreak in the Marlins clubhouse. With the players already being exposed to one another, the damage may have already been done. There’s a lot of unknowns with this virus, and I’m certainly not going to pretend to be an expert. Still, an earlier move would have saved the Orioles from a trip to one of the “hot spot” regions.

It’s certainly not the league’s fault that players got sick. There have been plenty of protocols put into place, and one can only hope the Marlins were following them. Many feel it was not a question of if, but when players would get infected this season.

However, the jumbled response by MLB raises questions. Why did the Marlins play on Sunday? Why did Baltimore and New York travel to Miami or Philadelphia? Why was there still talk of the Marlins playing in Baltimore this week? If Major League Baseball had months to put together a plan, how was there not a quicker response with direct instructions?

If you’ve spent the last few days scanning twitter for updates, you’re not alone. Phillies player, and former NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen let the world know that the players and teams are just as out of the loop as everyone else.

The league’s approach to this season feels a bit like the end of the Dan Duquette era in Baltimore— If this, that, and the other all go our way, we’ll have a chance. If these players bounce back, those take a step forward, and everyone stays healthy then we’ve got a shot.

If nobody gets sick, we’ll be able to play without issue.

Every team has a Plan A, but good teams have enough talent and depth to overcome inevitable bumps in the road. The slow response time from the league prompts anyone to question the depth of MLB’s plan.

All of that being said, the league has done its best to produce a schedule that works for everyone. The Marlins will not play until at least August 4 against Philadelphia. The Phillies must wait until this Friday to play at Toronto (we’re just going to skip over the fluidity regarding the words “at Toronto”), while New York and Baltimore can meet up today.

If you’re looking for a bright side, the Orioles will no longer call on Kohl Stewart and Tommy Milone to start against New York. Asher Wojciechowski will take the ball today, while All Star John Means is expected to make his first start of the season on Thursday.

Everyone should hope that the rest of the season can take place without another clubhouse outbreak. If and when another positive test pops up, the league will have another opportunity to take swift and explicit actions. Positive tests alone may not put the season in jeopardy, but a slow or ineffective response could have negative implications moving forward.

This virus has placed a weight on everyone in some capacity. I’d imagine just about everyone here longs for the days when the “elephant in the room” referred to Chris Davis’s albatross of a contract, and “common sense” alluded to Tommy Milone not facing a lineup more than one time through the order.

Still, we’ve done our best here at Camden Chat to provide an outlet, distraction, or just a place to talk baseball. There’s some tremendous writers on this site, and I know that I’ve enjoyed all of the O’s content available.

If you’ve fallen behind on our countdown of the Top 50 Orioles of all time, jump back in with Stacey’s piece on #33 Steve Barber. If you’d rather relive the O’s taking two of three in Boston, which now feels like an eternity ago, checkout what Tyler Young took away from the series win. And don’t miss Drew Bonifant’s breakdown of what a shortened season means for pitcher Alex Cobb.

After a few days of uncertainty, the Orioles will be back on a field playing baseball today. That’s still pretty cool. Here’s hoping that today is better than the day before, and that the Birds can take another series from an AL East rival.