Major League Baseball’s players and team owners have spent this week trying to finalize tense negotiations on the structure of a possible 2020 season. But on Friday, the ominous backdrop of those talks — the coronavirus pandemic — showed just how little the sides really control.
The Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays closed their Florida training complexes in Clearwater and Dunedin on Friday after players on their teams tested positive for the coronavirus. Both teams’ facilities are in Pinellas County, where cases of the virus have been rising.
The Tampa Bay Lightning of the N.H.L. also closed its training facility in Tampa, Fla., after three unnamed players and an unspecified number of staff members tested positive for the virus. The team said the players were in self-isolation and were asymptomatic “other than a few cases of low-grade fever.” The league said 11 players had tested positive since teams opened their facilities for voluntary workouts on June 8.
The Florida Department of Health said in a report on Friday afternoon that Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties — on either side of Tampa Bay — had both reached a one-day high for new cases. There were 372 new cases in Hillsborough County, where Tampa is, and 266 in Pinellas County.
The Phillies said that five players and three staff members at their complex had tested positive for the coronavirus. The team added that while eight staff members had tested negative, there were 12 more staffers and 20 players who were awaiting results. NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that none of the eight people who tested positive had been hospitalized.
John Middleton, the Phillies’ managing partner, said in a statement that the Phillies’ complex “will remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected.”
A Blue Jays spokesman confirmed an ESPN report that the team had shut down its Dunedin complex after a pitcher showed symptoms of the virus. The report said that the pitcher had recently been in contact with Phillies minor leaguers.
On the other side of the state in West Palm Beach, the Astros announced on Friday that a player tested positive for the coronavirus. The player, General Manager James Click said in a statement, had experienced minor symptoms and was recovering. No other players tested positive.
The commissioner’s office sent a 67-page operations manual on health and safety protocols to the players’ union last month. It has not been formally approved, but the plan called for a facility in Salt Lake City to devote a portion of its antidoping laboratory to analyzing the coronavirus tests of players and the club officials authorized to be in close contact with them. Those covered by the plan would have their temperature and other symptoms checked at least twice per day, and anyone with a temperature of at least 100 degrees would be immediately tested for the virus.
Under the plan, anyone who tests positive must self-isolate until cleared by a team doctor and a member of M.L.B.’s medical staff, and cannot rejoin the team until he or she tests negative twice — at least 24 hours apart — and shows no symptoms of the virus.
The league’s plan also has dozens of precautionary measures, which include banning spitting, smokeless tobacco, sunflower seeds and water coolers, providing a personal set of baseballs for each pitcher in the bullpen and requiring social distancing in dugouts.
It all would be unnecessary, of course, if the sides cannot reach an agreement on returning to play, and Commissioner Rob Manfred refuses to implement a schedule over fears of a grievance by the union. The sides finally made tangible progress this week, with owners proposing a 60-game schedule and the players countering with 70 — both at full prorated salaries, an issue that had been a matter of fierce disagreement for months.
The spread in games seems slim enough to resolve now, but there are no sure things considering the sides’ lack of trust and the factor no league can control: the scale of devastation inflicted by the virus.