Anthony Fauci: MLB season could be in danger as Marlins' campaign suspended

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has denied the season is in trouble even though more than a dozen Marlins players and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the club to lock down in Philadelphia.

The league temporarily suspended the Marlins’ season through Sunday because of their worsening coronavirus outbreak, and the three remaining games in this week’s New York Yankees-Philadelphia Phillies series were postponed on Tuesday. The Phillies were the last team to play the Marlins.

In a statement, MLB said it wanted to allow the Marlins time to focus on providing care for their players and plan for a resumption of play early next week. The Phillies-Yankees games through Thursday were postponed “out of an abundance of caution,” MLB said, although no Phillies players have tested positive.

The Marlins received positive test results for four additional players, bringing their total to 15, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press.

The Marlins outbreak raised anew questions about baseball’s attempts to conduct a season outside of a bubble environment, which the NFL also has opted not to create for its season.

“I don’t see it as a nightmare,” Manfred told MLB Network on Monday night. “We built the protocols to allow us to continue to play. That’s why we have the expanded rosters, that’s why we have the pool of additional players. And we think we can keep people safe and continue to play.”

“I remain optimistic the protocols are strong enough that it will allow us to continue to play even through an outbreak like this and complete our season,” Manfred said.

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ESPN reports that no members of the Phillies had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday morning.

Manfred was asked what would have to happen for the league to shut down. “A team losing a number of players, making it completely noncompetitive, would be something we would have to address and have to think about making a change,” he said. “Our first concern is the health of the players and their families. And making sure we do everything possible to minimize the spread of the virus to our employees.”

Word of multiple positive tests among players on the Marlins and Reds rosters shook many around the game.

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

Experts also expressed their concern over the outbreak.

“This could put it in danger,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert during an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America. “I don’t believe they need to stop, but we just need to follow this and see what happens with other teams on a day-by-day basis.”

Fauci, who threw out the first pitch at the season opener between the Nationals and Yankees, said he was sorry to see the troubles experienced by the league.

“Major League Baseball – the players, the owners, the managers – have put a lot of effort into getting together and putting protocols that we feel would work,” Fauci said. “It’s very unfortunate what happened with the Miami [Marlins].”

Dr Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, was even more cautious than Fauci. “Baseball is in huge trouble,” he said. “It makes me wonder if they are listening to the advice of experts or whether their experts are giving them good advice. This was not a plan anyone who knows what they are talking about would have conceived. It’s playing out like it was supposed to play out.”

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