Cubs manager David Ross responded on Tuesday to comments made by umpire Joe West downplaying the severity of COVID-19.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, West — considered high-risk for contracting the virus at age 67 — said “I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus. I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”
“The one thing I've learned in this role that I have now and talking to guys — everybody's got different views on things in life,” Ross said. “There's a lot going on and some people, they take things more serious than others — it's no different than other topics in life.”
Over 130,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, according to The New York Times. Nearly 3 million people have been infected, and the country has seen recent case spikes in states home to Major League Baseball, including Florida, Texas, Arizona and Georgia.
MLB has instituted numerous health and safety protocols this season, such as testing players and staff every other day, no spitting and social distancing from opponents before and after games. But teams have already experienced delays in getting their testing results, the type of “hiccup,” as Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said, that cannot happen for the league’s plan to work.
The Cubs pushed back Tuesday's workouts because of a delay in getting their results from Sunday's tests. West's comments suggest that those involved in this season do not come from the same line of thinking.
"It's natural and when you're in this environment, you know that everybody is in a different boat mentally and so you try to set standards and follow the guidelines we’re given to make sure everybody is in check and doing the right thing," Ross said. "These are medical experts that are a lot smarter than I am that have set these things in place, and so we try to listen to those and keep it as safe as we possibly can."
West told Rosenthal he has no plans to opt out of this season and is going to be careful. Ross expressed confidence the veteran umpire will follow safety protocols this season.
"His internal thoughts are what they are," Ross said. "Those don't concern me as much as just the fact that he comes to work and is a professional and does his job to the ability that he can and under the guidelines that we’re gonna be provided."
West is second on the all-time list of most games umpired.