The Cubs may high five more than the MLB health and safety protocols allow, manager David Ross admits.
“But we’ve got hand sanitizer waiting right afterwards,” Ross said. “We’re doing the best we can and trying to have some fun and win ball games.”
And by all accounts, the team has been strict in all other health and safety measures.
This week, every team’s compliance will fall under scrutiny. On Friday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told MLBPA executive director Tony Clark that the season could be in jeopardy if the coronavirus isn’t better managed, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported. The players are back under a microscope.
COVID-19 cases spiked in the past week. MLB recorded 29 new positive tests, 21 of which came from the Marlins. Of the league total, 20 new cases were players and nine staff members.
“Every player in this league better take a hard look at what you’re doing off the field,” Cubs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. Tweeted on Friday, “because what you do affects, more than just you and your team. Your decisions off the field will put all of our seasons in jeopardy this year.”
Every player in this league better take a hard look at what you’re doing off the field, because what you do affects, more than just you and your team. Your decisions off the field will put all of our seasons in jeopardy this year.— Steven Souza Jr. (@SouzaJr) July 31, 2020
The league has received pressure from local government officials concerned about players high-fiving, spitting and not wearing masks, Passan reported
There have indeed been isolated incidents of players spitting or high-fiving on live television. The 2020 operations manual bans both – although it adds that when physical contact is unavoidable, players and coaches must wash their hands before and after. Masks are also required for many indoor activities.
On Monday, after news of the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak, Ross said he was “bothered” by comments from “folks that aren’t in this environment.”
“It’s extremely difficult,” he continued. “To tell everybody to not touch and not celebrate and stay six feet apart and all the things that we’re trying to do the best that we can [within] our emotions of our game that everybody wants to see.”
When asked specifically about the reports of Manfred’s comments Friday, Ross clarified his point.
“I don’t know that I have an objection to pinning things on the players,” he said. “I have an objection to pinning things on my players, who haven’t done anything.”
The Cubs have not had a player test positive for COVID-19 and are believed to be the only team in Major League Baseball that can make that claim.
“I think our record speaks for itself,” Ross said. “We’ve created an environment here where we’re following all the protocols to get in here and keep safe.”
Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, no precautions are fool proof. Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy had a month-long battle with COVID-19 during the MLB shutdown, and he said he was diligent about minimizing risk.
“We don’t know where this thing hides all the time, the virus,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “I think that with players, it’s just one of those things where you’ve got to be prudent, you’ve got to have faith, you can’t really live in fear of it.
“But guys are going to get it. We can’t sit here and say, ‘Oh, look at us, we’re doing so great,’ because tomorrow we could have someone walking around here asymptomatic and spread it to 10 guys.”
On Friday, the Cardinals postponed their game against the Brewers after two St. Louis players tested positive for COVID-19. The central divisions had seemed like relative safe havens up to that point.
Rizzo said after that news, the possibility of the season being cancelled is, “definitely in a lot of guys’ minds, that’s for sure.”
The Cubs play the Cardinals in a week.
Now, a week into the regular season, Kris Bryant’s comments during summer camp have proven to be prophetic.
“If we can’t nail the easy part,” he said four weeks ago, “which is right now and just our players, we’ve got a big hill to climb."