The Washington Nationals will play their 2020 home games in Nationals Park.
It’s a strange sentence to write, but became a necessary one Friday following tweets from national writers saying the Nationals were “cleared” to play in Washington. They were always cleared to play in the city once they received waiver approval June 30. That was not in doubt.
In question, briefly and lightly, was if the Nationals would move their home games out of Nationals Park because of the city’s quarantine rules. Under the city’s original terms, players or staff had to be quarantined for 14 days if they tested positive or came in contact with someone who did. The automatic 14-day quarantine period is longer than the quarantine period required by Major League Baseball’s 2020 operations manual. But, local rules supersede those of the MLB.
The Nationals viewed the 14-day quarantine -- which Juan Soto, Howie Kendrick and Luis Garcia returned from Thursday -- as problematic. Only the Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers are operating under those terms. In such a short season, losing a player for 14 days because of contact tracing would be a significant hit on the field. So, the club viewed it as a possible competitive disadvantage, considered playing elsewhere -- such as the new stadium in Fredericksburg -- and tried to find a solution.
According to USA Today, the city adjusted the protocol for the Nationals. Though players are exposed, if they test negative and satisfy MLB protocols, they can play in games as long as they otherwise quarantine.
The city did not respond to a request for confirmation and clarification.
According to MLB, players or staff who tested positive or were exposed, must test negative twice in a row, have no fever for at least 72 hours, possibly pass a cardiac exam, and be deemed by doctors and MLB to present no risk to others. Since MLB is testing every other day with a 24-48 test turnaround, operating under only their rules -- specifically for a return to the field -- would significantly reduce playing time lost as opposed to a flat 14-day quarantine.
For instance, a Nationals player could be put on the COVID-19 injured list because he was exposed (they do not have to test positive to be put on the list). He is now in 14-day, off-field quarantine. However, he could return to play once he satisfies the league’s protocols. Away from the park, he would still be under the 14-day quarantine rules of the city.
Time is crucial in such a short season.
The Nationals are scheduled to host the New York Yankees on July 23 to start the 2020 season. Saturday, they play Philadelphia for their first exhibition game. They will be doing so in Nationals Park.
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