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Rob Manfred’s outline of health protocols again shows numerous hurdles in front of MLB

Rob Manfred’s outline of health protocols again shows numerous hurdles in front of MLB

Major League Baseball’s efforts to quell health fears among its players, and otherwise, took another step Thursday night during a rare public appearance.

Commissioner Rob Manfred appeared on CNN and spent most of his seven minutes outlining the league’s plan to handle player safety if the season resumes.

The keys, according to Manfred, will be frequent testing, empty stadiums and prompt isolation if there is a problem. Those are all logical steps. However, Manfred’s comments again show just how many flaws exist in the league’s ongoing pursuit to start the season in July.

“Nothing is risk-free in this undertaking,” Manfred said.

Manfred said the league has a lab in Utah which typically does its minor-league drug testing, but will do its coronavirus test processing. The facility has assured a 24-hour turnaround on all tests.

“So, we feel comfortable that by doing multiple tests per week and trying to minimize that turnaround time we’re doing everything humanly possible to make sure that the players are safe,” Manfred said.

He also said all travel will be done by private charter with strict cleanliness protocols. In the stadiums -- without fans -- players will be tested daily and employees will be tiered, “so even those people who are in the ballpark will be isolated in general from the players. So we hope we will be able to convince them it’s safe.”

If a player tests positive, they will be quarantined and contact tracing will follow. Manfred said the experts advising MLB do not believe a 14-day quarantine is necessary for a player who tests positive. Instead, they will be quarantined until they produce two negative tests in a 24-hour period.

“There will be a quarantine arrangement in each facility and in each city,” Manfred said. “Then we will do contact tracing for the individuals we believe there was contact with. And we will do point-of-care testing for those individuals to minimize the likelihood there has been a spread.”

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And, Manfred said he talked to the governors in the 18 states which have MLB teams.

“Most governors expressed hope that we would be able to use facilities,” Manfred said. “Initially, without fans. But we do have contingency plans if in fact there was a problem in a particular market, where that team could play somewhere else at least temporarily.”

Myriad problems remain.

What if the next day’s starting pitcher tests positive? What if the test results are often producing false negatives, as has been the case in the general populace? What if a team has to go play somewhere else, as Manfred mentions among his contingency plans? Is that fair? Will that count the same as a team which never leaves its normal home? Etc.

And, of course, the ongoing main question: is all this worth it?

If baseball does start, then is forced to stop, what then?

Manfred said he thinks they will be able to convince the majority of players it is safe to play, then added that he understood if someone did not want to.

“At the end of the day, however, if there’s players with either health conditions or just their own personal doubts, we would never force them or try to force them to come back to work,” Manfred said. “They can wait until they feel they are ready to come.”

Unfortunately, neither interviewer -- Anderson Cooper nor Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- were sports-inclined enough to ask the exceedingly apparent follow-up questions: Will they be paid? Will their service time clock still move? The MLBPA will not fail to ask in the same way.

Manfred’s appearance was purposeful. It helped outline the league’s plans and ambitions. It also -- again -- showed just how many hurdles remain to start, and the ongoing issues should the league pull that off.

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Davey Martinez defends Nationals' grounds crew following tarp snafu

Davey Martinez defends Nationals' grounds crew following tarp snafu

Sunday's matchup between the Nationals and Orioles came to a halt in the sixth inning due to a brief rainstorm, but the game was delayed and eventually suspended after the grounds crew had multiple issues unraveling the tarp to cover the infield.

For much of the rainfall, the infield and pitcher's mound in Nationals Park were exposed. As the rain continued to fall, the dirt turned into slushy mud.

Despite the grounds crew's inability to properly cover the field, which ended up being the reason for the game's suspension, Nationals manager Davey Martinez refused to place blame on the crew.

"Feel bad for our grounds crew," Martinez said to reporters after the game was called off. "Personally, these guys, to me, are the best if not one of the best. Unfortunate that that happened."

RELATED: NATS-O'S WAS SUSPENDED, NOT CANCELED, DUE TO AN EXCEPTION IN MLB'S RULE BOOK

The whole situation was a perfect metaphor for 2020 as a whole, a year of chaos and unexpected twists and turns, mostly in a negative fashion.

While Sunday's game came to a finish prematurely, Martinez said all his team can do is keep moving forward and be ready to play the New York Mets on Monday at Citi Field.

"There’s going to be days when you don’t know what to expect. This is part of it," Martinez said. "So, we just got to keep moving on. At the end of the game, I told the guys, pack up, we’re going to New York. Get ready to play [Monday]. That’s all we can do."

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Nationals-Orioles game suspended due to an exception in MLB rule book

Nationals-Orioles game suspended due to an exception in MLB rule book

On Sunday, the Nationals and Orioles played into the top of the sixth inning before a rain delay forced both teams off the field. Washington’s grounds crew sprang into action but struggled for more than 15 minutes to get the tarp across the infield, causing the dirt to flood. But despite the crew’s best efforts to drain the field, umpires deemed it unplayable and suspended the rest of the game.

Under normal circumstances, the game would’ve been declared finished. Any contest that is called after 15 outs have been made when the visiting team took the lead in the previous inning or earlier is deemed an “official game” by the MLB hand book. If the rain delay comes before 15 outs are made, when the game is tied or in the same inning that the visiting team took the lead, it is suspended until a later date.

However, this game didn’t qualify to be suspended under those rules. The Orioles took the lead in the fifth and the Nationals, as the home team, had a chance to tie or take the lead but fell short. That the game went into the sixth before the rain began should’ve required the umpires to call it off, if not for one technicality: faulty equipment.

RELATED: HOW DO MLB'S MODIFIED RAIN DELAY RULES FOR THE 2020 SEASON WORK?

The tarp that the Nationals’ grounds crew attempted to use was tangled up in its roller, making it difficult for them to roll it out. Under rule 7.02 of the MLB hand book, any game that is called as a result of “light failure, malfunction of, or unintentional operator error in employing, a mechanical or field device or equipment under the control of the home Club” must be picked up at a later date.

This is a rule that has stood for years but is seldom used given how infrequent mechanical failures such as this one occur. MLB did introduce a 2020-only change to rain delay rules but it didn’t come into play Sunday. (Games called off before 15 outs are reached will be picked up right where they left off; in normal seasons, those games are wiped and restarted from the beginning.)

As a result, the Orioles and Nationals will finish out the game Aug. 14 at Camden Yards. Washington will still serve as the “home team” and play will resume with Baltimore leading 5-2 in the top of the sixth.

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