The Fourth of July weekend provided the first real stress test of MLB’s COVID testing protocols and the results backfired as badly as a cheap package of grocery store fireworks. Even snakes and sparklers would have been an improvement over a flawed process that saw several teams forced to collect their own samples because testers didn’t show up to camps.
Many people around the league expressed frustration, to the extent that commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly “jumped on” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo for what was perceived as insubordination. All for having the temerity to suggest that MLB failing to “resolve issues with their process and their lab” could result in a lost season.
Just about the only person openly expressing confidence in the situation is umpire Joe West, who is no stranger to poor judgement and is apparently something of a COVID truther. The 67-year-old says he’s lost 25 pounds and has been playing golf every day in the heat, which means he’s fine. Hey, maybe COVID will side-eye ol’ Cowboy Joe and he can just kick it out of the game.
Kris Bryant, who’s used to being aligned with guys named Rizzo, shared some of his own fear and distrust when he met with the media via Zoom on Monday.
“What we agreed to was testing every other day, and we’ve had guys who showed up on Sunday and hadn’t got tested again [until] seven days later,” Bryant said. “And you don’t get the results until two days later. That’s nine days without knowing.
“If we want this to succeed, we have to figure this out. I wanted to play this year because I thought it would be safe. Honestly, I don’t really feel that.”
David Ross voiced similar concern and said that he had passed that along to MLB, then had a long talk with Bryant to make sure they were on the same page. Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Ross said that he had pushed their workout and intrasquad scrimmage back to the late afternoon or evening in order to help the players “feel good about coming in” as they await the results of Sunday’s tests.
Cubs players and staff are scheduled for an additional round of tests Tuesday as they go to an every-other-day frequency, which should help to alleviate at least some of the anxiety everyone is feeling. Players in South Bend were also scheduled for their first round of tests on Tuesday, a development that will finally allow that camp to get started. Having fewer players in the satellite camp would presumably simplify the logistics, but that will change as the season approaches and more players are added.
The lack of testing and delays in getting results are clearly the most pressing issue, but Bryant hit it on the head when he said that failing to get the easy part right was indicative of a bigger problem. After all, MLB was supposed to have converted its PED lab to a COVID-testing facility that would have more than enough capacity to service the entire league and some of the general public.
Ken Rosenthal tweeted that MLB is “actively pursuing an additional medical lab site to increase the speed and efficiency,” so maybe this all gets better in short order. It’s also important to acknowledge that this whole situation is incredibly fluid and there are bound to be some changes over time. That said, the very basic minimums with testing should have been working from the start.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I sincerely hope Cowboy Joe ends up being able to say “I told you so” and that everything works out fine in the end.