Update: Looks like the initial reports were too good to be true, or that they set up the inevitable. After all, hopping on a plane with two teammates who later tested positive is probably a good way to build more positive results. This almost certainly means the weekend series with the Brewers is off and could have even bigger implications for the league and season.
There have been several Cardinals players that have tested positive for Covid-19. Per sources. More than five.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) August 1, 2020
More bad news. I’m hearing at least 4 more Cardinals players have tested positive for Covid.
— Coach Trev (@trevorplouffe) August 1, 2020
The Brewers’ home opener was supposed to have given Christian Yelich the opportunity to improve upon his MLB-worst -0.5 fWAR. Instead, he’ll be forced to wonder what could have been under Miller Park’s manipulated lights because positive COVID-19 tests in the Cardinals organization have forced the postponement of Friday’s game.
Multiple sources have indicated to me there are two players on the Cardinals testing positive for COVID-19. First to report positive tests @JonHeyman.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) July 31, 2020
As Craig Mish first reported and others have subsequently confirmed, the positive tests came from two players. The move to postpone the game based on that information exemplifies the increased caution with which MLB is operating in the wake of the Marlins outbreak, with ESPN reporting that everything would still be business as usual had this happened even a few days ago.
That said, the weekend series might resume Saturday if there are no additional positives from either team. Mark Saxon, who covers the Cardinals for The Athletic, tweeted as much Friday morning.
So, per source, the #Cardinals for now have been told that, if the rest of the team tests negative (and I haven’t yet been told how many positives they had), the series with the Brewers will start on Saturday.
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) July 31, 2020
Saxon also added that the team flew together Wednesday night ahead of Thursday’s off-day, which could complicate contact tracing due to the recirculated air on the plane. Social distancing may not be as effective when you’re in a sealed, air conditioned tube — remember smoking sections on planes? — but I wonder if the players were all masked up on the flight.
There’s also the matter of getting to the point in the schedule where teams are playing one another and then heading off to play other teams. The Marlins and Phillies have only played one series, but the Cards just played the Twins in Minnesota and the Indians came to Target Field the next day. Even accounting for proper sanitizing of the facilities and playing in an outdoor park, the potential for transmission is there.
But at the risk of sounding callous or flippant, this was all to be expected. There was no scenario in which MLB was going to hold a season with no one testing positive, and that’s something everyone involved should have known from the start. As such, it doesn’t seem as though any mini-outbreaks would be enough to derail the whole works.
More than a matter of ignoring the health risks, the desire to press onward is about reaching the postseason and all those hundreds of millions of dollars in TV broadcast rights. After all, the truncated season is little more than a way to legitimize, for lack of a better word, or stage the playoffs. Barring an extreme scenario, it seems like the closest MLB would get to doomsday is a two-week shutdown to clear cases from the books before resuming.
At this point, though, I’ve given up on trying to predict how this will all shake out.
Update: In a series of tweets, Saxon reported that he had been given the identities of the two Cardinals who tested positive, but would not out them without their approval. However, he did reveal that both were pitchers. He also confirmed the earlier notion that the series would resume Saturday with a doubleheader Sunday. Might this be the first 7-inning twin bill?