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MLB shuts down spring training sites for deep cleaning, will tighten testing protocols

As complicated as the labor talks have been to MLB’s return, the COVID-19 pandemic will be the biggest obstacle of all.

MLB Still In Limbo Due To The Covid-19 Pandemic Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

While news had rather quietly leaked out recently that several MLB coaches and 40-man roster players had tested positive for COVID-19, Friday’s events highlighted exactly how hazardous the health situation around baseball may be at the moment. After news broke early Friday that eight members of the Phillies organization had tested positive for the coronavirus, reports emerged about positive tests or individuals with COVID-19 symptoms in the Blue Jays, Astros, Giants, and Nationals organizations. Perhaps not coincidentally, all of those cases except the Nationals one, which was at the team’s Dominican Republic facility, originated at the teams’ spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona, currently two of the states experiencing some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.

With the situation quickly seeming to get out of hand, the league announced late Friday night that it will close down all spring training facilities for deep cleaning, and upon reopening those facilities, everyone entering them will have to pass a coronavirus test to re-enter the premises.

While MLB anticipated some positive tests and had procedures for dealing with them written into the 67-page health and safety guideline proposal that leaked last month, it may not have anticipated that the situation would get this concerning this quickly. It’s certainly not an ideal development when the league and players haven’t even agreed on financial terms to stage a shortened 2020 season.

Obviously, positive tests aren’t as much of a catastrophe as they were when Rudy Gobert’s positive test brought the sports world to a screeching halt back in March, just because there’s much more access to testing and a slightly better understanding of contact tracing and the virus as a whole than there was a few months ago. A certain amount of them felt inevitable as players congregated again after being on their own for an extended period. That type of thing happened in overseas leagues such as NPB, the KBO, and the Premier League, and yet those leagues have all managed to start their seasons. With that said, the fact that these positive tests are taking place with players who have already been working out at these facilities for weeks — as cases continue to pop up at record numbers throughout the country — is concerning and feels like an indictment on the safety measures that national and local governments as well as Major League Baseball are enacting to curb spread of the virus.

While this news doesn’t put the kibosh on the possibility of a 2020 MLB season, it definitely doesn’t help matters — especially as the sides remain far apart in negotiations.