With Major League Baseball and the Players Association unable to find common ground amid financial differences, commissioner Rob Manfred was required to impose a shortened 60-game season that was complete with robust health and safety protocols in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Team schedules were set based on divisional and regional play in effort to limit travel. MLB nonetheless remained exposed more so than other sports by virtue of not establishing a bubble. Less than one week into the season, the Miami Marlins are the center of the league’s first outbreak.
In addition to guidelines set forth by MLB, some players and teams have also taken matters a step further with informal rules to further cultivate a safe environment.
“I think it’s something that’s going to be talked about a lot and consistency. Just trying to be responsible and make good decisions off the field. The term ‘making good decisions’ has all new meaning to it now,” Justin Turner said earlier this month.
“It used to be, ‘be smart, don’t put yourself in any situations that could get you in trouble.’ Now it’s, ‘keep yourself safe, keep yourself distanced from people and do everything in your power to not put yourself in a situation to come back and test positive.’ I’m sure it’s something that will be talked about in the clubhouse throughout the whole season.”
Max Muncy added: “On this team we have a lot of smart players that understand the severity of what’s going on. It’s one of those things where even if you don’t necessarily feel threatened by something, just for the safety of other people, there’s no reason to do anything stupid.
“If anything happens to any one of us that causes such a big ripple effect. All of us understand it’s not about ourselves, it’s about everyone in this situation. We just have to make sure we’re careful and following guidelines that are set. They’re there for a reason. People a lot smarter than us are the ones that are setting them, so there’s no reason to not follow them.”
The Dodgers have a clubhouse full of veteran leaders, so it is not surprising to see them taking initiative as the league’s protocols remain under criticism.
“I think we all kind of understand our situation. We understand it’s not just going to be rolling into town and going to find something to eat. It’s just not going to be that way, and we know that,” Clayton Kershaw said.
“I think for the most part, maybe other than going to grab coffee or something, we’re going to pretty much be confined to the hotel. That’s OK. I think as long as you’re wearing a mask, that’s safe. If you think about, man if I go somewhere and get it and give it to my teammates, and our season is ruined because of something stupid I did, that’s a bad feeling.
“Don’t want to be that guy, so I think just that pressure alone will keep guys doing the responsible thing. That’s not to say some guys won’t still get it, obviously, but I think we’re going to do everything we can to stay as safe as possible.”
Joe Kelly acknowledged a manual hadn’t exactly been distributed, but the Dodgers nonetheless are well aware of what’s at stake as they have World Series aspirations. “We haven’t made our ‘2020 Dodger Rulebook’ for players and policed by players,” he quipped.
“It’s definitely something we’re all aware of. The hardest thing to do is going to be everything besides playing the game of baseball, I believe. If you’re sick and you come to the field, there’s a really, really great chance of getting someone else sick. Just need to be mentally focused on and off the field. Usually when you come to the park you just focus on playing baseball.
“But during times like this, when we go home it’s going to be another game. It’s going to be one of those things where you might want to go do something you used to during the season that’s fun, but you’re going to think twice and not want to do those things.
“Now, the situation we’re in, when we go home I don’t want our teammates or anyone else to let their guard down. The season is going to be a 24-hour thing, just because of the pandemic. It’s going to be just as hard when you’re at home not doing things to get sick as you do to come here.
“We’ve talked about stuff like that and we have a great idea of how we’re going to go out and attack that. But like I said, it’s going to be a challenge for everybody in the league. Us as Dodgers, we’re willing to accept that challenge and hold each other accountable.”
First Dodgers road trip
The Dodgers departed Monday for their first road trip this season. It begins with a two-game series against the Houston Astros, followed by four games with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and three against the San Diego Padres.
Will Smith surmised players would help pass down time by playing video games and ordering food in, as they are well aware of what’s not permitted. “There’s not written down rules,” Smith said.
“But we’ve talked about them and everyone is following them and doing their part to keep us all safe.”
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