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July 29, 2020

Eytan Shander: Major League Baseball has a serious problem, needs to shut it down

Opinion MLB
Phillies-summer-training-07020_USAT Bill Streicher/USA Today

The Phillies are preparing for quite the unusual season.

Major League Baseball decided to leave the fate of a team up to the ball players.

No medical people were involved in the decision making. The manager and his staff deferred to the players. The front office – if they even were aware – didn’t think it was necessary to step in. Nobody thought allowing players to determine if they should push through multiple positive coronavirus tests and take the field was a terrible idea.

This is MLB’s problem. Gross incompetence. This is why MLB should pause – if not full on cancel – this perversion of a season. It’s something that’s brought up routinely around the country when determining how great or poor our politicians are doing in combatting COVID-19. The specifics change but the bigger picture remains, find someone to blame for the problem. Then you can continue to pile on as the problem gets worse, and know that no matter why it got worse, you have your person in charge to pour on the blame.

Baseball should not be absolved from how we view people in charge of handling this virus. The league battled the players union for weeks in an ugly PR battle reduced to “money” and only that concept. The idea of player’s safety was seen as a façade to really push for more money. Despite watching players opt out and continue to voice their concerns, we still looked at that fight and reduced it to money.

Watching the Marlins situation unfold would have been comical — we could have set it to the Benny Hill theme and added graphics — if it weren’t so serious. Not one mention of any universal protocol on what to do in the event of a spread. Throughout that 100+ page pamphlet that Rob Manfred and his team put together, nothing. They didn’t have anything in place. Players decided if they should play, most of whom weren’t even wearing masks after acknowledging the positive tests.

Manfred spoke on Tuesday attempting to calm down the masses. He tried to explain how this isn’t a big deal, not a nightmare, one that shouldn’t shut down the season. But again, we find ourselves in a situation where Manfred and MLB don’t have anything concrete. Just hoping that enough people with big enough followings continue to push the narrative that positive cases aren’t as big of a deal as they are made out to be.

We do the doctor show every week to bring light to why rising positive cases – even in the young – aren’t only about being asymptomatic or having low symptoms. The NFL (read below) is dealing with a different type of issue, but the general theme remains. These sports don’t have enough data and information on the long-term damages of COVID on anyone, asymptomatic or not, because nobody in this country does right now.

Some people – be they politicians or commissioners – are equipped to handle spread and breakout. MLB failed to properly sell the importance of multiple bubble cities for this shortened season. They failed to properly administer tests during their spring training 2.0, causing some to withdraw. They failed to provide any real protocol on what to do with a spread during the season. They aren’t even notifying players ahead of time. Notice the trend? 

Cancel the season. Not because of COVID-19, rather the brazen level of incompetence in how to handle it. The Marlins can’t play at home, the Blue Jays don’t have a home, time to bring in Jon Taffer.

CTE to COVID-19

Don’t be surprised that NFL players are opting out by the day, including Marquise Goodwin here in Philadelphia. There is a long history of misinformation and mistrust between the NFL and players association, most notably the NFL’s hiding of evidence of brain trauma. It’s the biggest reason why the false narrative of “players knew what they signed up for” was thrown out the window. In actual fact, players had no real idea because the medical information was withheld from them. The league went full Boiler Room and shredded half a warehouse.

Not every opt out is the same, nor is every sport experiencing the same exact reasons why players would sit. The NFL is seeing players react to what’s happening with MLB, understanding their sport is even more difficult to follow safety protocols, and pulling out of the season.

The league is so big in this country it’s hard to see it fail. No, this isn’t some major defense of Roger Goodell’s competency, rather the machine is so large and so intertwined in our society, like baseball in the 80’s, that it’s too important to fail. They will find ways to launch a season, but unlike MLB, there will be universal protocol in place. Still, it's not enough for the player who doesn’t trust the league’s – any league's – ability to protect them.

As more NFL players decide that this isn’t the season to risk it, based on what the actual risk is, don’t be surprised. It comes with a history of mistrust and being told bad information about their own bodies. The only difference now is that nobody knows long-term effects of COVID-19 on the body, including asymptomatic patients. I wouldn’t trust the NFL to keep players safe, I’d trust them to create an atmosphere where it feels like they are safe, at least for the fans watching on tv.

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on SB Nation Radio (Mon.-Fri. from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; weekends from 6-9 p.m.) and @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.). You can also catch him on FOX 29 Good Day.

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