MLB needs to drastically improve COVID-19 testing for the sake of all players, including the Houston Astros.
I’m as excited for the return of baseball as anyone, but the ability of this season to take place is at risk. Unless MLB gets its COVID-19 testing straightened out, the legitimacy of the season and the very ability of teams to finish it will be in question. We’re already seeing these effects on the Houston Astros.
First, the team canceled its Monday workouts because the test results from the previous Friday hadn’t come back yet. What if that happens during the season? Does the team have to postpone or forfeit a game for lack of testing? How many times will that have to happen for the season to be seriously interrupted?
Now, Alex Bregman was forced to miss Wednesday’s workout because the results of his latest COVID-19 test didn’t come back in time. It was merely a precaution, as he wasn’t exhibiting any symptoms, but operating with an abundance of caution is the way to go during a pandemic.
The obvious question, then, is how these types of delays will work. During the season, if a player is forced to miss a day or two because of a testing delay, what does this mean for the team’s roster? Do they place them on the COVID-19 Injured List for a day or two and call someone up? What if this happens to multiple players?
Astros outfielder Michael Brantley spoke up on Wednesday about the frustration players are feeling with the testing process. Specifically, he called out MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who’s been eerily silent since the big money spat between the league and the players died down. Normally more reserved, Brantley went right after him.
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“Since we started this thing, I haven’t heard much from Rob or from that side,” Brantley said. “I know that we had to iron out some kinks together, but at the same time, all the players are kind of saying the same thing: We need clarity.”
Everyone agrees the system needs to get better. MLB needs to ensure the results of every test come back as quickly as they’re needed. We already have some players opting out, and we’re going to have players miss time due to positive tests or possible exposure or symptoms. We don’t need anyone unnecessarily sidelined.
But the league only has about two weeks to get this right, as the regular season begins July 24. They can’t afford to have these testing delays once the real games are being played, nor can they afford to have any questions about whether there are false positives. The testing has to be both fast and accurate.
No matter how heated things got on the money side, this was always going to be the issue that would make or break the season. Both sides spent so much time fighting over a few million dollars that they didn’t turn enough attention to testing and safety until it was too late. Now they’re scrambling, and they’d better get it right before they alienate both players and fans.