The commissioner then listed three factors: “No. 1, throughout tens of thousands of tests, we have a positive rate that’s less than one-half of 1 percent. That’s way better than wandering around in the general population. No. 2, the bulk of our activity is outdoors. Just look at what’s going on in the rest of the world: outdoors is better than indoors, and our sport is generally distanced. And No. 3, we have not cross-contaminated. I think that’s a really important thing. Those three things give me some level of comfort that we can continue to do this in a way that’s safe.”
The league has shown significant caution with the Marlins and the Cardinals. After Miami’s outbreak, M.L.B. sidelined both the Marlins and the Phillies — the team they had played after learning of four positive tests — for a week. But there is no mandate for shutting teams down as soon as a player tests positive.
“There are guidelines that we have, but they’re just guidelines,” Dr. Gary Green, M.L.B.’s medical director, said in an interview Monday. “We have to look at the totality of the situation — where the cases are coming from, the number of cases. I don’t think you can say that this is going to be the way we approach everything. It’s so individual. What the contact tracing is like? What does the spread pattern looks like? It’s going to be on a case-by-case basis going forward.”
The Cleveland Indians’ weekend case illustrates how tempting it can be for players to violate pandemic protocols. On Sunday, they sent starter Zach Plesac back to Cleveland, via rental car, after learning that he had left the hotel to go out in Chicago. Another starter, Mike Clevinger, stayed with the team and flew home with his teammates but was found on Monday to have also violated the rules in Chicago. The Indians said in a statement that Clevinger — like Plesac — would be quarantined and undergo testing, and they named Adam Plutko to replace him as the starter on Tuesday.
From a business standpoint, baseball is essentially racing to the postseason, staging regular-season games without ticket revenue in hopes of reaping the lucrative rights fees from TV networks for playoff games in October. A large-scale outbreak would be especially chaotic and painful for the league then, so it could make sense for M.L.B. to adopt a so-called bubble approach in the playoffs, with fewer teams and a shorter timeline.
“All I’m going to say about that is we are doing contingency planning with respect to the postseason,” Manfred said.
In M.L.B.’s new playoff format, a 16-team field will be whittled to eight teams — a much more manageable number — after a best-of-three first round. If the league staged the rest of the postseason at neutral sites, it would avoid the risks of travel and theoretically have a better chance of keeping the players safe.