The Nats will not have Ryan Zimmerman for the entire 2020 season due to his opt-out, and Howie Kendrick has been in self-isolation for undisclosed reasons. That is a big part of the Washington Nationals veteran leadership. Absent during the first week of this summer training camp also included the team’s youngest two stars from the World Series season, Juan Soto and Victor Robles, who are also in self-isolation. The team’s youngest star prospect on the big league roster, Luis Garcia, is also in self-isolation. In addition, Wander Suero and Fernando Abad from the bullpen were also in self-isolation. The only player that returned this week from the COVID-19 protocol was Starlin Castro.
At one point, manager Dave Martinez was missing five of his projected starters from work-outs this week until Castro returned. Sources tell us mid-week returns are what is anticipated for the non-COVID players once they are cleared by a Monday or Tuesday COVID test that would be sent to the lab, but the overriding factor is D.C.’s 14-days. Count that out from the day of contact might push the players return out a few more days unless a waiver is received. That Dominican flight was reportedly on July 1st.
As mentioned, Zim won’t be back, and we still do not know who the two COVID positive players are due to the grand mystery around it all. But the damage has been done when so many key parts are missing in action. When can these players return is part of a group consultation between MLB, D.C. officials, and the team. These players risk muscle atrophy from being in self-isolation and that may cause them to miss the start of the season if more time ticks off of the clock. Opening Day is a dozen days away.
The CDC writes that if you have been in “close contact with someone who has COVID-19 even if you test negative for COVID-19 or feel healthy, you should stay home (quarantine) since symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.” But that does not seem how MLB is handling their protocol if you have read the 101 page manual on COVID-19.
“If you don’t have symptoms and you come in contact with somebody who ends up testing positive, you’re out for probably at least seven days,” Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola said. “That could possibly be two starts. It’s obviously going to be a hard part of it. And sometimes it’s out of our control. We just have to try to do our part every day.”
Nola says at least seven days. Soto, Robles, et al, have already passed seven days. With testing every other day, does two or three negative test results prove you are good to go? Or do you go the full fourteen days per CDC recommendations?
Those who test positive for COVID-19 can’t return to a team facility until they test negative on two separate tests, taken at least 24 hours apart, and are fever-free, without the use of fever suppressants, for at least 72 hours.
If the Nats can get back to 100 percent COVID-free players, the next part of the process is keeping healthy boundaries and that goes for every family member living in your home. It comes down to honor in its purest sense. Everyone knows the protocols of discipline and accountability and it goes for the players, coaches, front office and clubhouse personnel and their families.
Case and point from today’s news:
The Astros canceled their workout on Monday because they didn’t have COVID-19 test results back. Alex Bregman missed Wednesday’s workout because his results didn’t arrive in time. And now, today, they shut down after a staffer was potentially exposed by someone outside the org.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) July 11, 2020
The MLB COVID procedures rely on all personnel that come in contact with players to act responsibly and of course the players themselves must be even more vigilant. Here is a passage from the 101-page manual:
“MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from Club facilities, but will expect the Covered Individuals on each Club to ensure that they all act responsibly.”
The words “act responsibly” are very subjective. When they say “drink responsibly” on the Bud ads, they expect you are going to drink but not overdo it. Twenty-one year old single kids will take “act responsibly” differently than a thirty-one year old with two kids.
Max Muncy said his #Dodgers teammates have discussed not eating out or going to bars in order to make sure they stay safe this season from anyone contracting COVID-19.
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) July 8, 2020
With 3.24 million COVID cases in the US and counting, DC’s numbers are climbing again as restrictions were eased with a total of 10,743 since the start of the pandemic. D.C. also reported three new deaths on Wednesday. That does not even include the DC suburbs where cases have been near 15,000 in each of Fairfax, Montgomery, and Prince Georges Counties. Of course, those are much larger populations than D.C. which means less about totals in larger areas and more about pinpointing hot spots.
When the DC area was put on partial isolation, it slowed down the new cases, but it did not wipe it out. It looks like living in a Phase II scenario where all small venues opened back up with social distancing can keep COVID numbers in check but it does not mean a full eradication of the virus. This is why the Washington Nationals and MLB have to hope they can do something that small towns have not been successful at.
The cautionary tale is the Freddie Freeman case study. Freeman, supposedly was being careful, but not careful enough when some think he caught the COVID from an outside family member who came into his home. Freeman’s wife said that the COVID hit him hard “like a ton of bricks” with a high fever and chills.
“A player may be placed on the COVID-19 related IL based on a positive test for COVID-19, confirmed exposure to COVID-19, or if a player exhibits symptoms requiring self isolation for further assessment,” reads a section from the 101-page MLB COVID manual.
“May be placed” does not mean a player has to be placed. The Nationals log for injuries is empty now and normally that would be great news, but clearly the identities of the two COVID positive players is being protected at all costs. The transaction log just shows Wellington Castillo’s placement on the restricted list and Cade Cavalli and Taylor Gushue‘s invitations to “summer training” along with free agent signings. The Marlins placed catcher Will Banfield on the 10-day injured list with an unspecified injury. The Braves were public with Freeman’s COVID as well as Touki Toussaint‘s. Here are the Marlins and Braves transactions logs:
With all other injuries, you must list a reason — even if it was a phantom injury.
Maybe, maybe not. The best laid plans of mice and men did not anticipate a pandemic.