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MLB games are already falling apart, and we’re only 5 days into the season

Major League Baseball is already grappling with a coronavirus outbreak.

MLB games are already falling apart, and we’re only 5 days into the season
[Photo: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images]

Baseball, the major league sport that theoretically could be less risky for players (it’s outdoors! players rarely touch!), is already struggling with a major coronavirus outbreak, just five days into its abbreviated season.

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The Miami Marlins’ home opener tonight against the Baltimore Orioles has been postponed in the wake of a rampant COVID-19 flareup. So far at least 12 Marlins players and two coaches have tested positive.

The Marlins are weathering all this in Philadelphia hotels, after playing a weekend series against the Phillies, including a Sunday game. The Marlins also played an exhibition game in Atlanta on Wednesday. The outbreak has now affected umpires, clubhouse staff, employees, flight crews, and the Yankees, who are scheduled to play the Phillies tonight, in the same clubhouse used yesterday by the Marlins. (It has reportedly been fumigated.)

COVID-19 has an average incubation period of 4 to 5 days, but it can range from 2 to 14 days.

The Phillies had their own coronavirus difficulties last month, when they shut down their Florida spring training facility after eight people tested positive for COVID-19. Florida is home to some of the country’s worst coronavirus hotspots, with new cases averaging over 10,000 a day statewide.

MLB planned to hold 60 games over 70 days at teams’ home ballparks, which leaves little room for rescheduling. The plan was criticized by experts for not creating a safe “bubble” for teams.

Here’s how other sports are handling their seasons:

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  • NBA: The season started this month, with 22 teams in a “bubble” in Orlando, with games from July to October, sans fans. No athletes have tested positive since July 13.
  • NHL: The season begins August 1 in two “hub” cities, Edmonton and Toronto, with three games played per day.
  • NCAA: The organization for student athletes canceled all remaining winter and spring championships back in March and is allowing Division I spring athletes an additional year of eligibility. A number of conferences have canceled fall championships.
  • NFL: The season, so far, is set to begin as planned on September 10. No word yet on fans. Over the weekend, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, an offensive guard for the Kansas City Chiefs and medical school graduate, pulled out of the season, saying it is too risky. The NFL is big business: According to CNN, 47 of the top 50 most-watched TV programs in 2019 were football games, including the entire top 10.
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