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Op-Ed | MLB’s COVID-19 outbreak further evidence as to why Rob Manfred is unfit to be commissioner

Rob Manfred. (Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports)

Major League Baseball needs law and order — because it certainly is not coming from their commissioner. 

The news that “at least” 14 members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for COVID-19 after their opening series against the Phillies saw sports fans’ deepest fears realized amid the age of a pandemic. 

It took just five days for almost half a team to get hit by the virus as they now are stuck in Philadelphia quarantining and receiving further testing. 

This, unfortunately, was the risk when Major League Baseball returned. But its handling of the scenario and its subsequent reactions provides more damning evidence that commissioner Rob Manfred is unfit for his role leading the league. 

The Marlins discovered that they had three players test positive for the virus early Sunday — just two days after another positive test — and knowingly played the Phillies later that afternoon, exposing them to the virus. 

Instead of practicing caution during the largest pandemic seen in North America in over a century, Marlins manager Don Mattingly brashly said that his team “never really considered not playing.”

One of Miami’s leading veterans, Miguel Rojas, echoed those sentiments, stating the notion of practicing caution was “never our mentality.”

This after MLB had done full contact tracing following the first positive Miami test. All Marlins players were tested and apparently, all came back negative — per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal — before the league chose not to intervene and cancel Sunday’s game. 

So either MLB’s testing is majorly flawed or commissioner Manfred continued chasing the dollar signs from his television deals and waved play through. 

This is how an outbreak starts, though. This is how Major League Baseball can derail itself less than a week into its 60-game season. 

Not only have the Phillies been exposed to the Marlins players, but they were also set to welcome the New York Yankees into town for a four-game series starting Monday night where the Bronx Bombers — MLB’s most recognizable brand — will use the same clubhouse the Marlins just used.

At least a logical first step was taken early Monday morning when the league canceled the series opener that night, but it should have never come to this. 

Manfred and Major League Baseball’s protocols failed miserably on Sunday, allowing the Marlins and their players to come off as a more an authority on its decision-making in the face of an outbreak than those that actually make the rules. 

Now, we’re faced with canceled games and tweaks to a 60-game season that is already packed into just 66 days. 

I’ve continuously said over the last year that Rob Manfred has exposed himself one of, if not the worst commissioner in North American professional sports — though Roger Goodell in the NFL is still trying to stake his claim in the dubious race. 

Under Manfred’s watch, baseball has crumbled. 

The Astros’ cheating scandal did not induce strict enough punishments from Manfred. Now with the Yankees accused of doing the same thing, he’s trying to protect the franchise rather than have a letter he sent to the Bronx unsealed by a New York judge. 

He helped to completely bungle MLB’s return from the pandemic, overseeing frustrating negotiations that went nowhere between league owners and the players for over a month. 

While he was forced to impose this 60-game season, the players still hung on to their rights to file a grievance against the league, which will only add more tension when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement has to be negotiated upon between the two feuding parties following the 2021 season. 

Baseball continues to crash and burn with Manfred at the helm. It’s time for him to be shown the door. 

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