Rob Manfred: Cardinals can have ‘credible’ season despite coronavirus outbreak

Get ready for heated debates over the legitimacy of winning percentage in determining MLB playoff participants.

Commissioner Rob Manfred admitted what anyone doing the math has figured out: The St. Louis Cardinals are unlikely to play all 60 regular-season games, after a coronavirus outbreak has sidelined the team since July 29. They have had 17 positive tests, including 10 for players.

“I think whether you get all the way to 60 or not, that’s difficult at this point,” Manfred told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch[1]. “I think that they are going to play. I think it’s possible for them to play enough games to be credible, to be a credible competitor this season.”

The Cardinals have played an MLB-low five games[2], while others have played as many as 18. They just had their Thursday doubleheader against the Tigers postponed so they could go through more testing. Trying to fit 55 games into the final 44 days of the regular season would be a complicated mess of doubleheaders, no off days and awkward travel.

Manfred did not specify how many games the Cardinals need to play to be “credible,” but MLB’s plan is to use winning percentage as a determining factor between two teams that have not played the same amount of games. There will be 16 teams – up from 10 – in this year’s postseason, which could be held in a multiple-city bubble, according to reports.

“I absolutely see a path back for the Cardinals,” Manfred said. “That is dependent on getting enough days with no positives that we’re comfortable that we don’t have any contagion risk. But 100 percent I see a path back.”

Could the Cardinals’ outbreak shut down baseball completely? Well, the Miami Marlins found a way back after an eight-day layoff earlier this season.

“I have avoided hypotheticals, in general,” Manfred said. “The only thing I would say to you is as long as you have 29 clubs where you’re not having positives, and you don’t feel like you don’t have a risk of cross-contagion, which you don’t as long as one is not playing, I think it would be surprising to make the decision that you’re going to shut down the other 29 because you have a continuing problem with one. That doesn’t seem like the right decision to make.”

The Cardinals have been in quarantine twice[3] in 12 days, with only two workouts during that time. The initial exposure reportedly was traced to one player coming into contact with an asymptomatic carrier and then spreading it around the locker room. “Multiple days of clean tests” are needed before the Cardinals can resume, Manfred said.

“We hadn’t resumed because we were not at the point that we were sure that the outbreak had run its course, and obviously, unfortunately, it hadn’t,” Manfred said. “I think the key for us has been twofold. No. 1, error on the side of caution, safety. And, No. 2, stay flexible. You’ve got to stay flexible.”

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