The 2020 MLB season isn’t like any other. That’s not surprising, considering it’s happening during the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Of all the U.S.-based professional sports leagues, MLB has struggled the most in navigating the virus as multiple teams have suffered outbreaks that resulted in the postponement of numerous games.
Because of these outbreaks, MLB has stepped up its monitoring and enforcement of teams traveling on the road. That increased scrutiny has one Texas Rangers player comparing the team’s travels to prison. Here’s a look at what it’s like for MLB teams traveling in 2020.
Miami Marlins first MLB team to experience outbreak
On July 24, Miami Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro tested positive for COVID-19. He was the first of 18 players to become infected. Chaos followed as nearly five dozen members of the Marlins organization isolated themselves in two Philadelphia hotels for a week.
While details of how the virus infected Alfaro and the rest of his teammates were never quite clear, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said members failed to follow protocols implemented by MLB for teams traveling.
“What it boiled down to on this particular trip was guys were around each other, they got relaxed and they let their guard down,” Jeter told the Miami Herald. “They were getting together in groups. They weren’t wearing masks as much as they should have. They weren’t social distancing.”
Following the Marlins’ situation, MLB implemented stricter protocols.
Mike Clevinger violates MLB protocols and apologizes to team
In August, despite the new protocols put in place by MLB, Cleveland Indians pitchers Mike Clevinger and Dan Plesac found themselves in the headlines after the pair left their hotel room following a day game in Chicago.
Once it was discovered, the team put both players on the team’s “restricted list.” An apologetic Clevinger addressed the situation.
“There is an implicit trust that each of my teammates share as we navigate a season during this pandemic, and I broke that trust. In Chicago, I made the mistake of violating the protocols but the biggest mistake of all was not immediately coming clean to my teammates. I owe them better.
“I now realize that by even exposing myself to just one person more than necessary, I am putting myself, my teammates, the guys I compete against, the umpires, the staff, the Indians organization as well as the game that I love at risk. There is no excuse for my actions, and I can only take responsibility and learn from my mistakes.”
Just a few weeks after the incident, the Indians traded Clevinger to the San Diego Padres.
Texas Rangers player calls life on road like prison
With the Marlins’ outbreak, plus Clevinger’s complete disregard for protocols, MLB has intensified its monitoring of teams traveling on the road. According to an interview with Texas Rangers infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, it’s not an enjoyable experience.
“MLB actually has someone just walking around the hotel to make sure we don’t do anything. Just based off previous teams and what they’ve done and how it affected the season. So MLB has been very strict. It’s almost cooler to be at home because you can at least do a little more and have some people around. But when you’re on the road it’s almost like prison.
“You can’t leave your room. Even if you go down to the lobby (you’ll get in trouble). I think for us this year, the physical part’s been okay, but mentally it’s starting to wear on a lot of people. (I’m) just curious how far this can go on.”
Kiner-Filefa said in addition to the increased scrutiny, MLB’s enforcement team is also very stealthy in its approach.
“They do a good job of hiding. We don’t know what exactly they do. I know there was a couple of our guys that just went down to the lobby, took their mask off for a quick second, went to their room, and got a text message saying they got caught.”
There’s no doubt the 2020 MLB season has presented more than its share of challenges to the players and organizations. But like the rest of the nation, they’re learning to adapt each step of the way. And just like the rest of the country, it appears some are more willing to follow the rules than others.