Quick takes: Yu Darvish deals in Cubs win over Pirates to open the series

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred can point the finger at players and threaten the union with a shutdown all he wants — and maybe the Marlins deserve some of the scorn they’re getting from around the league for the massive coronavirus outbreak that has shut down their own team since Sunday.

But the commissioner will have as much reason to look at the mirror as he will at Miami if COVID-19 shuts down this league in the next two weeks, never mind the next two days.

Because a week into this ad hoc season, about the only thing that seems clear is that baseball is flying by its ass on too many foreseeable issues.

To be fair, this is an undertaking without precedent or blueprint, during a deadly pandemic in a country without a coherent federal response.

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But how were the Marlins allowed to play Sunday once they knew they had the first four players test positive? And five days later, the Cardinals are postponed because of two? And as the Marlins’ number climbed to 18 of the 33 on that opening trip to Philadelphia, where’s the provision that accounts for that level of outbreak?

For everything anticipated and addressed in a hefty Operations Manual covering testing procedures, safety protocols and player pools, MLB conspicuously left unaddressed issues that already have become troublesome and potentially devastating during the first week of play — from things as small as rain-delay protocols to whether a team with a major outbreak can be dropped for the season.

The smaller one played out Thursday night in Cincinnati, when despite a stormy forecast that all but assured no chance to play, the Reds’ efforts to wait for a “window” to play meant hours of unnecessary time at the ballpark, much of it indoors, until the game was finally postponed.

“The projected forecast was probably the worst that I’ve ever seen in Cincinnati playing there,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who tweeted his displeasure from the clubhouse that night over the apparent disconnect between safety protocols and such an extended rain delay.

That the league didn’t take control from the home team in such cases this season with no gate receipts in play — or at least specify new guidelines for this season — might be a small oversight, but it is an oversight.

“MLB’s making a lot of adjustments on the fly right now in a lot of areas,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Maybe that’s one they will consider after that.”

Adjustments on the fly. That’s the problem when it comes to foreseeable events, especially those even more important than rain delays — like what you’re prepared to do with a major outbreak involving one team.

In the short term, it meant scrambling to approve seven-inning games for all the doubleheaders that are starting to pile up on the schedule. It all goes back to what Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said the first week of summer training camp.

Bryant, the team’s former union rep, said he “absolutely” thought the health and safety protocols were rushed compared to all the time spent haggling over economic terms to restart the season.

RELATED: Why Kris Bryant doesn’t feel ‘safe’ and why his voice should matter most to MLB

The context at the time involved delays in early coronavirus test results.

But fast-forward to the first week of actual games and traveling, and the season is already teetering. And the blame game is starting.

And the Cubs, who by all accounts have done everything right, could be among those caught in the crossfire.

The Cubs are the league’s only team without a positive test among players since intake testing began in June. And the team’s respect for the rapid spread of the virus and its internal planning was so thorough that it included anticipating specific challenges for players on the road — including switching from its longtime hotel in Cincinnati to one that offered an outdoor, rooftop area for players to privately gather for a beer and have enough space to safely distance, along with dedicated spaces in the hotel for food delivery.

“We’re going to try to keep controlling what we can control and do our part,” said Ross, whose team is off to a 5-2 start after beating the Pirates on Friday.

What exactly all the Cubs’ good health and their good start means even by Monday is anybody’s guess, especially after reports Friday of the Cardinals’ positive tests during the first leg of a three-city trip — and subsequently postponed game against the Brewers.

An investigation into Miami’s outbreak reportedly incriminated the Marlins for lapses in safety precautions, something baseball insiders already seemed to know.

Manfred, who issued a memo of new regulations to teams Friday, also reportedly told union leader Tony Clark that he could be forced to shut down the season if players throughout MLB don’t do a better job.

Of isolating, distancing, wearing masks? Of avoiding bars, golf courses, high-fives and spitting? Of staying bubble-wrapped while traveling to play baseball during a global pandemic?

Maybe a big outbreak on a team wasn’t inevitable, especially the first weekend of play. But it was certainly possible and likely enough to plan for it — at least to have an answer for whether a team can be shut down and the league continue.

Because that might be the best answer for the Marlins — not to mention the rest of the league.

Assuming the Phillies remain healthy enough to continue after their exposure to the Marlins, and the Cardinals’ outbreak remains limited, MLB should scuttle the Marlins season, freeze the team’s transactions, assure the players get their remaining prorated salaries and cover the team’s loss of remaining local broadcast revenue.

This baseball season was never going to be anything short of treacherous to pull off, especially without the bubble concepts being used by basketball and hockey.

But it might have been planned better. The Cubs have shown that much.

Rizzo said the Cubs have been so “strict and tight” with their internal safeguards that even if a prominent player forgets his ID badge, “they’re pretty ticked off at you.”

“We don’t know where this [virus] hides all the time,” he said.

Rizzo said he’s heard none of the Marlins players have had severe symptoms, at least so far.

“I guess that’s a positive,” he said. “But as far as whole teams getting it, that’s the scary part of this whole thing.

“I know that some point the league and the players were ready for a team to come down with it. And it spreads like wildfire. That’s what this does. That’s why our whole country’s in shambles because of it.”

Except it’s not clear that anybody was ready for a whole team to come down with it. And, consequently, the season’s on the brink barely a week into games.

Rizzo said he continues to hold out faith that the season will be played — mostly because he says the alternative is to live in fear over it.

What gives him the faith?

“Just today. Playing today,” he said. “It’s really easy to listen to all the [outside] noise. But we come in today, we do our job today and we hope tomorrow when we wake up it’s still only two of the Cardinals’ guys and not six to eight.

“And then play and come back tomorrow and play tomorrow and then look up and hopefully it’s the end of September and we’re getting ready for a playoff run.”


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