Sports·The Buzzer

Baseball is desperately trying to contain the Marlins mess

Tuesday's edition of CBC Sports' daily newsletter, The Buzzer, covers MLB's decision to postpone all of Miami's games this week. Plus, the NHL (and Sidney Crosby) are back and the Jays call up their top prospect.

Miami's season was paused through the weekend after 17 positive tests

Manager Don Mattingly's Miami Marlins had their games postponed through the weekend on Tuesday following a coronavirus outbreak within the team. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Here's what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Major League Baseball hit pause on the Marlins

A few hours after it was reported that four more Miami players tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 — raising the team's total number of infections since Friday's season opener to at least 17 — MLB announced this afternoon that all Marlins games through Sunday have been postponed. That wipes out the rest of a four-game, home-and-home series against Baltimore, and three home games against Washington.

In addition, the rest of a home-and-home set between the Phillies and Yankees — tonight's game in Philadelphia, plus Wednesday's and Thursday's in New York — were postponed. Instead, the Yankees will travel to Baltimore to play the Orioles on Wednesday and Thursday. 

MLB said the latter decision was made "out of an abundance of caution." Philadelphia hosted three games against the Marlins last weekend, including a Sunday contest that went ahead even after four Marlins tested positive. After more Miami team members returned positive tests the following day, its home opener against Baltimore was postponed, along with last night's Yankees-Phillies game.

The good news is that no Philadelphia players or coaches have tested positive since their series with Miami, and MLB said today that no "on-field personnel" from teams other than the Marlins have tested positive since Friday. However, a member of the Phillies' visiting clubhouse staff reportedly tested positive over the weekend. And Philly's players and coaches may not be out of the woods yet because the incubation period for the virus is believed to last up to 14 days.

Today's scheduling moves could create headaches as MLB is trying to cram 60 games for each team into 67 days. But there wasn't much of a choice. Besides the risk of exposing more teams to the virus, the Marlins may have had a tough time fielding a credible team this week. Anyone testing positive who is asymptomatic needs to return two negative tests at least 24 hours apart before they can return. Teams are allowed to draw on an expanded pool of reserve players this year, but the Marlins would've had a lot of holes to fill. Close to half of the 33 players who have been travelling with the team, plus two coaches, have tested positive over the last few days.

Another possible factor in MLB's decision is that the Washington Nationals reportedly took a vote today and decided they didn't want to go to Miami for a three-game series that was scheduled to start Friday. That's right: baseball had a potential mutiny on its hands. Read more about the sport's growing mess here.

Hockey is back (and so is Sidney Crosby)

For the first time since March 11 (that's 139 days) NHL games are being played. Three exhibitions are happening today: Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia at 4 p.m. ET, Toronto vs. Montreal at 8 p.m. ET and Edmonton vs. Calgary at 10:30 p.m. ET. Every team participating in the restart gets one warmup game before the expanded playoffs open on Saturday afternoon in Toronto and Edmonton. There are six more exhibitions Wednesday and three Thursday.

Crosby was in the lineup for today's game after missing five of Pittsburgh's final six training-camp sessions for a mysterious reason. The NHL's return-to-play plan prohibits teams from disclosing injury or illness info about players. Crosby appeared to be dealing with an injury after he left midway through an intrasquad scrimmage on July 18. He returned to practice Friday, skipped Saturday's scrimmage, then was a full participant in yesterday's practice.

Another piece of encouraging news yesterday was the NHL's announcement that zero players tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 during the last week of training camps. Those were held in teams' home cities, which are mostly in the U.S., raising concerns that a bunch of players might test positive on the brink of the season. We saw this happen in Major League Soccer and the National Women's Soccer League, which both kicked teams out of their tournaments before they began, and now Major League Baseball is dealing with an outbreak among the Miami Marlins that has already triggered the postponement of several games and threatens to do more damage to the season.

All players and team staff inside the NHL's bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton are being tested daily via nasal swab. A player who tests positive and is asymptomatic can rejoin his team once he produces two consecutive negatives (the tests have to be spaced at least 24 hours apart) or after 10 days have passed. A symptomatic positive requires 10 days of isolation from the onset of symptoms and must show 72 hours without symptoms before returning.

We'll have more on the NHL's expanded playoff tournament in the newsletter later this week. In the meantime, get caught up on the important stuff you should know heading into the exhibition games in this piece by CBC Sports' Myles Dichter.

Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux get ready for the first faceoff the NHL's exhibition schedule. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Quickly...

The Blue Jays are bringing up their top prospect. As with any baseball news these days, this comes with the caveat of assuming the season is still going… But pitcher Nate Pearson will (we think) make his big-league debut Wednesday night when he starts against Washington. Toronto picked him 28th overall in the 2017 draft, and he's pitched well in the minor leagues. The reason Pearson wasn't in a Jays uniform right from opening day is that major-league teams can delay a prospect's eventual free agency by a full year by keeping him in the minors to start the season. Same thing happened with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., last year. It's a cynical tactic, most players and fans don't like it, and baseball really ought to close the loophole. But it's legal and pretty much every team does it when given the chance, so you can't really blame the Jays.

As NFL training camps opened today, three more New England Patriots opted out of the season. Two of them — linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung — are important pieces of a defence that was the best in football last year. The other is sparingly-used running back Brandon Bolden. Hightower and his fiancee have a two-week-old son, while Chung and his wife are expecting another child soon. Six New England players have now opted out, including starting offensive lineman Marcus Cannon. Others around the league reportedly opting out today included Philadelphia receiver Marquise Goodwin and defensive linemen Eddie Goldman (Chicago), Star Lotulelei (Buffalo) and Michael Pierce (Minnesota).

Canadian offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who won the Super Bowl with Kansas City in February, became the first player to officially opt out on Friday. Duvernay-Tardif, who has a medical degree and has been working on the front lines in a long-term care home in Quebec, said he'd rather risk his health caring for patients than on the football field. Under the terms of its deal with the players' union, the NFL is offering any player who chooses to sit out the season a stipend of $150,000 US that will be treated as an advance on future paycheques. Players designated as high risk can get a $350K stipend that is not an advance.

And finally...

Kyrie Irving did a good deed. The Brooklyn Nets star catches a lot of heat for his aloofness toward teammates and fans. He also doesn't seem convinced that the earth is round, which is problematic. But he made a nice gesture yesterday, committing $1.5 million to WNBA players who have chosen to sit out the season because of coronavirus concerns or to work for social-justice causes. Read more about Kyrie's program here.

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