Cubs remain on high alert as coronavirus outbreak enters NL Central

The Cardinals have had multiple positive COVID-19 tests this week. The Cubs are scheduled to be in St. Louis for a three-game series starting Friday.

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MLB continues to battle coronavirus outbreaks on multiple fronts. 

The virus has made its way to the National League Central and put the Cubs, who beat the Pirates 4-3 on Saturday, in a precarious position. 

The Cardinals are the latest team to suffer an outbreak, with several players and staff members testing positive this week. St. Louis was supposed to face the Brewers in a three-game series this weekend, but it was postponed. 

The Cubs are scheduled to start a three-game set with the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday, but it’s still unclear if those games will be played. The Cubs remain the only team in baseball without a positive COVID-19 test for a player.

“You’d be crazy not to start thinking about the number of days and making sure that outbreak is under control,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I think you have to be careful. You have a right to have those concerns, ask those questions. We’re confident that MLB and the Cardinals and everyone will make sure that every precaution is taken. I think that by this weekend, our hope is certainly that we understand everything that’s going on with them. But I think right now, it’s a really fluid situation.”

The uncertainty has undoubtedly affected players. Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain announced Saturday that he was opting out, becoming the latest player to forgo the season. 

“Lorenzo Cain is a big part of the MLB fraternity, a great player and face for a franchise,” Cubs left-hander Jon Lester said. “That’s a decision that him and his family probably sat down and thought long and hard about, and I’m sure he talked to his teammates about it. . . . It’s a crazy time that we’re in, and you can’t second-guess anybody that wants to make a decision like that.”

MLB appears to be at a crossroads after this week’s events. ESPN reported Friday that commissioner Rob Manfred told MLBPA president Tony Clark that baseball would be at risk of a shutdown if it didn’t get the outbreaks under control. 

Manfred told ESPN on Saturday: “We are playing. The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general, and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.” 

Players and teams should be held accountable for following all health and safety protocols. Manfred playing the blame game, however, as if he has no role in the matter, is not the way to gain the respect of players or encourage unity within the sport. 

“I don’t know Rob’s situation, and I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth on that one,” Lester said. “But I do know we — not only the players, but families — are making sacrifices day in and day out. . . . I guess I’ll stop there.”

The question of ethics begins to come into play as teams travel amid these outbreaks.

While the Cubs have been the gold standard for health and safety, can MLB continue to preach health and safety as its priorities with outbreaks popping up around the game?

“We’ve done everything we can to keep our players safe,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘We’ve over-communicated as much as possible, and, luckily, we have a group of players that have been incredibly vigilant themselves. So, yeah, I do feel like, ethically, I have no problem saying we’re gonna keep doing this. But that said, we have to do it the right way. 

“If you’re not going to obey the protocols or you’re not going to take the virus seriously and you’re going to go on the road and travel to different cities and stay in hotels and things like that, we’re gonna have a problem. . . . It is no foolproof way to make sure no one gets [the coronavirus], but we have to do everything we can to make sure that it doesn’t spread within our team with social-distancing, masks and handwashing. Making sure that we obey all these protocols is the way you avoid that.”

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