Baseball response to Texas outbreak puts $$$ over lives
Inaugurating a brand new ballpark with a viral outbreak instead of a baseball game is either a grim forecast for the 2020 season or a killer logline for a straight-toSyfy zombie movie. But what it is not, is a surprise.
The Texas Rangers’ string of Globe Life Field staffers testing positive for the coronavirus should have been an obvious, inevitable conclusion of arrogant and aggressive state-wide plan to reopen the economy against CDC guidelines, which the franchise embraced by instructing staffers to return to the office. Somehow, Major League Baseball thought otherwise.
“The course of the virus has both been unpredictable and rapidly changing from month to month,” said the league in an email response to a Daily News inquiry on the Rangers outbreak, specifically, what number of coronavirus cases would trigger a shutdown.
“We fully recognize that we will have to constantly evaluate the current Covid-19 situation, and potentially make operational changes in order to keep our players and staff safe,” MLB added, without committing to a threshold.
Let’s take an Olympic-class leap and assume that MLB’s march against the grain of rising coronavirus cases in 36 states is ordered in good faith; that the July 1 spring training or tentative July 23 opening day would get pulled if only the “current COVID-19 situation” took a turn. Even allowing for incompetence, the current course of events is less “unpredictable” than a prolonged rendition of the Parable of the Sower.
According to ESPN’s Saturday report, the Rangers held a Zoom requiring employees to return to work on June 12. But on June 6, Dallas County Health and Human Services director Dr. Philip Huang acknowledged COVID-19 could, in fact, mess with Texas, and did so without peering into a crystal ball or consulting an oracle.
“What we haven’t seen is that 14-day decline in those indicators,” Huang said, referring to the CDC’s well-established criteria for reopening “that everyone said we really should see before we start opening up,” Huang said of his jurisdiction, which borders Globe Life Field.
Spencer Fox, the PhD candidate co-leading the University of Texas at Austin’s COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, said in May that “reopening will continue to fuel the epidemic” if the trends he identified continued.
And days before Rangers’ outbreak was reported, Tarrant County health director Vinny Taneja acknowledged the
“clear correlation” with reopening workspaces like Globe Life Field and the continued spread. “There are states that are reopening their economies, including Texas, and the bulk of the volume is coming from those states, so there’s something to be learned from that,” Taneja said.
Whatever lesson there was, the Rangers hadn’t learned it. Few teams seem to be learning from or even listening to their local health offices.
Instead, the Rangers forced their workers to strive for whatever razor-thin productivity margin could be gained from a cubicle over Slack. And for what, to ensure Corey Kluber gets to six wins instead of five? All in service of a 60-game micro-season we can only hope will be defined by small sample sizes and asterisks instead of permanent lung damage.
What’s worse is that the employees who spoke out had to do it anonymously because they realized the challenge of maintaining a job in a highly coveted industry like America’s Pastime.