Base­ball re­sponse to Texas out­break puts $$$ over lives

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BRAD­FORD WIL­LIAM DAVIS

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.

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