Covid and MLB

bluefenderstrat

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So, cancel baseball forever then? Because 2 players testing positive will be a thing next year, and beyond. If that is their plan (postpone for 1 or 2 positives), they will never be able to play a complete season moving forward.
Yes, cancel it forever. Or maybe there's some room for taking conservative precautions right now, today, in the height of a pandemic.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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So, cancel baseball forever then? Because 2 players testing positive will be a thing next year, and beyond. If that is their plan (postpone for 1 or 2 positives), they will never be able to play a complete season moving forward.
No, not forever. But for now, yeah. If a year from now there is a vaccine and/or a universally effective treatment that would render the virus to "just the flu" status, then games could go on as they always have. But until then, when the virus is highly contagious, potentially deadly, and wildly inconsistent in its effect, there can be no treating a single positive test as an isolated instance. A few days ago, this thread was filled with folks excoriating the stupidity of the Marlins playing a game on Sunday despite three positive tests, and now when the Cardinals do exactly what we all said the Marlins should have done, that's wrong?

The priority should be safety and well being of the players, coaches, umpires and other personnel in MLB. Having potentially infectious players on the field coming in contact with others is the opposite of that priority.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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The main problem seems to be the underlying idea that to qualify for the post season, one ought to have beat out other teams through a mostly balanced competitive slate. Every year there's some kind of unbalancing randomness, especially with inter-league play. Here, it depends on just how unbalanced things become before questions of fundamental fairness and the integrity of the game are raised.
I think it's a lot easier to throw your hands up and not worry about the competitive integrity of the playoff qualification process in an already messed-up year in which teams aren't playing 2/3 of the other teams in their own league and yet still have seedings and even qualifying positions (for the two third-placed teams in their divisions who make it) determined by the records across all of the teams in the league.
but in the playoffs you can't really say "ok let's just make this a 5-game series instead of a 7-game series" or push back an entire series by a week, or whatever.
I wouldn't be surprised to learn MLB is currently trying to plot out a potential bubble solution for the playoffs - probably on a contingency basis whereby you could start the bubble at the beginning of any round of the playoffs. I'd imagine that if needs be, they actually would look to push back an entire series by a week and then catch up thereafter; as long as there's a warm-weather contingency solution in place whereby any remaining teams can relocate to a climate where baseball can be played across October, November and even December if needs be, we will (eventually) have a World Series this year. Will anyone like it? I doubt it, but here we are.
 

YTF

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So, cancel baseball forever then? Because 2 players testing positive will be a thing next year, and beyond. If that is their plan (postpone for 1 or 2 positives), they will never be able to play a complete season moving forward.
You have to put things into the proper perspective. We've no idea where we'll be with this next year and beyond, but what we do know is that ATM we are still in the midst of a pandemic where we recently have been averaging 1000 deaths per day due to covid-19 and have no widely approved antidote or vaccine available.
 

djbayko

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Still, even with 2 positive tests, they cannot postpone games. That essentially means that for the next several years, or indefinitely, they will be constantly canceling games. As @BaseballJones mentioned above, even with a vaccine (which we don't have) it is not going to go away.
First, we don’t know that for sure yet. It could possibly go away. It depends on a lot of factors. I agree that it’s less likely.

But even if it doesn’t go away completely, there is a huge difference between a player testing positive today and a player testing positive in a future world where a majority of people are vaccinated or immune from infection. Also, are we sure that mandatory vaccination won’t be in the next player agreement?
 

dynomite

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Yes, cancel it forever. Or maybe there's some room for taking conservative precautions right now, today, in the height of a pandemic.
Right. The NBA and NHL are on track to resume and laid out a blueprint that seems to be working. At the very least, it seems to account for where we are and try to adapt to it.

MLB tried to basically just barrel through this with a plan that seemed deeply flawed from the start (didn't enforce mask wearing, didn't enforce social distancing, didn't put players or coaches in a bubble) and now we have the predictable results.
 

NJ_Sox_Fan

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No, not forever. But for now, yeah. If a year from now there is a vaccine and/or a universally effective treatment that would render the virus to "just the flu" status, then games could go on as they always have. But until then, when the virus is highly contagious, potentially deadly, and wildly inconsistent in its effect, there can be no treating a single positive test as an isolated instance. A few days ago, this thread was filled with folks excoriating the stupidity of the Marlins playing a game on Sunday despite three positive tests, and now when the Cardinals do exactly what we all said the Marlins should have done, that's wrong?

The priority should be safety and well being of the players, coaches, umpires and other personnel in MLB. Having potentially infectious players on the field coming in contact with others is the opposite of that priority.
Yes, what the Marlins did was completely asinine, but based on the wording in the tweet, this seemed to be a different scenario. I just think MLB needs a much better plan. As you said, we have no idea how things will be a year from now, or beyond, so they need a better plan than cancel every time someone pops a positive test. If not, there is no way they can play a 162 game schedule in the future.
 

E5 Yaz

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The priority should be safety and well being of the players, coaches, umpires and other personnel in MLB. Having potentially infectious players on the field coming in contact with others is the opposite of that priority.
The world is no place for your kind of common sense

Perhaps the bottom line here is THEY SHOULDN'T BE FUCKING PLAYING AT ALL.
This, however, is the perfect take
 

OurF'ingCity

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Yes, what the Marlins did was completely asinine, but based on the wording in the tweet, this seemed to be a different scenario. I just think MLB needs a much better plan. As you said, we have no idea how things will be a year from now, or beyond, so they need a better plan than cancel every time someone pops a positive test. If not, there is no way they can play a 162 game schedule in the future.
There is a huge difference between 1-2 players testing positive when there is no vaccine and very few players otherwise have immunity (in which case those 1-2 players could very easily be the start of a team-wide outbreak) and 1-2 players testing positive when there is a vaccine or when the virus has otherwise died down due to herd immunity, etc. (in which case even if 1-2 players test positive the chances of a large portion of the team also getting it are dramatically lower). This is why they don't suspend games when a couple of players on a team get the flu during a normal season.

So while they certainly need a better plan now (and potentially for some portion of next season), this isn't going to be an issue in perpetuity.
 

Rovin Romine

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Perhaps the bottom line here is THEY SHOULDN'T BE FUCKING PLAYING AT ALL.
This, however, is the perfect take
Yep. Especially when, as pointed out, the players are not making a unified, 100% effort to socially distance or wear masks, both in the club house and on the field. (That tells me what happens when the cameras is off is the same or worse.)
 

Ale Xander

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I wouldn't be surprised to learn MLB is currently trying to plot out a potential bubble solution for the playoffs - probably on a contingency basis whereby you could start the bubble at the beginning of any round of the playoffs. I'd imagine that if needs be, they actually would look to push back an entire series by a week and then catch up thereafter; as long as there's a warm-weather contingency solution in place whereby any remaining teams can relocate to a climate where baseball can be played across October, November and even December if needs be, we will (eventually) have a World Series this year. Will anyone like it? I doubt it, but here we are.
Playoff bubble is a good idea. A better one with 10 teams instead of 16, though.
 

Gdiguy

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Rwillh11

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The false positive test rate is very low (in the real world, it's probably lower than the rate of human error in mixing up or mislabeling samples or mis-entering results); but yeah the false negative rate is quite a bit higher for a variety of reasons
Do you have any idea how low? Bayes rule would suggest that if your actual/prior probability of having virus is low as an MLB player, then a fair amount of positive tests should still be negatives.

P(virus|positive) = P(virus in population)*P(positive|actually has virus) / P(positive rate in all tests)

So unless either the prevalence of covid is higher than we think, or the false positive rate is VERY low (well below 1%), any individual positive test is likely to be false, right? Especially since they are testing the whole population, so testing is not conditional on already having symptoms?
 

cornwalls@6

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I get all the arguments about the money involved, for both the players and the owners, and how their instinct will be to plow ahead regardless of individual outbreaks. But at some point, the number of teams the will have to postpone a significant amount of games, and/or state and local officials shutting down certain markets, will make attempting to complete this untenable. I think that point is coming very soon. I don't fault them for giving it a shot, and I've absolutely been watching. But this was likely always doomed to fail, given the state of the virus in too many parts of the country. And I suspect we'll be doing a rinse/repeat on a false start with the NFL in a couple of months.
 

Bergs

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Do you have any idea how low? Bayes rule would suggest that if your actual/prior probability of having virus is low as an MLB player, then a fair amount of positive tests should still be negatives.

P(virus|positive) = P(virus in population)*P(positive|actually has virus) / P(positive rate in all tests)

So unless either the prevalence of covid is higher than we think, or the false positive rate is VERY low (well below 1%), any individual positive test is likely to be false, right? Especially since they are testing the whole population, so testing is not conditional on already having symptoms?
Positive and negative rates of a test are functions of the test itself, rather than of laws of probabilities and baserates. A test can be high in SENSITIVITY, meaning that it catches a lot (some right, some wrong), so the type 2 error (false negative) is low. A test can also be high in SPECIFICITY, meaning that when it does catch something, it's the right thing, so type 1 error (false positive) is low.

These 2 things are not definitionally in opposition (meaning there is no theoretical reason a test can't have high specificity AND high sensitivity), but in practice, a test is often high on one and low on the other.

In a pandemic, I'd rather have high sensitivity in favor of lower specificity (false positives are not dangerous to society at large), but that's not what we have. We have a highly specific but not very sensitive test (which sucks, because false negatives are very much dangerous to society at large).

* edit: my favorite example of a high-sensitivity outcome is that some pregnancy tests will come back with false positives on men, often indicating cancer.
 
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Rwillh11

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Positive and negative rates of a test are functions of the test itself, rather than of laws of probabilities and baserates. A test can be high in SENSITIVITY, meaning that it catches a lot (some right, some wrong), so the type 2 error (false negative) is low. A test can also be high in SPECIFICITY, meaning that when it does catch someting, it's the right thing, so type 1 error (false positive) is low.
Yes - I totally get that.

But if we know the specificity plus the population rate of infection, that can tell us the odds that single positive test is a true positive using Bayes. Which I think is super informative when thinking about the MLB testing plan - or whether its possible at all to come up with a workable system to play baseball under current circumstances. It's hard to think about best practices or designing testing plan for sports at all without knowing P(positive | positive test) and P (Negative | negative test), at least for me.


Edit - And for restarting sports- a test w/low sensitivity + high specificity is a nightmare.
 

Bergs

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Yes - I totally get that.

But if we know the specificity plus the population rate of infection, that can tell us the odds that single positive test is a true positive using Bayes. Which I think is super informative when thinking about the MLB testing plan - or whether its possible at all to come up with a workable system to play baseball under current circumstances. It's hard to think about best practices or designing testing plan for sports at all without knowing P(positive | positive test) and P (Negative | negative test), at least for me.
The former is literally the definition of specificity and the latter is literally the definition of sensitivity. I have seen nothing that indicates the specificy of the current tests are not approaching 1, and the sensitivity is 0 on day 1 and ~.3 on day 4.

Edit - And for restarting sports- a test w/low sensitivity + high specificity is a nightmare.
Yep.
 
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Papelbon's Poutine

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I get all the arguments about the money involved, for both the players and the owners, and how their instinct will be to plow ahead regardless of individual outbreaks. But at some point, the number of teams the will have to postpone a significant amount of games, and/or state and local officials shutting down certain markets, will make attempting to complete this untenable. I think that point is coming very soon. I don't fault them for giving it a shot, and I've absolutely been watching. But this was likely always doomed to fail, given the state of the virus in too many parts of the country. And I suspect we'll be doing a rinse/repeat on a false start with the NFL in a couple of months.
I also see the monetary factor - for the league, the players, the owners, etc - but it's not an excuse. It literally life and death and no dollar figure is worth that once you consider it and it's ramifications to spread amongst the population. It's ignorance mixed with greed. And it's far worse than the NFL shrugging off CTE concerns, because it impacts innocents here. Not that anyone does or should care, but I'm pretty close to writing off MLB and NFL over this. NBA and NHL have at least been responsible about it.
 

Rwillh11

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The former is literally the definition of specificity and the latter is literally the definition of sensitivity. I have seen nothing that indicates the specificy of the current tests are not approaching 1, and the sensitivity is 0 on day 1 and ~.3 on day 4.
Yeah, absolutely but the crucial thing is what you mean by approaching 1. If we are talking .999 then yes, the P(has disease | Positive) is going to go to almost 1 with even less than 1% actual rate of infection. If it's like .97 with human error or something, it's a bit different (depending also on whether the prevalence is 1% or .1% or whatever - and of course since the disease clusters and risk isn't independently distributed across teams, Bayes isn't exactly perfect here but more of a heuristic)

Either way, the current sensitivity is pretty disturbing for sports/working in offices/everything. I was just wondering, since I couldn't find it, if there was a high quality estimate of specificity that I could plug into Bayes to just give me a frame of reference to think through what these results mean.
 
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dynomite

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Playoff bubble is a good idea. A better one with 10 teams instead of 16, though.
I wonder whether they're considering pausing the regular season and moving to a bubble now, while they still might have enough time to salvage something. Frankly, again, this all means they shouldn't be playing.

What would a bubble system even look like? I wonder whether state governments would even allow a bubble system at this point given Pennsylvania's response to the Blue Jays. And of course, the challenges here are enormous:
- MLBPA would have concerns
- Players being asked to suddenly quarantine away from their families would have concerns
- TV broadcasts would be completely disrupted and turning over stadiums to host 3 games a day might not even be possible.
- The current schedule would be untenable, and have to be totally remade. 60 games would be impossible. Maybe even 40 would be difficult.
- The logistics would be INSANE -- it took the NBA and the NHL a month to set up one or two locations. We would probably be talking about... 4? 5? 6? New York could host a lot of teams because of the Mets/Yankees/Brooklyn Cyclones/Staten Island Yankees.
 
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Bergs

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Yeah, absolutely but the crucial thing is what you mean by approaching 1. If we are talking .999 then yes, the P(has disease | Positive) is going to go to almost 1 with even less than 1% actual rate of infection. If it's like .97 with human error or something, it's a bit different (depending also on whether the prevalence is 1% or .1% or whatever - and of course since the disease clusters and risk isn't independently distributed across teams, Bayes isn't exactly perfect here but more of a heuristic)

Either way, the current sensitivity is pretty disturbing for sports/working in offices/everything. I was just wondering, since I couldn't find it, if there was a high quality estimate of specificity that I could plug into Bayes to just give me a frame of reference to think through what these results mean.
As I said, I have seen nothing that indicates a statistically meaningful occurance of false positives, so I'd go with something between .95 and 1 for a specificity estimate.
 

Papelbon's Poutine

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At the base level, MLB (and NFL, really) is fucked purely based on how the game works. NBA/NHL are played indoors and can take place, well, whenever. I'd argue this is actually a good thing for both leagues to an extent as summer, MLB hogs everything. Short of domed play, you can't push the baseball season until it gets better.
 

Rwillh11

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As I said, I have seen nothing that indicates a statistically meaningful occurance of false positives, so I'd go with something between .95 and 1 for a specificity estimate.
That seems like a reasonable guess. But at the low end with .95, and say a true infection rate of 1 % you are at the odds of any random positive test as reflecting an actual infection as being well below 50% (I think its 13% by a back of envelope calculation, but could be wrong) - whereas as you note if its above .99 then the odds that it reflects a true infection are nearly 100%. The intuition is basically the same as the "male pregnancy" example, except you set the true rate of infection to 1% instead of knowing its 0 for male pregnancies. It's sort of counter-intuitive that even with a specificity above .95 most positives could be false, but thats why it would be good to know the true (human error included) specificity.

If specificity is below .99, that makes things even messier for MLB because it seems clear the responsible thing is to handle any positive test the way they are for the cardinals game - but if the specificity is below 99% you are for sure going to be getting a far amount of false positives. Given that MLS and NBA don't seem to be having random false positives though, maybe specificity is above .99?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I wonder whether they're considering pausing the regular season and moving to a bubble now, while they still might have enough time to salvage something. Frankly, again, this all means they shouldn't be playing.

What would a bubble system even look like? I wonder whether state governments would even allow a bubble system at this point given Pennsylvania's response to the Blue Jays. And of course, the challenges here are enormous:
- MLBPA would have concerns
- Players being asked to suddenly quarantine away from their families would have concerns
- TV broadcasts would be completely disrupted and turning over stadiums to host 3 games a day might not even be possible.
- The current schedule would be untenable, and have to be totally remade. 60 games would be impossible. Maybe even 40 would be difficult.
- The logistics would be INSANE -- it took the NBA and the NHL a month to set up one or two locations. We would probably be talking about... 4? 5? 6? New York could host a lot of teams because of the Mets/Yankees/Brooklyn Cyclones/Staten Island Yankees.
I don't know if states would object to the bubble idea. I think PA's biggest objection with the Jays was it was essentially going to double the number of teams visiting/leaving the city over the course of the 2.5 months of the season. With a bubble, everyone comes in and stays in. Put another way, Canada had no problem with the Jays coming in and holding their training camp at Rogers Centre (or hosting the NHL hub cities). It was the prospect of teams going in and out of the city every few days that nixed the Jays playing at home this season.

The travel is the single biggest problem with pulling off this MLB season. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly while teams were holed up in their own parks. We're a week into teams breaking their own "bubbles" and traveling, and we've got six teams idle due to various infections. Why should we expect that to get any better?
 

Bergs

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That seems like a reasonable guess. But at the low end with .95, and say a true infection rate of 1 % you are at the odds of any random positive test as reflecting an actual infection as being well below 50% (I think its 13% by a back of envelope calculation, but could be wrong) - whereas as you note if its above .99 then the odds that it reflects a true infection are nearly 100%. The intuition is basically the same as the "male pregnancy" example, except you set the true rate of infection to 1% instead of knowing its 0 for male pregnancies. It's sort of counter-intuitive that even with a specificity above .95 most positives could be false, but thats why it would be good to know the true (human error included) specificity.

If specificity is below .99, that makes things even messier for MLB because it seems clear the responsible thing is to handle any positive test the way they are for the cardinals game - but if the specificity is below 99% you are for sure going to be getting a far amount of false positives. Given that MLS and NBA don't seem to be having random false positives though, maybe specificity is above .99?
The authors of the paper I linked above used 1. Given the low sensitivity, I've gotta believe .99+ is the best estimate of specificy.
 

DeadlySplitter

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Manfred's beginning to push the blame on MLBPA.

 

RedOctober3829

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Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark on Friday that if the sport doesn't do a better job of managing the coronavirus, it could shut down for the season, sources familiar with the conversation told ESPN.
The league and players recognize the coming days are a critical juncture following an outbreak on the Miami Marlins in which 18 players and two coaches have tested positive for COVID-19. Two positive tests by St. Louis Cardinals players on Friday exacerbated concerns inside the sport about the presence of the coronavirus and whether players are following MLB's protocols are being followed properly to prevent outbreaks similar to Miami's.

Should another outbreak materialize, Manfred, who has the power to shut the season down, could move in that direction. Multiple players briefed on the call fear that season could be shut down as soon as Monday if positive tests jump or if players continue not to strictly abide by the league's protocols.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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It kind of is on the players though.
Exactly. The league and individual teams can do all the testing possible, and provide as safe a work environment as possible, but if the players are going to go out and engage in risky behavior away from the ballpark that exposes themselves and others to the virus, what more can the league do? That's not to say that the league is blameless with their shoddy planning, but the bigger piece of the pie belongs to the players at this point.
 

scottyno

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Manfred's beginning to push the blame on MLBPA.
He's not wrong, the league put all these rules in place about what players are and aren't supposed to do during games (and outside of games, but we can't see that) and the players are just ignoring most of them
 

Marciano490

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It kind of is on the players though.
Perhaps, but they’re also a group of young millionaires who play sports. The league and its consultants and advisers and medical officials available could have come up with a better overall plan, like say, all the other major sports currently in action.
 

JCizzle

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Perhaps, but they’re also a group of young millionaires who play sports. The league and its consultants and advisers and medical officials available could have come up with a better overall plan, like say, all the other major sports currently in action.
The other, safer option available to MLB taken by the other leagues requires the players to be OK with going into a bubble for X number of months. I think that’s a reasonable ask in the current environment, but I absolutely understand why people would disagree.
 

Marciano490

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The other, safer option available to MLB taken by the other leagues requires the players to be OK with going into a bubble for X number of months. I think that’s a reasonable ask in the current environment, but I absolutely understand why people would disagree.
I think there’d be a middle ground where teams like the Marlins were forced to immediately forfeit and not have discretion to play.
 

EvilEmpire

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Perhaps, but they’re also a group of young millionaires who play sports. The league and its consultants and advisers and medical officials available could have come up with a better overall plan, like say, all the other major sports currently in action.
I guess we'll see how it goes in the NFL, but it sure seems like that will be a better comparison for MLB than the short season, mostly playoffs, bubbles that the NBA and NHL are working with.

I do wish they could have tried the bubble approach though.
 

Marciano490

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I guess we'll see how it goes in the NFL, but it sure seems like that will be a better comparison for MLB than the short season, mostly playoffs, bubbles that the NBA and NHL are working with.

I do wish they could have tried the bubble approach though.
NFL seems craziest to me. Biggest rosters. And every play begins and ends with people breathing directly into each other’s mouths. But hey, America.
 

JCizzle

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NFL seems craziest to me. Biggest rosters. And every play begins and ends with people breathing directly into each other’s mouths. But hey, America.
I’ll cheat and nominate college football since those poor kids aren’t even paid and they’ll have the same travel/roster size issue as the NFL. It’s not even a discussion that they’re going to attempt it though, everyone involved in those leagues at the leadership levels truly doesn’t give a shit.
 

mauf

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Perhaps, but they’re also a group of young millionaires who play sports. The league and its consultants and advisers and medical officials available could have come up with a better overall plan, like say, all the other major sports currently in action.
The NBA and NHL are differently situated because their seasons were nearly over when everything shut down in March. Maybe pro athletes will eventually agree to enter “bubbles” for entire seasons as an alternative to not playing (and not getting paid) until there is a vaccine, but it will take the collapse of a major team sport’s season before they will consider that. It may be that MLB simply had the misfortune to be first in line, and therefore gets to be the guinea pig that proves that bubbles are necessary. It also may be that baseball players are exceptionally dumb — so far, we aren’t hearing about lots of NFL players testing positive, though it might be that those positive results are being handled quietly.