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MLB has real opportunities to show Americans how to navigate a COVID world

Major League Baseball’s decision to play the bizarre 2020 season by traveling to baseball fields across the country seemed a bit short-sighted from the start, especially unlike the NBA and NHL who chose bubble scenarios to help their players and staff protect during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Now, a few days through August, it’s pretty clear that MLB’s location fixes were naively optimistic at best. The COVID-19 problem has not disappeared just because everyone really wanted it and the increase in testing over the past few months has shown that the virus was, in fact, more widespread than anyone realized.

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But to borrow Mark McGwire’s most famous word string, we’re not here to talk about the past. What matters at the moment is not how MLB got to this point – a money-making operation that relies on travel and constant exposure risks – no matter how silly the decisions now seem. It’s about how MLB handles this predicament.

MLB has the opportunity – a real, true once-in-a-generation opportunity – to lead the way in a country that is in dire need of a certain direction.

Because the truth is, at some point, we have to learn to live with the coronavirus. It will not disappear soon. Even if a vaccine is approved, the risk of COVID-19 remains. MLB can lead by example, providing a blueprint for how to proceed. Every stumble and every good decision helps paint the picture.

We now know more about the virus than in March, when the world came to a halt. As more people are tested, known mortality rates have fallen – at the start of the pandemic, only very sick people were given tests, which increased mortality rates – which is encouraging. But we also know that there are potentially longer-lasting effects for some, as evidenced by Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez developing myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, after his battle with COVID-19. You don’t want this virus and you should absolutely limit your risks.

Speaking of which, we know more about how the coronavirus spreads now than in March or April. We know that it is not necessary to stay at home and completely shut out the world, but we also know that it is a terrible idea to come back to life as we knew it. Wear your masks when you are around people. Wash your hands. Practice social distance. In fact, treat other people the way you want to be treated yourself.

The missteps of baseball have been widely documented. The Marlins were the first team to deal with an outbreak, and now the cardinals are assessing how widespread their problem is. But even in the setbacks, there are lessons that can be applied outside of baseball.

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The Marlins learned from the positive tests while in Philadelphia to play the Phillies. Out of an abundance of caution – definitely the right move – MLB also hit the pause button during the Phillies season. But through multiple rounds of testing, we’ve learned that playing on the same field as a team of infected players didn’t cause an outbreak in the opposite dugout. The Cardinals played against the Twins before the news broke about their positive tests, but the Twins have not tested positive and had to pause their season.

These are good developments, people.

But to be the leader, to set an example for the country, MLB must embrace responsibility. MLB must be open and honest with everything. MLB cannot act solely in the interest of MLB. Once the marlins and cardinals have figured out how the virus entered the door and spread, that information should be passed on to the public. Do not hide facts because they may be embarrassing or flawed in the plan. Be transparent. Show mistakes so that others – schools, companies, etc. can try to avoid them in the future. We are in this together.

If it is true that one a few cardinals went to a casinoWell, stop going to casinos. Such solutions are simple. Others will not be so easy.

And let’s be clear: what we learn from baseball will of course be anecdotal. This is not a scientific study with a placebo-controlled study. But it is a realistic scenario that is played on a very public stage and there are real lessons to be learned.

Baseball must seize the opportunity to be a tangible, transparent experiment that the rest of the country can follow.

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