MIAMI — The Miami Marlins, one of the most under-the-radar teams in sports, have been in the news lately.
A network TV news anchor referred to them this week as the Miami Dolphins. She later apologized and corrected herself, saying they were actually the Florida Marlins. The next day Dr. Anthony Fauci, opening day hurler for the Washington Nationals, also referred to their NL East rivals as the Miami Dolphins.
Lack of respect? Even Rodney Dangerfield would probably get the Marlins’ name wrong. Nonetheless, they’ve become the talk of baseball while coping with a coronavirus outbreak that forced MLB to suspend their season through at least Sunday.
Thanks to a 2-1 record, this is the latest the Marlins have ever been in first place. The question isn’t whether they’ll make the playoffs, however, but whether they’ll play another game.
For starters, will other teams be willing to play them? Washington Nationals players voted almost unanimously against making a trip to Miami for three games this weekend, before MLB called off the series.
Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, whose team played the Marlins last weekend, acknowledged a level of discomfort regarding a rematch.
“The league is on top of that very issue — the safety of teams going into Miami right now,” Klentak said.
If the Marlins are to keep playing, fielding a team will be a challenge. Another Miami player tested positive for the virus, bringing the team’s total to 16 infected players, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the test results were not announced.
With half the team sidelined, rounding up roster replacements will be a patchwork effort. The Marlins’ farm system ranks with the best in baseball, but some of their top prospects aren’t on the 40-man roster, which will make it difficult to promote them to the majors.
The Marlins have been scrambling to acquire players with big league experience. They claimed right-handers Mike Morin and Justin Shafer off waivers and signed free agent infielder Logan Forsythe.
Placed on the injured list were outfielder Harold Ramirez, catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder-first baseman Garrett Cooper, with more such moves likely to come.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the major league season could be in jeopardy. But MLB remains optimistic it can navigate the pandemic, noting that Miami has been the only team with a positive test result since Friday.
The Marlins’ outbreak occurred in Philadelphia, where they remain quarantined. Eventually they’ll return to Miami, one of the nation’s virus hot spots — and now a hot spot regarding the topic of playing games during a pandemic.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was outspoken on that subject in May as he discussed the state’s handling of the virus crisis.
“Professional sports are going to be welcome in Florida,” DeSantis said. “That may not be the case in every other state in this country as we’ve seen. And so what I would tell commissioners of leagues is if you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida, because we think it’s important, and we know that it can be done safely.”
The debate rages on, as does the virus.
AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia and Associated Press Writer Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.
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Steven Wine, The Associated Press