The MLB has had to deny having told a team to stop COVID-19 testing after a Boston Red Sox player accused it of doing just that.
With the pandemic still raging around the world, fans can count themselves lucky to still be able to have sports while players can also do the same given that they’re still allowed to go out there and do what they love in exchange for millions. The hosting of sports events during the most dangerous pandemic in recent memory hasn’t been without issue as players in all leagues have had to sit out because they’ve either contracted the virus or have been around someone who has.
The Red Sox suffered a huge outbreak recently and had 11 players and two coaches quarantined as a result of positive tests and contract tracing. Xander Bogaerts was one of those made to quarantine on the back of the tests.
That’s all pretty normal now as it has been what obtains since sports came back in 2020. But things took an odd turn on Thursday, with outfielder Hunter Renfroe claiming the MLB wanted the team to downplay the severity of the outbreak and even wanted them to stop testing players.
“We’ve been going through a lot of things with COVID,” He said during a radio interview with Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria on WEEI radio, “and MLB has basically told us to stop testing and just treat the symptoms. We’re like, ‘No. We’re gonna figure out what’s going and try to keep this thing under control.'”
Both the Red Sox and MLB have since refuted the player’s claims publicly and have denied that any of the protocols were ignored.
“We have been following MLB’s COVID-19 protocols all season long. We have consulted closely with them on everything we’ve done and continue to test and their medical staff has been very supportive,” a team spokesperson told MassLive.com.
An MLB spokesperson has branded Renfroe’s statement as “absolutely wrong.”
“He (Renfroe) is completely wrong and inaccurate,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The outfielder also explained that the outbreak started with utilityman Kike Henderson, who is vaccinated, contracting the virus and unknowingly spreading it to other people on the team plane.
The accusation, though, is pretty huge, which is why the MLB came out with a statement almost immediately. It has also split fans up, with many of them believing the player as he has no reason to lie, which is more than anyone can say for the MLB, while others believe he is trying to paint a bad picture.
There are also folks who reckon the player isn’t lying and simply got it wrong. In any case, this does look bad for the league and we would all hate to believe it actually instructed a team to avoid the necessary protocols just to save face.
As noted above, Boston has lost several players and a pair of coaches to the outbreak and the aforementioned Bogaerts is among players in quarantine. Enrique Hernandez, Martin Perez and Nick Pivetta are also missing games due to the outbreak.
Despite the setback, Boston has won 10 of its last 17 games and has taken over the wild-card playoff spot in the American League with a half-game over the New York Yankees. As the MLB odds would have it, they are 15/2 to win the AL. The Houston Astros are favored at 11/5, the Chicago White Sox at 13/5. The Tampa Bay Rays are at 5/1 ahead of them too.
The Red Sox should be expecting a letter from the league office soon and Renfroe could find himself being ostracized in some fashion.
The team’s chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has lamented the fact that the whole team isn’t vaccinated, although he admits he isn’t sure things would have been different had that been the case.
“I wish everybody in our organization were vaccinated and, for that matter, everyone, period, who’s eligible,” he said recently. “There’s no real way to know if it would have been different if we had had a higher vaccination rate or not. In this case, I don’t know if that’s knowable, and I don’t think it’s helpful to play the what-if game.
“I think that’s going to have to be a conversation in the industry that we step back and have, and obviously there’s a lot of different levels to that conversation, including the rights of our players and what that should mean.”
The players’ union has strongly opposed mandatory vaccination for players but a number of teams are mulling over making them mandatory for other members of staff. The MLB office has already made the play in that regard while the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals have given staffers deadlines by which they must either take the vaccine or leave the organization.
This will most certainly result in Bob Boone leaving the Nationals, who have said he’s resigning. Boone, though, has denied this with claims he’s being forced out.
The San Francisco Giants have a vaccine mandate in place for employees who work in the office but a number of staffers are currently working from home.