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As errors pile up, odds of shortened baseball season happening look longer than ever

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo (right), with manager Dave Martinez, was unhappy with how testing of his team has been handled thus far.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo (right), with manager Dave Martinez, was unhappy with how testing of his team has been handled thus far.John McDonnell/The Washington Post

The Astros, Cardinals, and Nationals canceled their workouts on Monday because too many of their players had not received the results of their latest coronavirus test.

“We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.

The Angels, Athletics, and Diamondbacks pushed their workouts back for the same reason.

Major League Baseball released a statement claiming that 95 percent of the intake tests were completed and that their plan for testing over the holiday weekend was beset by “unforeseen delays.”

The release went on to say that its facility in Utah, The Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, would work on a seven-day schedule through the end of the World Series.

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MLB also revealed that it came to an agreement with the Players Association to test once between July 3-5 and not every other day, as was the plan.

That was apparently not made clear to everybody involved. The Angels were among the teams who wondered why the testers didn’t show up. So they took the kits and conducted their own tests.

The Athletics were still waiting for some tests from the initial intake period.

Monday was only the fourth day since what is being cheerily called “Summer Camp” started and there are already significant problems.

That all this happened only a few hours before the 2020 schedule was released seemed almost appropriate. There are red lights everywhere and MLB is speeding down the street with one hand on the wheel.

“What we agreed to was testing every other day,” Kris Bryant told reporters at Cubs camp. “We’ve had guys here that showed up [June 28] and haven’t gotten tested again eight, seven days later.

“And then you don’t get the results for two days either, so that’s nine days without knowing. I think if you really want this to succeed, we’re going to have to figure this out.”

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Some of this, really all of it, should have been expected. There are 30 teams with as many as 60 players along with managers, coaches, and staff members. The notion that several thousand people will be tested every 48 hours by one lab in Salt Lake City without having some hitches is unrealistic.

It will get even more difficult once teams start traveling from their carefully sanitized home ballparks. Buses, plane,s and hotels introduce more variables. So will roster moves.

Will anybody actually get traded in the middle of a pandemic? Imagine the issues that would raise.

MLB is counting on the field testers, couriers and the lab technicians to work in sync seven days a week for roughly three months. It’s a huge logistical challenge and everybody understood there would be rough patches.

But three teams deciding it wasn’t safe enough to practice is more than a little stumble. Rizzo was furious according to a colleague and it’s hard to blame him. He and other executives have essentially been tasked with keeping players and their families from contracting a disease that has caused more than 132,000 deaths in the United States.

That’s enough to fill Fenway Park nearly four times.

Baseball looked disorganized on Monday. But the Red Sox held their fourth day of workouts without any issues and the Yankees played an instrasquad game in the Bronx. The system has worked for them and most other teams.

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“For us, things are going well. We’re expecting to have issues and haven’t had them so far,” Sox manager Ron Roenicke said.

“Me personally, I’m not fearful,” Jackie Bradley Jr. said.

Maybe MLB’s plan will work and Monday was just simply a day of necessary adjustments. Perhaps baseball could eventually even serve as an example of how responsible behavior can stop the spread.

Post no asterisk if MLB figures this out and a champion is crowned in October. That team will deserve all the accolades and a virtual parade.

But with COVID-19 soaring across the country and baseball charging itself with a few errors on Monday, it’s hard not to wonder whether all this planning and expense could be put to better use than having a baseball season.

Take the 30 ballparks and turn them into testing centers to help stem the pandemic. Tell all the players to go home and hopefully come back for spring training in February.

Deep down, they would probably be relieved.

David Price, who has already earned $207 million, bailed out on the season. So did Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, and a few others who can rest easy on big financial cushions. More will follow.

But most players understand their careers will be brief. For them, the prorated pay and full year of service time is worth the risk and uneasiness.

MLB and Players Association let too many of those players down on Monday.



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Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.