The Twins had just beaten Cleveland three straight games and are about to embark upon a four-game showdown with the first-place White Sox. They wish they could focus on that.
Instead, Taylor Rogers fumed on Sunday, “We have guys worried about the outside noise.” The problem: With only two weeks to go until the playoffs start, MLB and the Players Association have yet to agree on how and where they will be played after the first round.
Many Twins players are not in favor of MLB’s proposal to sequester the final eight playoff teams in quarantined “bubbles” in California and Texas next month, said Rogers, the team’s union representative, and “we’re not alone in this stance. We’ve not heard of one team who’s happy with this.”
The bubble format, which would send four American League teams to San Diego and Los Angeles in order to prevent the playoffs from being disrupted by an outbreak of COVID-19, is so restrictive that family members would not be allowed to accompany players on what could be a three-week absence unless they quarantine for a week.
But players will be tested for the coronavirus several times a week, and no Twins player has tested positive during the season, Rogers pointed out. So many players don’t believe a quarantine is necessary.
“We’ve proven ourselves compliant thus far. And I think we’ve proven we can be adults about this season,” Rogers said. “Right now, we just want answers, because it’s time-sensitive. We leave on the road today, so we’re all a little frustrated.”
Even if the bubble ultimately becomes reality, the slow pace of negotiations between the union and MLB has caused uncertainty about living and travel arrangements and accommodations for families, many of which include small children, Rogers emphasized. MLB has also proposed beginning the players’ lockdown before the season ends, even when teams are at home.
“Do we have to move out of our places? Things like that,” Rogers said. “We’re going to be in Chicago for a week. Originally they wanted us to start that quarantine period in the middle of our Chicago trip. And you know, guys have places to move out of, and that’s not even counting where their families are at — kids and wives and stuff like that. … It’s very stressful for the guys.”
The Twins received the proposal on Aug. 26, expressed their concerns and didn’t hear anything again from the two sides until last week, Rogers said, making planning a burden amid the daily grind of a season. “I don’t have answers for the guys,” he said. “There’s a lot of frustration in the clubhouse.”
An NBA-style total quarantine, in which players would not be allowed to play for several days if they left their hotel, was never presented to the players during negotiations over the 2020 season, Rogers said.
“All that was said is that we have the possibility [to play at] a neutral site if need be. More as an insurance policy, just in case,” Rogers said. “We were never even asked about a bubble. We think this being imposed on us, and the fact that it’s late notice, we’re not very happy with it.”