ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- There were times throughout the negotiations between the players' union and Major League Baseball owners that Andrew Miller, a veteran on the committee involved in those talks, that he felt a season was unlikely because of disagreements between the sides.
The biggest threat of all to the season both sides agreed on.
And it's still there.
"Absolutely. I think there's still some doubt that we're going to have a season now," Miller said. "We're here, but I'm from Florida – I read my local every day and I think we're over 10,000 (coronavirus) cases again. By no means is this a slam dunk. We're trying. We're going to give it our best effort. But for me to sit here and say 100% I think would be a lie."
Miller served on the Major League Baseball Players' Association executive subcommittee that was involved in the back and forth with owners during the stoppage of play.
Through it all Miller stressed the importance of health and safety for the players and that any agreement had to address that through expanded testing and also allowing players to police themselves through clubhouse codes of conduct. He reiterated that view Sunday during a video conference call with St. Louis media, some of whom were gathered at the ballpark.
"If this is going to work, if Major League Baseball is going to have a season it's going to because players have been responsible, and staff," Miller said, and then listed the types of ballpark positions in tiers 1 and 2 that must stay disciplined to keep the virus at the ballpark doors.
"I don't want to be the one that brings down a season."
The Cardinals announced Sunday that infielder Elehuris Montero tested positive for COVID-19 and has been placed in isolation awaiting the next step in the protocols. Montero is asymptomatic, an official said. The Cardinals have four other players with tests pending, including Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes, though the team won't confirm the names of the players.
Some of the players traveled together to St. Louis and that appears to be part of the delay when it comes to their test results.
On Saturday, the players had a meeting that included messages from a veteran group: Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter, Matt Wieters, and Miller. They spoke about the need to remain disciplined away from the ballpark and to put aside for three months any activities that might put them in jeopardy of getting the virus and bringing it to the ballpark.
"Do everything we possibly can to assure there's a season on our end," Wainwright said.
Miller's understanding of the agreement is that players can opt-out of the season at any time -- at any time they feel unsafe, they worry for their health, or they have an issue at home that would lead to that decision. Already some high profile players have opted out of the season, including Dodgers lefty David Price, Washington Nationals lifer Ryan Zimmerman, and Colorado outfielder Ian Desmond. Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and San Diego outfielder Tommy Pham have tested positive for COVID-19, their teams disclosed. Freeman is symptomatic, the Braves said and his wife confirmed on social media.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game, expressed reservations about playing during a Zoom conference with Los Angeles-area media during the first day of his team's camp.
The players who are high-risk for the virus can opt out and receive their full prorated salary for a 60-game schedule and the service time for the year. That was negotiated by the union.
Players who voluntarily opt out otherwise are not paid and do not receive service time during the 2020 season.
Miller called the decision "very personal."
"It's a tough world we live in right now," he said.
Miller's session ran the spectrum from an update on his injury (a vitamin deficiency may have contributed to the odd sessions he felt pitching in March) to his questions about how the media access was going to evolve through the course of the season (hopefully it will, responsibly). But as he spoke about the vigilance needed to protect the "bubble" teams are building around players and staff to have a season, he captured the crux of the undertaking from players.
"If guys don't take this seriously, I don't know if this is going to work," he said. "There's (also) going to be a little bit of luck."
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