The players did, and just as important as the new rules, Dr. Green said, was the sobering example from the Marlins and the Cardinals of just how precarious the season could be.
“One of the things we’ve seen with the virus, not only with baseball but throughout society, is it really can find gaps in your coverage,” Dr. Green said. “We were very lucky in the beginning that we didn’t have very many positive cases, and then all of a sudden we had these outbreaks, and I think people realized: ‘Hey, these things are there for a reason, and any deviation from that can potentially really wreck the whole season.’ So that was a wake-up call.”
Dr. Green also said that M.L.B.’s ability to use its own laboratory in Utah to analyze test samples turned out to be critical, because the methodology was consistent and the lab was able to validate a saliva test.
“The nasal swabs are not very comfortable,” he said, “and if you’re talking about testing people every other day during the season and every day during the postseason, the saliva test is a much more palatable way to do that.”
Players had a powerful financial incentive to follow the rules. Their 2020 salaries were prorated based on the truncated schedule, meaning that they made roughly 37 percent of their anticipated income before the pandemic. The shared sacrifice, and the especially close proximity to one another — particularly before families were allowed into the postseason secure zones — brought some teams closer together.
“I know we haven’t been able to be around family, but I feel like this team is family,” said the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts. “We spend so much time together at the hotel, here at the field, and nobody gets tired of each other — we’re all laughing, joking. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to call family, man, it’s just been amazing.
“So going through this season with Covid and whatnot hasn’t been so bad, because I have these guys.”