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The Sports Report: Will the Miami Marlins coronavirus outbreak shut down the MLB season?

Citizens Bank Park during the eighth inning between the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.
General View of Citizens Bank Park during the eighth inning between the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Bill Shaikin on MLB: After four months of waiting, Major League Baseball dispersed its teams throughout a country fighting a pandemic, hoping health and safety protocols would allow the league to cram in a 66-day season without a coronavirus outbreak.

That hope lasted four days.

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On Monday, after 11 players on the Miami Marlins tested positive for the virus, the league postponed three games. The Marlins would have played in Miami on Monday and Tuesday, but those games were postponed. The Marlins did not leave their hotel in Philadelphia, amid an expedited round of testing.

The Baltimore Orioles, the team that would have been the Marlins’ opponent, landed in Miami, then flew back to Maryland. They might play the Marlins in Baltimore on Wednesday, depending on the Marlins’ test results.

The Philadelphia Phillies would have played the New York Yankees on Monday, but that game was postponed too, as the league rushed additional tests to the Phillies, who shared the field with the Marlins on Sunday.

Aside from the postponements, and amid calls from scientists for MLB to keep the Marlins off the field for two weeks, the league proceeded with its schedule. Commissioner Rob Manfred held a conference call with owners and said there “really wasn’t” discussion of halting the season.

“We built protocols anticipating that we would have positive tests at some point during the season,” Manfred said on MLB Network, referencing the 60-man player pools. “The protocols were built in order to allow us to continue to play through those positives. We believe the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe.”

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Helene Elliott on what it would take to shut down sports again

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LAFC

Kevin Baxter on LAFC: When Carlos Vela decided to skip the MLS Is Back tournament to remain in Los Angeles with his pregnant wife, it figured to leave a gaping hole in the LAFC offense.

What the absence of the league’s reigning MVP really did, however, was open a door for Diego Rossi, who has spent most of his MLS career obscured in Vela’s wide shadow. And Rossi has taken full advantage, scoring a goal in each half to lift LAFC to a 4-1 win over the Seattle Sounders and into the tournament quarterfinals at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.

The two goals give Rossi seven in five games in the tournament and a league-leading eight on the season. Latif Blessing also scored in the first half for LAFC while Brian Rodriguez closed the scoring in the 89th minute.

Will Bruin, playing for the first time in 13 months, scored Seattle’s lone goal in the 75th minute.

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In Monday’s first game the unbeaten San Jose Earthquakes advanced to the quarterfinals with a 5-2 rout of Real San Jose. The Quakes will play the winner of Tuesday’s Columbus-Minnesota game on Saturday; LAFC will meet Orlando City on Friday.

NFL

Sam Farmer on the NFL and the coronavirus: The troubling news that 11 Miami Marlins players have tested positive for COVID-19 reverberated throughout the sports world Monday, and certainly to the opposite coast of Florida, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the verge of opening training camp.

This should be a season of unprecedented excitement for the Buccaneers, who have added six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady and lured All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement.

But for Bruce Arians, the news of the Marlins was a sobering reminder that even when leagues and teams are trying to play it safe, a coronavirus spike can cause plans to quickly unravel.

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“I don’t think anybody’s going to get sick at work, because we test every day and everybody is clean,” Arians said by phone Monday. “So it’s just, ‘What are you doing away from home, away from the office?’ The same thing goes for players. Most will take care of themselves, they’ll stay at home. But if they’ve got kids, and they go back to school, there are so many variables that come into play.”

It’s the biggest question looming over the league, which officially opens training camps Tuesday. What makes the NFL confident it can pull off a season during the pandemic with no “bubble” to separate players from the everyday world and in a sport in which social distancing is impossible?

If Major League Baseball already is beginning to postpone games, won’t the NFL do the same?

ANGELS

Maria Torres on the Angels: Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons twisted his left ankle on an infield single in Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics. The severity of the injury will not be known until a team doctor examines Simmons’ foot Tuesday.

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But, in some good news for the team, the Angels expect Anthony Rendon, who first hurt an oblique muscle July 15, to make his Angels debut in Tuesday’s home opener against the Seattle Mariners.

Simmons took a long stride to beat out a groundball in the ninth inning. His left foot landed on the back of the bag and he fell into the dirt, got up and walked around in an attempt to shake off the pain. He left the game with an arm around a team trainer.

This isn’t the first time Simmons has injured his ankle trying to leg out a groundball. He did the same thing last May. On a one-out groundball to first base, he burst out of the right-handed batter’s box and tried to earn a single. But in lunging and overextending his stride, Simmons hit the front of the base with his left foot. He tripped and turned his ankle inward.

LAKERS

Tania Ganguli on the Lakers: LeBron James didn’t play in Monday afternoon’s scrimmage against the Washington Wizards at the Visa Athletic center, and neither did Anthony Davis. Although their absences were planned in advance, Davis was also still dealing with the aftermath of being poked in the eye during Saturday’s game. Two other players sat out due to minor injuries – Kyle Kuzma with an ankle sprain and Dwight Howard with knee soreness. The Lakers also limited JaVale McGee and Danny Green to the first half to avoid overworking them before the seeding games begin.

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The Lakers beat the Wizards 123-116 and at the final buzzer Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” played in the arena just as it would after a Lakers win in Staples Center. JR Smith led the team with 20 points, Dion Waiters added 18 and Alex Caruso scored 17 points.

UCLA BASKETBALL

Ben Bolch on UCLA: The Bruins scored one of their biggest recruiting coups under coach Mick Cronin on Monday evening when Peyton Watson, the fast-rising prospect from Long Beach Poly High verbally committed to a school he did not officially visit because he was already familiar with what it had to offer.

UCLA was close to home, allowing the 6-foot-7 guard ranked as the eighth-best prospect nationally by 247 Sports to play in front of family and friends after completing his senior year of high school during the 2020-21 season. He will also be able to attend many of his younger brother Christian’s high school games. And the Bruins’ list of famous alumni including Watson favorites Russell Westbrook and Zach LaVine provided further enticement.

SPARKS

Thun Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: Nneka Ogwumike wasn’t scheduled to talk to reporters after practice Monday, but when the Sparks forward unexpectedly stepped in front of a webcam in Bradenton, Fla., she had plenty of reasons to do it.

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After a global pandemic that threatened to cancel the season, the WNBA delivered its most-watched opening weekend in years. The Sparks’ win against the Phoenix Mercury averaged 540,000 viewers on ABC. The WNBA’s bright orange hoodie, worn by athletes from LeBron James to tennis star Naomi Osaka to All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas, took over social media.

Seeing the success, Ogwumike had a simple thought: “It’s about time.”

“We’ve been saying that ‘The W’ is here,” Ogwumike said, “and hopefully now people are certainly realizing it.”

SPORTS
After the Sparks’ 99-76 win over the Mercury was the most-watched WNBA opener since 2012, with a 20% jump from last year’s opener, ESPN added 13 more games to its lineup Monday. The network will air 37 regular-season games across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, including a Sparks game against Indiana on Aug. 15 that was originally scheduled for Spectrum SportsNet. The Sparks will play Chicago on Tuesday at 6 p.m. PDT on national (NBATV) and local (Spectrum SportsNet) TV.

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Buoyed by posts from NBA stars, the WNBA took over social media with its bright orange hoodie with the league’s white logo at the center and it became the most popular item on online retailer Fanatics over the weekend. The men’s version was the most popular item among WNBA gear in the WNBA store by Monday morning and women’s sizes almost were sold out.

RAMS

The Rams have signed all of their nine draft picks, the team announced Monday.

For the fourth consecutive year the Rams did not have a first-round draft pick, so the prospect of a holdout was almost nonexistent.

On the day that Rams quarterbacks, rookies and undrafted free agents began reporting for the first phase of testing for the novel coronavirus, the drafted players signed their deals. The players include running back Cam Akers and receiver Van Jefferson, who were second-round picks; outside linebacker Terrell Lewis and safety Terrell Burgess (third-round picks); tight end Brycen Hopkins (fourth round); safety Jordan Fuller (sixth round) and linebacker Clay Johnston; kicker Sam Sloman and offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum (seventh round).

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TODAY’s LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Dodgers at Houston, 6 p.m. FS1, Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Seattle at Angels, 6:30 p.m., FSW, KLAA 830

Sparks at Chicago, 6 p.m., NBATV, Spectrum SportsNet

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THIS DATE IN SPORTS

The Los Angeles Olympic Games were declared officially opened by President Ronald Reagan on this date in 1984, when athletes from 140 countries marched into the Coliseum to celebrate the Olympic festival and witness the lighting of the stadium’s torch.

After entering the stadium and running a lap on the track, torchbearer Gina Hemphill, 26-year-old granddaughter of Olympic great Jesse Owens, handed the flame that had traveled over 9,000 miles in a transcontinental relay, to Rafer Johnson, a gold medalist in the decathlon in the 1960 Games at Rome.

Johnson scaled the 99 steps at the stadium’s peristyle end and lit the flame through five large Olympic rings and into a cauldron atop the Coliseum.

Other memorable games and outstanding sports performances on this date:

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1929 — The Chicago Cardinals, one of the first NFL teams to train out of state, hold their summer camp in Michigan. The Cardinals also were one of the few NFL teams to allow Black players to try out for open positions. One of the Black players to make the Cardinals was lineman Duke Slater, who had played in the one-season American Football League, a competitor of the NFL in 1926.

1987 — Laura Davies of Great Britain rolls in long birdie putts on the 14th and 15th holes for a a one-under-par 71 to beat Ayako Okamoto of Japan and JoAnne Carner in an 18-hole, three-way playoff at the U.S. Women’s Open at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J. The victory was Davies’ first on the U.S. tour and she finished three shots ahead of Okamoto and Carner.

1987 — Angel Cordero Jr., 44, becomes the fourth U.S. jockey to win 6,000 races when he rode Lost Kitty to victory at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Cordero was victorious in both divisions of the Colleen Stakes for two-year old fillies. He guided Blue Jean Baby to an easy victory in the seventh race, then got the milestone 6,000th win when Lost Kitty beat Granny’s Portrait by a nose in the ninth.

1991 — On a Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, Dennis Martinez of the Montreal Expos pitches the 13th perfect game in baseball history in beating the Dodgers 2-0. The win made Martinez, from Granada, Nicaragua, the first pitcher born outside the United States to throw a perfect game. Martinez struck out five batters as did Dodgers starter Mike Morgan, who also pitched a compete game, allowing four hits and no earned runs.

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1994 — Two significant events occurred in baseball — Kenny Rogers of the Texas Rangers pitches a perfect game against the Angels at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, and the players’ union vote to go out on strike on Aug. 12. Rogers faced the minimum of 27 batters, striking out eight on 98 pitches. The work stoppage would be the eighth in baseball history, and it would be the longest — 232 days. Disagreements over salary caps and revenue sharing would cancel the rest of the regular season, the postseason and the World Series, and shorten the 1995 season to 144 games.

2000 — Blaine Wilson, America’s best gymnast, wins his fifth-straight gold medal at the U.S. Championships at St. Louis, the first to do so since George Wheeler accomplished the feat from 1937 to 1941. Wilson went virtually unchallenged at the meet when John Roethelisburger fell off the pommel horse and landed in fifth place; Jay Thornton, a prime candidate for the U.S. Olympic team, finished in 11th place, just barely qualifying for the Olympic trials; and Jason Gatlin, considered the second-best gymnast in the U.S., couldn’t overcome a nagging knee injury and finished in 18th place.

2009 — Germany’s Paul Biedermann beats Michael Phelps of the United States by a length when he set a world record in the 200-meter freestyle at the World Championships in Rome. It was Phelps’ first loss in a major international swim meet since Ian Crocker beat him in the finals of the 100-meter butterfly four years earlier at 2005 World Championships. Biederman swam in one minute, 42 seconds to top Phelps’ mark of 1:42.96 set at the Summer Games in Beijing.

2017 — The U.S. women claim a record fifth gold medal at the FINA Water Polo World Championships with a 13-6 victory over Spain at Budapest, Hungary. Kiley Neushul, the tournament’s most valuable player, scored four goals to lead Team USA to its second-straight world title.

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SOURCES: The Times, Associated Press

And finally

Rafer Johnson lights the Olympic torch to open the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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