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The Cleveland Indians were right to blast their teammates for breaking Covid protocol

Teammates will be the judge and jury for any baseball player who breaks protocol.

The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals nearly brought Major League Baseball’s truncated season to a halt with positive Covid-19 tests that have thrown the schedule into disarray and jumbled an already messy playoff race.

MLB players know that they’re all in this together. If this season is going to finish, there’s a level of personal responsibility all players and coaches need to proceed with. If there was a silver lining to the fiascos in Miami and St. Louis, it’s that players around the league were served a harsh reminder that their actions have consequences. Perhaps that would prevent more players from making the same mistakes.

Unfortunately, it only took a few days for that idea to be proven false. The Cleveland Indians are the latest team to get swept up in a corona controversy, this time after two pitchers went out partying in Chicago and returned in the wee hours of the morning.

Zach Plesac — a 25-year-old still trying to prove his worth in the bigs — was the first name outed for the Tribe. He was immediately sent home by car back to Cleveland, issued an apology, and was given some tough love by his teammates. Here’s what teammate Shane Bieber had to say about Plesac four days ago:

“We love Zach,” righty Shane Bieber told reporters, including Bell. “We support him. But he screwed up. We’re gonna handle this in-house. I think what we kind of talked about as a team is we need to focus on one thing at a time, and that was the game. And so I’m proud of the guys for being able to handle one thing at a time and going out there and getting the win. But like I said, we’re gonna handle this in-house and we’re going to see where it goes from here.”

Cleveland hoped the issue could be put to bed right there, but of course it wasn’t. Days later, standout pitcher Mike Clevinger was revealed to be out with Plesac, but only after flying home with the team Sunday.

Indians players spoke about Clevinger for the first time on Tuesday night following a 7-1 loss to the Cubs and were much more harsh in their assessment of his actions. Here’s what pitcher Adam Plutko had to say:

“They hurt us bad. They lied to us. They sat here in front of you guys and publicly said things that they didn’t follow through on. It’s gonna be up to them. It really is. I’ll let them sit here and tell you how they’re gonna earn their trust back.

“I don’t need to put words in their mouths. The term that I continue to hear—and excuse my language—is ‘grown-ass man.’ So those grown-ass men can sit here and tell you guys what happened and tell you guys what they’re gonna do to fix it. I don’t need to do that for them.”

And here’s what superstar shortstop Fransisco Lindor said:

“At the end of the day, we have to sit and look ourselves in the mirror,” Lindor said. “And it’s not about the person you see in the mirror, it’s about who’s behind you, the other people. … We’re in a time right now with COVID-19, with racism, everything. This is a time to be selfless. This is when we have to sit back and understand this is not about one person specifically. It’s about everybody. You have to go out there and understand that it’s about your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbors.”

There is really no excuse for the actions of Plesac and Clevinger. Good on their teammates for letting them hear it. Whether Plesac and Clevinger contracted the virus or not while they were out in Chicago, they still put their teammates at risk and the entire season in jeopardy. It feels even more unforgivable for the 29-year-old Clevinger, seeing that he flew home with the team on a roster that includes potential high-risk cases like Leukemia survivor Carlos Carrasco.

Baseball can’t afford more incidents like this if it wants to finish the season. There was always going to be increased risk by forgoing a bubble similar to the NBA and NHL. The only way to get through this year is for every member of organizations across baseball to realize the weight their actions carry.

Rarely do you see teammates criticize each other as harshly as Plutko laid into Plesac and Clevinger. Well done. The pandemic isn’t over just because we’re bored. If another baseball player breaks protocol, they won’t just have to deal with discipline from the team — they’ll have to regain the trust of their teammates, too.