The bubble has worked for the NBA and the NHL, so perhaps MLB is learning its lesson. According to sources, MLB might use bubbles for the playoffs and there is reportedly discussion about this possible format as a way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks.
MLB officials appear to be serious about this possibility, especially after an outbreak caused chaos in two teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins. MLB wants to avoid a similar scenario taking place in the postseason.
MLB Bubble To Stop Outbreaks?
It is understandable that having a bubble similar to that of the NBA at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando might be difficult to imitate, but, the multi-city format done in NHL’s Toronto and Edmonton has gained acceptance. Due to the MLB’s expansion to 16 postseason teams, the league will eventually require at least three facilities to complete its wild-card round before reducing to a two-facility format for the division series in order to combat outbreaks.
Without any problem, the league championship and the World Series might be played at one or two stadiums, then staying in one metropolitan zone would permit teams to avoid traveling to other cities and maybe remain in the same hotel for the whole postseason, which is supposed to begin on September 27.
MLB officials have in mind places like Southern California, the greater Chicago area and the New York metropolitan area as the most suitable zones because of the stadiums there. Concerns arise because of weather conditions, especially in late September and into October. The Los Angeles area is the most convenient place to hold the entire postseason; however, sources familiar with MLB mention that, in preliminary discussions, no favorite place has been chosen yet.
MLB Unsure Of Postseason Path
Currently, MLB wants to have its playoffs with home games across the country. In the meantime, the top four seeds in each league might welcome all three possible wild-card-round matches to reduce air travel, then the five-game division series and seven-match league championship series and World Series would eventually include regular travel. This most likely would also include flights around the country that the MLB regular season decided to eliminate due to fears of COVID-19 outbreaks.
MLB officials have suggested that adhering to a bubble format may help keep players and staffers safe from another coronavirus outbreak like the one occurred with the Cardinals since July 19 and with the Marlins that left them out for eight days. The bubbles in the NBA and NHL were quite successful because both leagues have reported zero positive cases in weeks. It is expected that MLB follows the same path during the postseason.
If a positive case of COVID-19 is found, that would pose significant risks for the team. That player would have to quarantine, potentially causing havoc in a team’s chances of continuing in the league this season. In the case of many positive tests, games would be put off, especially if that team traveled in close quarters. The chances of having more positive tests might escalate and cause another outbreak.
Even though the bubble format is not defined yet, it might look something like this:
The three-match National League wild-card round, disputed in three days, would stage the No. 1 seed vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7 and No. 3 vs. No. 6 at Dodger Stadium.
The NL Division Series would have two games in a day at Dodger Stadium and the ALDS two matches per day at Angel Stadium.
The NLCS would be played at Dodger Stadium and the ALCS at Angel Stadium, or both would be disputed at a single site.
The World Series would be held at a single facility or maybe both.
The NBA was able to put together its bubble package fairly quickly, but the baseball league would probably need more time. There’s a lot to be done and the season is passing quickly. If the MLB doesn’t come up with a solution soon, it might not be ready to properly address player health and COVID-19 outbreaks concern.