Major League Baseball is planning to hold playoff games in four “bubble” locations in California and Texas, an effort to minimize Covid-19 risk by completing the season in relative isolation, according to a person familiar with the situation.
After a first playoff round held in participating teams’ ballparks around the country, the league is expecting to send four National League squads to Houston and Arlington, Texas, with American League contenders heading to Los Angeles and San Diego. The World Series would take place at theTexas Rangers’ Globe Life Field in Arlington, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plan isn’t yet public.
Texas was chosen to host the World Series and other rounds in part because of its central time zone — something that could help maximize ratings. The league is already expecting to lose more than $3 billion this year, the person said, with the red ink growing every day of the regular season.
Playoff bubbles — where players and staff are sequestered to prevent contagion — have been successful for the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League, and baseball is hoping they will help get the season over the finish line. Teams have suffered numerous coronavirus cases, sidelining squads for days at a time — something that would be harder to overcome during the playoffs. Twenty-one MLB clubs have had positive tests, including 55 players and 30 staff members, the leaguesaid last week.
MLB’s proposed setup ensures no team will play a divisional or championship series in their home ballpark. The league is hoping to have the playoffs begin Sept. 29, with game seven of the championship — should the series go that long — occurring on Oct. 28.
The 16-team playoffs will start with three-game wild card series all taking place at the higher seed’s ballpark, according to the person. From there, the four remaining National League teams will travel to Texas — with one division series hosted in Houston and the other in Arlington. The National League championship series will also take place in Arlington.
The four remaining American League teams will head to California, with one division series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. San Diego’s Petco Park will host the other series, along with the American League championship.
Some health and safety protocols for the postseason are still being worked out with the players union. Safeguards may include having playoff-bound players and staff stay in a hotel at some point the final week of the regular season to reduce the risk. Another issue is how to handle players’ families, who would need to quarantine for seven days before officially entering one of the bubbles.
Beyond that, health and safety protocols will be similar to those that teams already follow while they’re on the road.
The league declined to comment, while the players union didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and the Athletic previously reported on the bubble plan.
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