MLB set to stage postseason in neutral bubble venues
North America’s Major League Baseball is close to finalising a plan to stage the majority of its postseason in a bubble setting at neutral venues, according to reports in USA.
The league is believed to be working out details of the proposal with the MLBPA, the players’ union, but the concept and location of postseason bubbles, deemed necessary because of the coronavirus pandemic, have been decided.
It means the league will play most of its postseason games at neutral sites for the first time, following in the footsteps of basketball’s NBA and ice hockey’s NHL this year.
The League Division Series, League Championship Series and the World Series will be played in a bubble, with the latter showpiece to be held next month exclusively at Globe Life Park (pictured), the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark in Arlington.
Under an expanded playoff format, the newly-added first round, which will feature eight best-of-three series with teams seeded one through eight in each league, would be hosted exclusively by the team with the better seeding, and the winning team advancing to the bubble.
The postseason will this year feature 16 teams, up from the usual 10, with the axing of wild-card games that have taken place since 2012. The top two teams in each division will qualify, along with the two teams with the next best records in each league.
After the first round, the postseason will shift to neutral venues, with the four remaining American League teams going to Southern California for the division series and championship series while National League teams will play in Texas for their equivalent series.
Games in California will be played at Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, while games in Texas will be staged at Globe Life Park and Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.
Because of the altered format, the Dodgers, Padres and Astros would have to flip states.
The league’s intention is to limit travel and keep players in close quarters to help prevent widespread outbreaks of Covid-19, such as those at the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals which disrupted the start of the season.
MLB and the players’ union have agreed to an expanded the playoff format for the first time, which comes after it already shortened its regular season to 60 games, with clubs only playing games against opponents from the same division as the start of the campaign was delayed by the pandemic.
The regular season is slated to end on 27 September