Major League Baseball will play most of its postseason at neutral sites for the first time, with the World Series to be held this October at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark in Arlington, Texas. While the league is still working out details of the plan with the players’ union, the concept and location of postseason bubbles have been decided.
Multiple people with direct knowledge of the talks confirmed the plans on condition of anonymity because no formal agreement has been reached.
The Rangers, who were 15-27 through Wednesday, are almost certain not to qualify for the playoffs, which would make Globe Life Field a true neutral site. The park, which stands beside the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and reportedly cost more than $1.1 billion to build, opened in July and has a retractable roof and artificial turf.
It would become the first stadium to host the entire World Series since 1921 and 1922, when the Polo Grounds in Manhattan hosted both of its tenants — the Yankees and the New York Giants — for every game of the Series.
The regular season, shortened to 60 games this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, will end on Sept. 27. The league and the union agreed to an expanded playoff format this season that will begin with eight best-of-three series, with teams seeded 1 through 8 in each league.
M.L.B. expects those series to take place at the home parks of the higher-seeded teams, partly to incentivize teams to play hard through the end of the regular season. After the first round, though, the postseason would shift to neutral sites: two ballparks in Southern California — M.L.B. could choose among Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego — for the American League division series and League Championship Series, and the Texas ballparks — in Arlington and Houston — for the National League series.
One issue holding up an official announcement is the health and safety protocols regarding players’ families. The Athletic reported that M.L.B. is pushing a requirement that the players’ family members must quarantine for seven days before joining any of the bubbles.
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Here’s what’s happening as the world of sports slowly comes back to life:
- N.F.L. teams have spent years trying to create over-the-top entertainment for fans inside stadiums. This year, they’ll just be trying to cover up echoes from empty seats.
- September Saturdays at Penn State are usually the apex of a week of hype. Now, as at other college football destinations, the approach of autumn has been unusually quiet there.
- More than half the players who made the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open were not supposed to be there. It’s a little bit easier when there are no fans, some say.
“We finish the last week of our season at home. I’d be at my house with my wife,” Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ union representative, told the website. “Then they’re like, ‘We’ve got to separate you guys.’ I don’t understand why she would be quarantined. I lived with her the whole season.”
Dr. Gary Green, baseball’s medical director, said last month that keeping postseason teams in contained environments would be sensible, cutting down on travel and limiting the risk of exposure to the virus. After the best-of-three rounds, just eight teams will be remaining — four in each location — which M.L.B. sees as a manageable number for a bubble approach.
“If you were able to get down to a point where you had a limited number of teams for a limited number of games, I think that type of thing could work better,” Dr. Green told The New York Times last month. “I think that’s certainly a lot more feasible than playing a whole season in a bubble.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged last month that the league was doing “contingency planning with respect to the postseason,” which stood to reason. With teams generating no money from ticket sales in the regular season, the industry is counting heavily on revenue from postseason rights fees, so the league does not want to take any chances with those games.
For now, the best-of-three first round is in place only for this season. It swells the overall field to 16 teams, from the usual 10, and replaces the wild-card games that had taken place from 2012 through 2019. The top two teams in each division would make it, along with the two teams with the next best records in each league.
According to the standings entering play on Thursday, the A.L. first-round matchups would be: the Yankees at Tampa Bay; Minnesota at Oakland; Houston at the Chicago White Sox; and Toronto at Cleveland. In the N.L., the matchups would be: Miami at Los Angeles; San Francisco at Atlanta; St. Louis at the Chicago Cubs; and Philadelphia at San Diego.